Alumni News Regional Cooperation Thematic Conference

Climate Counts: Exchange Alumni Collaborate for Climate Action

By Rimsha Ali Shah.

Fulbright alumnus Qobiljon Shokirov, along with his counterparts in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and China, was studying trends and drivers of change of rangeland ecosystems as part of an international research on “Rangeland Resources and Uses in the Hindu-Kush Karakoram-Pamir Landscape”. When he found out about a climate change conference in Pakistan, he was excited at the prospect of visiting his neighboring country and exchanging climate action strategies.
Once in Pakistan, Shokirov attended four different workshop sessions, spoke in a regional panel, attended an outreach project, brainstormed ideas on climate action projects, and shared the Tajik culture with the group of South, East, and Central Asian participants.

“To be honest, I did not know much about Pakistan, but it has been an interesting exchange learning about this country and drawing comparisons to Tajikistan”

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Summit Among the Summits: Youth Hone Leadership Skills at GBYS 2016

By Rimsha Ali Shah.

It was the morning of August 20, 2016, and despite the long overnight journey from Hunza to Skardu, there was not a trace of exhaustion on Amin Zada’s face.

The reason behind it was simple: he had been selected from over 300 applicants to attend the inaugural Gilgit-Baltistan Youth Summit (GBYS) high in the soaring mountains of Pakistan’s north.

“This is a very prestigious opportunity!  How could I not attend?”

This three-day conference was organized by Study of the U.S. Institute for Student Leaders (SUSI) alumnus Habib Hasan.  Having attended and organized multiple international Pakistan-U.S. Alumni Network (PUAN) conferences, Hasan wanted to organize a similar conference in his region.  “The purpose of this summit is to enhance the leadership skills of GB youth, give them a forum to share their ideas for socio-economic development and pave way for collaborative efforts for greater impact,” said Habib Hasan. 

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Alumni News Regional Cooperation Thematic Conference

Innovation in Action: Education Outreach Visits Offer Practical Examples

By Rimsha Ali Shah

The PUAN International Education Conference was held from July 22-24, 2016 in Islamabad with 200 exchange alumni from various U.S. State Department exchange programs from across Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka.  In addition to two days of intensive workshops and discussions on mapping education in the 21st century, the concluding day introduced alumni to innovative education projects in six leading institutes in Islamabad including, National University of Science and Technology (NUST), National University of Modern Languages (NUML) Special Talent Exchange Program (STEP), Allama Iqbal Open University (AIOU), National Agriculture Research Centre (NARC) and a dialogue session between Madrassa students and the alumni. 

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Alumni News Regional Cooperation Thematic Conference

PUAN International Education Conference Empowers Educators from South Asia

Group Photo w/ Amb.Hale

By Rimsha Ali Shah

The PUAN International Education Conference held from July 22-24, 2016 in Islamabad with 200 exchange alumni from various U.S. State Department exchange programs from across Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka enabled alumni to learn through a series of skill-building and thematic sessions focused on key areas pertaining to education.  The alumni also had the opportunity to collaborate and pitch their projects as part of the collaborative idea challenge, that encouraged alumni to come together and design projects on an education-based issue they were passionate about.  Read on to learn more about the collaborative idea challenge, skill-building and thematic sessions designed to equip future leaders of education from across South Asia.

Channeling Collective Energies through Collaboration

 “You can never put an end to idea.  Never stop thinking.”

Panelists Discuss Strengths of the 35 Collaborative Ideas Presented

Panelists Discuss Strengths of the 35 Collaborative Ideas Presented

Nasir Shah, an alumnus of the International Visitors Leadership Program (IVLP) was part of the panel for the Collaborative Ideas Challenge that featured 35 unique and diverse ideas centered on the theme of tackling today’s education challenges.  Alumni pitched their ideas before the participants and the panelists, after working on them for over 24 hours.  They can now apply for the PUAN Alumni Small Grants for funding to execute their projects. 

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Alumni News Regional Cooperation Thematic Conference

PUAN International Education Conference Celebrates the Power of Education


By Rimsha Ali Shah

Priyanka’s flight to Pakistan had been one marked with surprises, unfriendly weather, and a diverted and delayed flight coupled with the bustling traffic jams characteristic of city life.  But she took the delays in stride and termed the disruptions an “exploration” of a country that she had wanted to visit since 2015.

Her exchange program on International Visitors Leadership Program (IVLP) on “Women Countering Violent Extremism” in 2015 had been a welcome exchange that helped in countering stereotypes in the Pakistan-Bangladesh relationship.

When she learned about Pakistan-U.S. Alumni Network (PUAN) International Education Conference through the American Center, she was ecstatic!  A lawyer by education and a lecturer by profession, her work at Bangladesh University of Professionals (BUP) and Eastern University, Dhaka had increased her interest in education, and the conference couldn’t have come at a better time for her.

“I found that to reach common people and to nurture young minds nothing can be more influential than being an educator.”

The PUAN International Education Conference held from July 22-24, 2016 in Islamabad was geared towards advancing the discussion on mapping education in the 21st century.  For three days, 200 exchange alumni from various U.S. State Department exchange programs from across Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka took part in thought-provoking discussions on innovations in education, celebrated success stories from the region, enhanced their skills through workshop sessions, and learned about the technological advancements undertaken by leading universities in Pakistan.

