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Pakistan’s 15-year-old record-breaker struggles to find university place


The brightest 15-year-old in the world can’t find a place at university because she’s too young.

Sitara Brooj Akbar moved from Rabwah, Pakistan to the UAE last year after breaking international records in passing examinations.

She is the youngest pupil to reach the top level, Band 9, in the International English Language Testing System. IELTS Band 9 qualifies her as an “expert user” of English, with “full operational command of the language: appropriate, accurate and fluent with complete understanding”.

Top universities in the United States and Britain, including Harvard, Yale, Oxford and Cambridge, require an IELTS grade of only Band 7 – but Sitara is not old enough for a visa.

“The universities there cannot sponsor a student or offer them a student visa if they are under the age of 18. There is an age restriction on university students because of visa regulations,” she said.

Sitara’s exam record-breaking began at the age of 9, when she became the youngest Pakistani to pass O-level chemistry. At 10, she set a world record by passing O-level biology.

She passed O-level English, physics and mathematics at 11, becoming the youngest child in the world to pass five O levels. She then sat A levels at the age of 13.

Even more remarkably, Sitara achieved her exam success without setting foot inside a school since the third grade.

sitara_burooj_akbar_rabwah_ahmadiyya_chenabnagar_pakistani“My parents realised that I could not learn in a traditional school learning environment, so they opted for home learning,” she said.

“I have done most of my studies sitting at a shelf in the kitchen while my mother was cooking.”

Sitara, the eldest of five children from a Punjab province,moved to Sharjah with her family nine months ago in search of higher education.

But high tuition fees proved beyond her family’s means, and the visa regulations mean she cannot study abroad.

“I have applied to all the leading universities in the USA and UK but they respond with one sentence: that they are very impressed with my academic accomplishments but I am too young to get a student visa,” Sitara said.

The British Council UAE is trying to help. “Despite Sitara’s very exceptional educational track record, her young age is a barrier,” said Faraz Waqar, its head of marketing and communications.

“Undergraduate programmes in the UK and around the world currently do not accept people as young as her. We at the British Council will try our best to guide and help Sitara towards her eventual educational goal. There are no guarantees, we can only try.

“We wish her the very best for her bright future. She deserves all the support after all her efforts and struggle.”

Sitara’s ambition is to be a researcher in biochemistry. “There are many mysteries unsolved and many cures yet to be found; I want to make my contribution to humanity through science.” Her father said they moved to UAE so that Sitara could obtain the best education.



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SRINAGAR, India (AP) — When news spread that Indian troops had killed 22-year-old Burhan Wani, a charismatic commander of Indian-controlled Kashmir’s biggest rebel group on July 8, the public response was spontaneous and unprecedented. Tens of thousands of angry youths poured out of their homes in towns and villages across the Himalayan region, hurling rocks and bricks and clashing with Indian troops.

A curfew and a communications blackout has failed to stop the protests. The violence has left 48 civilians dead as government forces fired live ammunition and pellets to try to quell the unrest. About 2,000 civilians and 1,500 police and soldiers have been injured in the clashes.

But Kashmir’s fury at Indian rule is not new. The stunning mountain region has known little other than conflict since 1947, when British rule of the subcontinent ended with the creation of India and Pakistan.



The Himalayan kingdom of Jammu and Kashmir was asked to become part of one of the two newly independent nations. But Maharaja Hari Singh, the unpopular Hindu ruler of the Muslim-majority region, wanted to stay independent.

A raid by tribesmen from northwestern Pakistan forced Singh to seek help from India, which offered military assistance on condition that the kingdom accede to India. The ruler accepted but insisted that Kashmir remain a largely autonomous state within the Indian union, with India managing its foreign affairs, defense, and telecommunications.

The Indian military entered the region soon after, and the tribal raid spiraled into the first of two wars between India and Pakistan over Kashmir. The war ended in 1948 with a U.N.-brokered ceasefire. Nonetheless, Kashmir became divided between the two young nations by a heavily militarized Line of Control, with the promise of U.N.-sponsored referendum in the future.

In Indian-controlled Kashmir, many saw the transition as the mere transfer of power from their Hindu king to Hindu-majority India. Kashmiri discontent against India started taking root as successive Indian governments breached the pact of Kashmir’s autonomy. Local governments were toppled one after another, and largely peaceful movements against Indian control curbed harshly.

Pakistan continued raising the Kashmir dispute in international forums, including in the U.N. India began calling the region its integral part, saying that Kashmir’s lawmakers had ratified the accession to New Delhi.

As the deadlock persisted, India and Pakistan went to war again in 1965, with little changing on the ground. Several rounds of talks followed, but the impasse continued.

