Nishat Riaz is a prominent name in the education sector of Pakistan. With over 20 years of experience in program management, she has developed and supervised large-scale programmes on health, gender, skills, culture and education. She has also served on governing boards of major international development organisations. Riaz wears many badges of honour, here are some we would like to highlight:

  • Honorary Award – Member of the British Empire (MBE)
  • Director Education, British Council Pakistan
  • Governing Board Member, Aga Khan Development Network
  • Hashoo Foundation
  • Chair CIQAM – social enterprise in Gilgit Baltistan focusing on women
  • Founding member of Karakorum International University – the first university in the mountain ranges of the Karakorum and Himalayas in Pakistan


She holds an engineering degree in Electronics and Communication and was the Premier Chevening Scholar from Pakistan in 2003 – a special award that is awarded to the best among Chevening scholars. Riaz is also a recipient of the President’s Award of Excellence for best academic performance. She also holds an MA in International Development from the University of Manchester, UK.

Hailing from Hunza, she was the first female engineer from Gilgit Baltistan and traces her roots to the Rakaposhi Mountains. In an interview with Voices of Women she talks fondly about her journey in education. She was very curious about mathematics and physics since childhood and would open up circuit boards and break open telephones to understand how they work. When it came to choosing her area of study, she chose electrical engineering.

Upon graduation, she was offered two jobs in rural Sindh, and was heading to Hunza first to consult with her parents on the decision of starting her career. She met a foreigner on the flight who shared that he was establishing an education program in Gilgit, and was on the lookout for someone to manage the technology portion of it. In their conversation above the clouds, she was offered the position and accepted it immediately.

While working in education, Riaz recollects that seeing the state of schools, students and teachers; she was so deeply touched that she resolved that regardless of how amazing an engineer she could have been otherwise, she wanted to focus on education. She was finally in a place to be able to give back to community, the opportunities and the exposure she’s received. Riaz has been fortunate to have unconditional support from her parents, despite societal challenges and norms at the time.

Since that fateful day in the summer of ’99 when she accepted the job offer, till today, Riaz has given her life for the cause of education in Pakistan, especially girl’s education.

At present, she is managing British Council’s education work in Pakistan. Her portfolio includes management and implementation of a multi-million-dollar education programme covering schools, skills, further and higher education, alumni relations and scholarships.

Through her work at British Council, she has been instrumental in developing and strengthening strategic alliances and partnerships between federal and provincial governments and the British Council. Recognizing her contributions, Nishat was awarded the Most Excellent Order with an honorary title of Member of British Empire (MBE) by Her Majesty The Queen of the United Kingdom in 2017.

Riaz isn’t one to rest on her laurels. She continues to work for the cause of education in the country, while she proceeded to complete her Masters Degree and then her PhD. Over the years, she has published her research in international journals, contributed articles to several newspapers, been a part of the dialogue on national and international forums, TV channels and continues the conversation about the state of education in Pakistan and how it can improve.