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Alumni News Thematic Conference

PUAN International Youth Activism Conference: Empowering South Asian Youth Leaders

By Rimsha Ali Shah.

As her plane landed at Islamabad airport, Karuna  could hardly contain her excitement to be back in Pakistan.  Karuna, along with three other Nepalese participants, was excited to take part in a Pakistan-U.S. Alumni Network (PUAN)  youth activism event  bringing together people from not just Nepal and Pakistan, but also Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, and Bangladesh.  As a young lawyer, Karuna knew the exposure and networking possibilities awaiting her at this conference to hopefully assist her in pursuing her dream of activism for the welfare of the Nepalese people and her ambition to be the first female prime minister of Nepal.

The PUAN International Youth Activism Conference held from April 8 – April 10, 2016 hosted 200 alumni of U.S. State Department sponsored exchange programs from the South Asian region for three days of workshops, skill-training, panel session, networking and community outreach activities, all focused on the theme of empowering youth with skills for leadership roles.  Fulbright alumnus Pervez Hoodbuoy in his opening remarks commented on the importance of cultural exchange for professional and personal growth in today’s globalized world.  Assistant Secretary of State for Education and Cultural Affairs, Evan Ryan, in her remarks said, 

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PUAN in 2015

By Rimsha Ali Shah

“Tomorrow is the first blank page of a 365 page book.  Write a good one.”   Brad Paisley.

As we welcome 2016 tomorrow and begin the Pakistan-U.S. Alumni Network (PUAN)’s next 365-page book, let’s take a look at how 2015 has been for PUAN.  With twelve chapters and 15,000 alumni from 20+ exchange programs across Pakistan, PUAN forms one of the largest networks of U.S. exchange alumni worldwide.  In 2015, PUAN supported 26 alumni small grants projects across 10 thematic areas and over 50 chapter activities that were spread over the entire country.  Not only that, 2015 was also a year of two international conferences and a national conference that gathered over 600 alumni from across South Asia, including India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Afghanistan.  As we embark on another year of community service and capacity building, let’s take a look at PUAN in 2015.

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Alumni News Regional Cooperation Reunions Thematic Conference

Peace and Conflict Resolution: Building bridges of peace

By Rimsha Ali Shah.

A footballer, an interfaith harmony expert, an artist, a banker, a corporate trainer, an author and a blogger all sat together on a table.  While one was from Sindh, the other was from Dhaka.  One understood numbers and the other words.  Seemingly disparate in every manner, what pulled them together as a group?  Peace!

Exploring avenues of peace-building in all walks of life is what 160 participants from across Pakistan, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Nepal, India and Bangladesh set out to do over the three-day Pakistan-U.S. Alumni Network (PUAN) International Conference: Peace and Conflict Resolution held in Islamabad from November 27 – 29, 2015. 

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Alumni News Reunions Thematic Conference

PUAN International Peace and Conflict Resolution Conference 2015

Planning Team

The Planning Team

After months of preparation, hundreds of applications, numerous hours of planning and streamlining, the day is finally here!  Today we kick off the PUAN International Peace and Conflict Resolution Conference 2015 with 160 participants from 6 South Asian nations, 32 international speakers, 18 workshops, two panel sessions and six community outreach projects.  We have speakers from India, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Nepal and Pakistan; 12 peace projects by our talented alumni from across Pakistan, sessions on peace through arts, music, dance, blogging, sports, media, diplomacy, economic integration and edutainment, theater performance, a concert with Arieb Azhar and much more!

The Social Media Team

Here is how you can also be a part of #PUAN4PEACE over the next three days (November 27 – 29, 2015):

  1. Follow us on Twitter: @PakUSAlumni and @PUAN4PEACE
  2. Join us on Facebook: and
  3. Tweet your questions and comments on peace and conflict resolution using the hashtag #PUAN4PEACE
  4. Join us for our live stream on @periscope by following @PakUSAlumni
  5. Share your peace selfies and help us spread the message of peace and solidarity.
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Alumni Success Story Reunions Thematic Conference

The Business of News: Alumni Attend Karachi Journalism Summit

By Hira Nafees Shah


Group Photograph of the U.S.-Pakistan Professional Partnership in Journalism (PPJ) Alumni with trainers and organizers of the ICFJ Alumni Summit

Negotiating time off is never easy for a news professional, but for senior journalist Awais Hameed, attendance at the alumni summit in Karachi at the Center for Excellence in Journalism (CEJ) was a “couldn’t miss” opportunity to enhance his media skills.

“I have worked in electronic media for eight years and today was the first time that I have ever held a camera,” he said. “Working as a journalist in Pakistan, I really feel that we don’t invest in research and training of our journalists.”

Awais’ training was part of a unique four-day journalism conference organized by the International Center for Journalists (ICFJ), the newly-established CEJ at the Institute for Business Administration (IBA), and the Pakistan-U.S. Alumni Network (PUAN).