In the mid-1980s, dissident political groups in Indian Kashmir united and contest elections for the state assembly. The Muslim United Front quickly emerged as a formidable force against Kashmir’s pro-India political elite. However, the front lost the 1987 election, widely believed to have been heavily rigged.

A strong public backlash followed. Some young MUF activists crossed over to Pakistan-controlled Kashmir, where the Pakistani military began arming and training Kashmiri nationalists.

By 1989, Kashmir was in the throes of a full-blown rebellion.

India poured in more troops into the already heavily militarized region. In response, thousands of Kashmiris streamed back from the Pakistani-controlled portion with guns and grenades. More than 68,000 people have been killed since then.

Though the militancy waned, popular sentiment for “azadi,” or freedom, has remained ingrained in the Kashmiri psyche. In the last decade, the region has made a transition from armed rebellion to unarmed uprisings as tens of thousands of civilians frequently take to the streets to protest Indian rule, often leading to clashes between rock-throwing residents and Indian troops. The protests are quelled by deadly force.



In 2008, a government decision — later revoked — to transfer land to a Hindu shrine in Kashmir set off a summer of protests. The following year, the alleged rape and murder of two young women by government forces set off fresh violence.

In 2010, the trigger for protests was a police investigation into allegations that soldiers shot dead three civilians and then staged a fake gunbattle to make it appear the dead were militants and claim rewards for the killings.

In all three years, hundreds of thousands of young men and women took to the streets, hurling rocks and abuse at Indian forces. At least 200 people were killed and hundreds wounded as troops fired iknto the crowds, inciting further protests.

The crackdown appears to be pushing many educated young Kashmiris, who grew up politically radicalized amid decades of brutal conflict, toward armed rebel groups. Young Kashmiri boys began snatching weapons from Indian forces and training themselves deep inside Kashmir’s forests.

The number of militants has, however, remained minuscule, not crossing 200 in the last several years.



The All Parties Hurriyat Conference is a conglomerate of social, religious and political groups formed in 1993. It advocates the U.N.-sponsored right to self-determination for Kashmir or tripartite talks between India, Pakistan and Kashmiri leadership to resolve the dispute.

The Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front, or JKLF, was one of the first armed rebel groups. It favors an independent, united Kashmir. Currently led by Mohammed Yasin Malik, the group gave up armed rebellion in 1994, soon after Indian authorities released Malik from jail after four years.


‘Failed Coup In Turkey’ Brief Thought By F. Sheikh

The military forces in most of the Muslim lands think that their top priority is to protect the citizens from its politicians and not to protect the country from its enemy for which they were hired. The Military thinks itself to be an elite class that deserves all the perks, supported by major portion of the national economy, and whatever is left, should be used for the rest of the country. The military tries its best that politicians do not succeed and undermines the democratic process and its institutions by all means necessary. Unfortunately the politicians of Muslim countries are also corrupt, but their corruption is a fraction of what military corruption takes away from the national economy.  

Military dictators suited us, USA and the West, well for decades and we supported them with all means at the expense of oppression of masses. The current unravelling and violent extremism is part of that legacy. In the panic of current chaos, we are trying to go back to old days and old ways which created the current mess in the first place. We supported the return of military dictator General Sissi in Egypt and now we were hoping against hope that military coup will succeed in Turkey. Mr. Roger Cohen writes in NYT,    

Jonathan Eyal, the international director at Britain’s Royal United Services Institute, told me. There can be little doubt the expressions of support for Erdogan from western capitals came through gritted teeth”

This is a self-defeating strategy. We should support democratic forces and process in all its forms in these countries and should not choose and impose winners of our liking in these countries, because it will not only infuriate the general masses in Muslim countries but also give opportunities to violent extremist elements to exploit the situation for their own evil designs. The democratic process should continue, no matter how messy, and we should not support military dictators in any form.  

In old days whatever cruelty happened in Muslim lands due to oppressive dictators, stayed in those lands, now its repercussions will spill over in the rest of the world, especially in the west-and may be in most violent extremist ways.  

Statement by the President on the Attack in Nice, France

We whole heatedly support the statement by President Obama and condemn the horrific attack on innocent civilians of Nice.  

Statement by the President on the Attack in Nice, France

On behalf of the American people, I condemn in the strongest terms what appears to be a horrific terrorist attack in Nice, France, which killed and wounded dozens of innocent civilians. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families and other loved ones of those killed, and we wish a full recovery for the many wounded.  I have directed my team to be in touch with French officials, and we have offered any assistance that they may need to investigate this attack and bring those responsible to justice. We stand in solidarity and partnership with France, our oldest ally, as they respond to and recover from this attack.

On this Bastille Day, we are reminded of the extraordinary resilience and democratic values that have made France an inspiration to the entire world, and we know that the character of the French Republic will endure long after this devastating and tragic loss of life.

posted by f.sheikh