Category Archives: News

UK Government Extends 24-Hour Visa Service To Pune And Bengaluru

UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) has today announced an extension of the Super Priority Visa service (SPV) to Pune and Bengaluru, meaning that more Indians can get a visa decision in 24 hours or less

UK Visa

UK Visa

SPV is an optional service for customers in India who need to travel to the UK urgently. Pune and Bengaluru add to the three locations this service is already offered – Delhi, Chennai and Mumbai.

SPV applications are assessed to exactly the same high standard as all other applications but are handled by UKVI at the highest priority, with dedicated staff members processing cases at the front of the queue and an express courier service ensuring quick return to the customer. This means that the 24-hour turnaround is achievable and secure.   Immigration Minister, Caroline Nokes said:

I am pleased that the Super Priority Visa service is being extended to even more Indian cities, giving many more UK visa customers the opportunity to receive a visa decision in 24 hours or less if needed.

India was the first country in the world to receive this service in 2013 – and is once again leading the way as two more cities – Pune and Bengaluru – receive this first class visa service.

This is further proof of the strength of the UK-India relationship and of the focus by UKVI on providing a convenient, world-class experience for Indian visa applicants.

The extension of this service aims to support the UK-India Technology Partnership, which will include establishing ‘tech clusters’ in these strategically important cities. This brings the total number of locations Indian nationals can use the SPV service to five, supporting the ‘Living Bridge’ between our two countries and facilitating the movement of talent in key sectors.

This announcement is part of a wider package of measures from UKVI as it seeks to transform and improve the visa service, including greater use of digital technology and additional optional services for customers to tailor and improve their experience.

British Deputy High Commission To Host Commonwealth Big Lunch In Mumbai

British Deputy High Commission along with other Commonwealth Diplomatic Missions in Mumbai to bat for renewed ties through a T20 cricket match

Commonwealth Big Lunches

Commonwealth Big Lunches

The British Deputy High Commission will host a friendly Commonwealth cricket match in Mumbai at the Police Gymkhana, Marine Lines on Saturday, 7 April 2018. Organised with support of the Mumbai Cricket Association (MCA) and other diplomatic missions, it celebrates the Commonwealth, shared values and connections through food.

With cricket being a widely played game among many countries of the Commonwealth, this friendly match in Mumbai as part of the Commonwealth Big Lunch aims to invoke sporting spirit, camaraderie and renewed ties.

Using the T20 format and a mixed gender team, the players from the assortment of diplomatic missions representing Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Sri Lanka and the United Kingdom will compete with veterans and former players from the MCA in this friendly match.

The invited guests will be from among our network of Commonwealth scholars, the Queen’s Young Leader award winners, Chevening scholars and other diplomatic contacts.

The gathering in Mumbai is one of many Commonwealth Big Lunches happening across the 53 Commonwealth nations from 12 March – Commonwealth Day – until Sunday 22 April.

Launched by the Eden Project in partnership with the UK government, thousands of people from across the Commonwealth are coming together to celebrate, discover and share their Commonwealth links, stories and experiences with one another over a shared meal and activity.


Lunches are being held ahead of and during the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) 2018. Unfolding over five days, leaders and foreign ministers from up to 53 countries and over 2,000 delegates will gather in London and Windsor, UK from 16 to 20 April to discuss and agree how to work together to address shared global challenges.

Crispin Simon the British Deputy High Commissioner for Western India, the Director General of the Department for International Trade, India and South Asia said:

With cricket as a unifying game, we want to bring people and communities together to celebrate a sense of common purpose. The aim of this year’s CHOGM, ‘Towards a Common Future’ signifies just that. It will be another great opportunity to appreciate and strengthen the connections we’ve got to each other and to keep alive the relevance of the Commonwealth.

Peter Stewart MVO, Executive Director of the Eden Project said:

From Commonwealth Day onwards, we’ve been encouraging people to come together to share friendship, food and fun with people where they live. The celebration is one of many taking place across 6 continents which is just phenomenal!

Commonwealth Big Lunches bring people together, show the diversity we all have and importantly celebrate the commonality we all share which showcases the true spirit of the Commonwealth.

Commonwealth Big Lunches were inspired by and build on the Eden Project’s annual Big Lunch, which was launched in 2009 as a way to connect people with their communities over a shared meal.

Her Majesty The Queen Recognises Pakistani Volunteer With Commonwealth Points Of Light Award

Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II has recognised Dr Muhammad Amjad Saqib, of Pakistan as the 31st Commonwealth Point of Light in honour of his exceptional voluntary service creating Pakistan’s largest micro-finance organisation that is benefiting hundreds of thousands of disadvantaged people

The British High Commissioner Thomas Drew presenting Commonwealth Point of Light award to Dr Muhammad Amjad Saqib

The British High Commissioner Thomas Drew presenting Commonwealth Point of Light award to Dr Muhammad Amjad Saqib

In the lead-up to the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in London on 19-20 April, Her Majesty The Queen – as Head of the Commonwealth – is thanking inspirational volunteers across the 53 Commonwealth nations for the difference they are making in their communities and beyond.

By sharing these stories of service, the Heads of Government meeting will celebrate inspirational acts of volunteering across the Commonwealth and help inspire others to make their own contribution to tackling some of the greatest social challenges of our time.

