On the 28th of May 2019, Dr. Saeed Shafqat, Professor and Founding Director, Centre for Public Policy and Governance at Forman Christian College (A Chartered University) was honored with the Chevalier des Palmed Académiques by the French Embassy in Pakistan.

The ceremony took place at Forman Christian College where His Excellency, the Ambassador of France in Pakistan, Dr. Marc Barety was present on behalf of the French Government to conduct the ceremony and confer the award. The Chevalier des Palmes Académiques is a very prestigious award given to those who have made significant contributions to French education and culture. The award was originally created by French emperor Napoleon Bonaparte but has since evolved to an order of merit.

During the event, Dr. Barety spoke about how honored he felt to be conducting the ceremony given Dr. Shafqat’s substantial efforts in promoting educational exchanges between Pakistan and France. By organizing conferences and expert lectures promoting French scholarship in Pakistan, Dr. Shafqat has not only made invaluable contributions to the understanding of Pakistan and South Asia in France but has also allowed French academics to experience the cultural and educational heritage of Pakistan. Eminent scholars such as Professor Jean Luc Racine and Professor Christophe Jafferlot are amongst the many who value and cherish Dr. Shafqat’s role in helping them achieve fruitful scholarly experiences in Pakistan.

During his speech, Dr. Shafqat expressed his gratitude and appreciation for receiving the award. He spoke fondly about his association with French scholars that began in the 1990s during his tenure at the Civil Services Academy in Lahore. At a conference in Islamabad, he was introduced to Professor Jean Luc Racine, who was visiting from MSH, Paris, he invited him to Lahore and asked him to deliver a talk at the Civil Services Academy. This led to a new beginning and durable academic partnership.

These exchanges developed into several other occasions for Dr. Shafqat to interact with French academics including a Conference on Islam in South Asia at Sciences Po in 1999, the chance to be Visiting Professor at MSH Paris in 2000, a Conference in America on US and South Asia in 2002, the opportunity to organize a three-day international conference on Pakistan at Columbia University in which five scholars from France and the Netherlands participated in 2003. More recently in 2014, Dr. Shafqat was invited to a Conference organized by Professor Jafferlot at Sciences Po in Paris again on the topic of US and South Asia.

Dr. Shafqat has also been able to build mutually supportive relations with the Embassy of France especially with the then Ambassador of France, H.E Mr. Philippe Thiebaud, the then Counselor for Cooperation and Cultural Affairs Ms. Martine Herlem Hamidi and the then Attaché de Coopération Gilles Angles. This allowed them to send one of CPPG’s students Mr. Tauseef Khatana on a two-week course on Local Government at ENA. Eventually the very successful “Open Doors Program” began which Dr. Shafqat was instrumental in initiating. The Open Doors Program enables French scholars to visit educational institutes in Pakistan to deliver talks on a variety of socioeconomic and political issues. Between 2015 and 2018, 12 speakers from France have visited Pakistan as a result.

Dr. Shafqat ended his speech by saying that he would like to continue to strengthen the relationship he has built with French educationists. He would like to see more educational exchanges, the opportunity for Pakistani PhD students to have a semester abroad in France and possibilities of other short exchange programmes between Pakistani and French Universities.

Dr. James Tebbe, Rector Forman Christian College, concluded the event with a vote of thanks. He spoke appreciatively of Dr. Shafqat’s contributions to CPPG and the larger FCC community. The efforts with which Dr. Shafqat has built a network of academics, public policy officials, development practitioners and civic society both locally and internationally has not only benefited CPPG, but also FCCU. The diversity and range of experiences represented at CPPG seminars organized by Dr. Shafqat have been a source of pride for the university and have allowed students and faculty members to greatly benefit from the expertise of eminent scholars. Finally, Dr. Tebbe thanked Dr. Barety and the Embassy of France in Pakistan for their visit to FCC and hoped that they could continue to work together for the educational development of both Pakistan and France.

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