Ambassador Olson Reaffirms U.S. Commitment to AJK during Muzaffarabad Visit

Islamabad, April 10, 2014 – U.S. Ambassador Richard Olson visited Muzaffarabad today to highlight the United States’ support for bilateral trade opportunities, educational exchange, and development programs in Azad Jammu and Kashmir. Ambassador Olson’s visit, his first to the region, was an opportunity to renew ties with the government leadership of AJK and to meet with local residents. “Today’s visit is an important opportunity for me to see the enduring partnership of the United States with the people of Azad Jammu and Kashmir,” Olson said.

Ambassador Olson called on AJK President Muhammad Yaqoob Khan, and also met with a delegation of senior officials of the AJK government. He discussed investment and trade opportunities during a meeting with Chamber of Commerce leaders and entrepreneurs from the AJK region. “The United States is the largest export market and one of the largest sources of foreign investment for Pakistan,” said Olson. “We want to see this continue to grow, including right here in the AJK region.”

Jointly with AJK’s President, Olson broke ground on a new building that will house the University of Azad Jammu and Kashmir Faculty of Education at the Muzaffarabad old city campus. “This state-of-the-art building – which will include eight classrooms, a computer lab, a teaching lab, library, and multipurpose hall – will accommodate approximately 300 students. We believe that a world-class learning facility will help attract the best and brightest students to pursue careers as teachers.”

Ambassador Olson joined thirty English Access Microscholarship Program students, ages 14-16, to celebrate World Intellectual Property Rights Day at the Lincoln Corner at University of AJK in Muzaffarabad. During the event, which the READ Foundation organized, Access students displayed and explained their creative work to the Ambassador, discussed the importance of intellectual property protection, and gave him a signed and bound copy of their written work.

Olson emphasized U.S. support for commitment to women’s empowerment and entrepreneurship in Pakistan during his visit to an exhibition of handicrafts made by women participating in programs supported by the Azad Jammu and Kashmir Ministry of Social Welfare and Women’s Development.

Ambassador Olson also toured Muzaffarabad’s Red Fort, Rutta Qilla, an important cultural and historical site in Azad Jammu and Kashmir.

U.S. Education Programs in AJK and Pakistan: The Faculty of Education building at the University of AJK is part of the comprehensive education program that the United States supports alongside the government of Pakistan for the entire country. This program includes the $160 million Pakistan Reading Project; building and repairing over 850 schools; establishing Centers for Advanced Studies in Water, Agriculture and Food Security, and Energy at four Pakistani universities; a $1 million University Partnership program between the University of Azad, Jammu and Kashmir and San Jose State University in Linguistics and English Education; expanding English skills for more than 5,000 low-income students; and awarding more than 4,800 scholarships for university students to pursue education through the Pakistan-USAID Merit and Needs Based Scholarship Program.

Access Micro-scholarships: The English Access Microscholarship Program provides a foundation of English language skills to talented youth from socio-economically disadvantaged sectors through after-school classes and learning activities. The program gives participants English skills that lead to better jobs and educational prospects. Since the program began in Pakistan in 2005, over 9,000 scholarships have been awarded in 21 locations throughout the country.