More than 120 journalist alumni of the U.S.-Pakistan Professional Partnership in Journalism (PPJ) attended the event.  The PPJ is an initiative of the U.S. Department of State Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) to allow U.S. and Pakistani journalists to see how each other’s newsrooms function.  Since 2011, 13 batches of Pakistani journalists have visited the United States on the PPJ program, with a fourteenth group scheduled to depart later this year.

“The purpose of this ICFJ alumni summit was to bring [together] all journalists under one roof who went on the Journalists Exchange Program to the U.S. in different batches,” said Babar Taimur, Program Director of Pakistan programs at ICFJ.  “We also wanted to integrate CEJ as a space for professional training for working journalists.”

The conference was held in Karachi from July 23 to 26.  U.S. Consul General Brian Heath delivered the opening remarks and emphasized the role that journalists can play in making the world a better place.

“The U.S. exchange programs in Pakistan are amongst the largest in the world,” he said. “Through [the PPJ], exchange participants work side by side with American journalists and find innovative ways of contributing to Pakistan.”

Training Sessions Draw Praise from Participants

Over the course of four days, each of the nearly 120 participants attended six breakout sessions on a variety of topics, including “Social Media for Journalists,” “Investigative Reporting”, “Multimedia-Interactive Storytelling,” “Journalistic Ethics,” “Digital Security for Journalists,” and “Data Journalism.”

“On social media if you have to choose between being first or being right in breaking a news, always choose right,” said Wajahat Ali, an Al-Jazeera America journalist, during his session on Social Media. “Also ‘sharing is caring’ so make sure to promote others’ good content on social media as well.”

A participant conducting a mock interview from another attendee about creating the perfect peanut butter and jelly sandwich during the Multimedia-Interactive Storytelling session

A participant conducting a mock interview from another attendee about creating the perfect peanut butter and jelly sandwich during the Multimedia-Interactive Storytelling session

The smaller groups of alumni had an opportunity to participate in each of the six training sessions.  “I found the storytelling session very useful because I learned how to tell my story through five different video shots,” said Hasan Raza Zaidi, a reporter from Lahore.

“After attending the data journalism session, I feel I can [better] work with datasets in the future and experiment with the different tools,” said Mohammad Irfan Haider from Dawn Media Group in Islamabad.

“The digital security presentation was very good because before I did not know that secure data can also be transmitted through Wi-Fi,” said Umar Farooq, an Express Tribune Correspondent from Peshawar.

ICFJ Vice President of Programs Patrick Butler used interactive sessions and lectures to make participants tackle difficult ethical situations and practice in-depth reporting.

International Managing Editor at Bloomberg Ethan Bronner delivered the keynote session, and spoke about the upheavals facing the journalism profession, and the way newsmakers should ideally respond.

“You should embrace the democratic nature of journalism,” he said.  The summit also featured two panel discussions entitled “Future of News” and “Conflict of Interest.”

International trainers during the ‘Conflicts of Interest’ panel discussion

International trainers during the ‘Conflicts of Interest’ panel discussion

Veteran journalists Badar Alam and Kamal Siddiqui spoke about how print, broadcast, and online news were adapting to the convergence of media forms and how social media has affected the traditional modes of conveying information.

The “Conflicts of Interest” panel drew many comments and questions from the audience, ranging from how to report about friends who turn into sources and how to remain objective and neutral when a journalist has a strong personal opinion about a story.

Towards More Polished Story-telling

During the event, participants also reflected on how the PPJ had opened up new avenues for them and how their impressions of the United States had changed.

“The best thing about the exchange program is that it has a follow-up,” said Dawood Tareen, a filmmaker from Balochistan. “We live in Pakistan but we receive access to the best facilities because of our exchange experience.”

“I became a multimedia journalist after going on my exchange program,” said Samreen Ghauri, a participant from Hyderabad. “Now while living in Pakistan, ICFJ has provided an opportunity for us to interact with international level journalists and learn from them.”

The American journalists were just as affected by their time in Pakistan.

“I got a better understanding of the circumstances in which Pakistani journalists work,” said Lam Vo, an Al-Jazeera America journalist. “It also established a higher bar of respect for them.”

“My trip to Pakistan has made me aware of the privileges that we share in America and it has been a very humbling experience,” said Wajahat Ali, an Al-Jazeera America journalist. “The journalists in Pakistan have to navigate a unique set of challenges.”

The event organizers were just as pleased with the turn-out and success of the summit.

Female participants at the ICFJ Alumni Summit

Female participants at the ICFJ Alumni Summit

“I am thrilled about the success of the event,” said Christie Marie Lauder, Program Manager at CEJ. “It has been tremendously gratifying and the collaborations with PUAN and others have brought a new sense to what this event could be [and] new ideas to the table.”

Many managers expressed their appreciation to the United States Educational Foundation in Pakistan (USEFP) for selecting high quality Pakistani media personnel to participate in the exchange to America, and looked forward to a continued partnership in order to improve journalism in both countries.

“I have met every single group of journalists here and feel quite energized,” said Patrick Butler. “As for the next step, we would encourage the journalists’ alumni, to apply for PUAN grants and continue to involve them in the CEJ.”

To take a look at the photographs from the event, visit:

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