Dr Muhammad Amjad Saqib is the founder of ‘Akhuwat’, the largest micro-finance organisation in Pakistan, which provides interest-free loans to disadvantaged people so they can develop sustainable incomes. Since its inception in 2001, Amjad has opened 700 branches in 350 cities across Pakistan, enabling over 600,000 people to become self-reliant.

The charity has provided more than £345 million interest free loans while retaining a recovery rate of 99.96%, with all operational costs covered by donations. The charity also supports education initiatives, including ‘Akhuwat College’, which opened in 2015 and provides a residential facility for students who cannot afford quality education, and ‘Akhuwat University’, which will open in November 2018 as Pakistan’s first free university, supporting over 600 students.

The Commonwealth Point of Light award includes a personalised certificate signed by Her Majesty The Queen as Head of the Commonwealth. The award for Dr Muhammad Amjad Saqib was presented today by Thomas Drew CMG, UK High Commissioner in Pakistan.

Dr Muhammad Amjad Saqib said:

Poverty is poison. Poverty is pain. We need to rise together and make a concerted effort to reduce poverty and make this world a happy place to live in. Thanks to the Commonwealth and Points of Light for recognizing ‘Akhuwat’ and our effort for this great mission.

The British High Commissioner Thomas Drew said:

I am delighted to present Dr Muhammad Amjad Saqib with the Commonwealth Point of Light award for his exceptional voluntary service that has benefitted hundreds of thousands of disadvantaged people.

Her Majesty The Queen has recognised Dr Saqib as Pakistan’s Point of Light for delivering a significant impact on the lives of others. He has shown an innovative approach to a social challenge and has inspired others to make a positive change within and beyond their communities.

The Commonwealth is a diverse community of 53 nations that work together to promote prosperity, democracy and peace. The Heads of Government meeting will bring together leaders from all the 53 Member countries to reaffirm common values, address shared global challenges and agree how to work to create a better future for all citizens, especially young people.

Voluntary service is a vital part of this agenda, which is why Her Majesty The Queen has chosen to recognise outstanding volunteers across the Commonwealth in this special way.

For more information, please contact Andrew Cuff:

UK’s Top Development Official Visits Pakistan

The permanent secretary of the UK’s Department for International Development, Matthew Rycroft, has visited Pakistan to see first-hand how DFID programmes are changing lives

Matthew Rycroft

Matthew Rycroft

During his visit to DFID’s largest overseas programme, Mr Rycroft met with Miftah Ismail the Adviser to the Prime Minister on Finance, Revenue and Economic Affairs, Dr Aisha Ghouls Pasha and the Finance Minister for the Government of Punjab, as well as other senior provincial ministers. ‎ He visited Lahore where he went to a government girls’ school and met teachers and students. He visited an Aawaz Agaahi Centre (AAC) where he met beneficiaries from minority groups. He was pleased to hear from women, religious minorities, members of the transgender community and people with a disability at the centre.

He visited the Business Incubation Centre at the Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS), where he spoke to women entrepreneurs on starting a business in Pakistan. Speaking at the event, he said:

The UK and Pakistan have been long-standing partners for 70 years. We are committed to eradicating poverty and achieving prosperity for the country and its people. I’m pleased to be here to see how UK aid is working and the real-life impact of our programmes.

We will continue to build stability in Pakistan by investing in start-ups to promote the culture of entrepreneurship in this country. Pakistan is on the path to development and I’m confident that it will reach its true potential in the coming years.

Pakistan is among the UK’s top development priorities and DFID is working in Pakistan towards the goal of reducing poverty and accelerating economic growth.

Launch Of Certification To Improve Standards Of Journalism In Pakistan

Twenty-nine candidates sat for the first round of testing on the ‘Basics of Editing’



A qualification aimed at improving the standards of journalism in Pakistan has been launched by the British High Commission and Centre for Excellence in Journalism (CEJ) at the Institute of Business Administration in Karachi. IBA CEJ will display the list of successful candidates on their website on March 8th.

The British High Commissioner Thomas Drew said:

I am delighted that have we have launched this certification which we hope will create a baseline qualification for journalists in Pakistan and help build further their capacity.

The UK is a strong supporter of journalism in Pakistan. Last year we trained over 80 journalists on media ethics and security. This is in addition to the seven Pakistani journalists we send to London every year through our Chevening South Asia Journalism Programme Fellowship (SAJP).

A healthy media sector is one of the pillars of a successful society. High professional standards of journalism will make an important contribution to Pakistan’s development as it strives to fulfil its true and considerable potential.

The Director of CEJ IBA Kamal Haq Siddiqi said:

The profession of journalism is unique all over the world. Neither is a journalism degree required to practice the profession nor is there a system of licensing in place that can establish that standards are being maintained.

As a result, it is difficult also to quantify professional achievements. In such a profession, the idea of introducing certification has been widely welcomed as it gives professional recognition to the hundreds of journalists working in the field or on the editing desks.

We are hopeful that such an initiative will not only set standards but also raise professional conduct in the profession in the years to come.

More Information

The certification developed by the British High Commission and the CEJ incorporates a holistic approach to media. The courses for the certification are ‘Basics of Editing’ and ‘Basics of Reporting’ and have been developed in consultation with senior Pakistani journalists.

The testing for the ‘Basics of Reporting’ course will take place on March 6th 2018. CEJ aims to conduct the courses quarterly and train other media schools and organisations to deliver the CEJ accreditation as well.

Interested candidates can find out more information and how to apply here.

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