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Pakistan is to build six science and engineering universities over the next ten years.

President Pervez Musharraf announced the plans on Monday (13 March) during a speech at Punjab University.

He said "state of the art" universities are needed to train scientists and engineers who can contribute to Pakistan's sustainable development, and help move the country away from its dependence on agriculture.

Pakistan's Higher Education Commission (HEC) will oversee the project, which will start by building a university in Sialkot.

HEC chair Atta-ur-Rahman says the government has agreed to provide 90 billion rupees (US$15 billion).

Sohail Naqvi, the HEC's executive director, says the universities will do research and provide courses relevant to Pakistan's major industries, including agriculture, textiles, energy, and information technology.

Naqvi told SciDev.Net that staff for the universities would be recruited from Austria, France, Germany, the Netherlands, South Korea and Sweden, which are also providing additional funding and technical assistance.

"Local faculty members will also be sent abroad for training," he said.

Click here to read more about science in Pakistan.