ISLAMABAD: Senator Sherry Rehman , former Pakistani Ambassador to the United States, and U.S. Deputy Chief of Mission Jonathan Pratt addressed more than 150 alumni of U.S. government-sponsored exchanged programs gathered at the Marriott Hotel in Islamabad for the opening ceremony of a three-day International Peace and Conflict Resolution Conference on November 27.  The U.S. Embassy in Islamabad and the Pakistan-U.S. Alumni Network (PUAN) co-sponsored the event, which brought together alumni from across Pakistan and South Asia to share strategies for local and regional peace building. 

Keynote speaker Senator Rehman, an alumna of the International Visitors Leadership Program, spoke about the importance of cooperation between people and governments to fight terrorism and encourage peace.  “We need now, more than ever, to privilege dialogue and diplomacy over distrust and denial,” she said.  “Foreign policy is an instrument that people and societies can impact and influence.”

DCM Pratt reaffirmed U.S. support for Pakistani and South Asian initiatives to enhance regional connectivity, including the Central Asia South Asia Electricity Transmission and Trade Project (CASA-1000).  Pratt emphasized the importance of building networks and relationships throughout South Asia, and praised PUAN for its work in this regard by holding theconference. “PUAN is a vibrant community that helps in building a peaceful Pakistan,” he said.  “To establish a better-connected, more secure region, people-to-people connections are vital.” 

The opening ceremony kicked off three days of workshops, panels, community service activities, and cultural events on the theme of peace and conflict resolution.  U.S. government exchange alumni and outside experts from a range of fields exchanged best practices on building peaceful communities through dialogue, economic integration, alternative dispute resolution mechanisms, the arts, and other mediums.

The United States invests $40 million annually on exchange programs for Pakistani citizens and sends more than 1,300 Pakistanis to the United States each year to participate in academic and professional programs.  PUAN is an alumninetwork of individuals who have participated in such exchange programs.  With more than 15,000 alumni across Pakistan, PUAN is one of the largest alumni networks in the world.