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9-year-old earns accolade as Microsoft pro

An early start in computing helps Pakistani schoolgirl Arfa Karim become a Microsoft Certified Professional.

A Pakistani girl has qualified as a Microsoft Certified Professional at the age of 9.

Arfa Karim of Multan has officially become the youngest MCP in Pakistan, and one of the youngest in the world. Karim, now 10, met with Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates last week--an experience she later described as second only to visiting Disneyland.

To attain the credential--at any age--a person has to display technical proficiency in areas such as .Net, Visual Studio 6.0 and Windows Server 2003.

Karim got excited about technology, when her father bought her a computer--primarily to use for e-mail, according to S. "Soma" Somasegar, a corporate vice president in Microsoft's tools division.

"What she wants to do as she grows up--she would love to study at Harvard, work in a company like Microsoft and go back to Pakistan to do technology innovations in the field of satellite engineering," Somasegar wrote in his blog last week.

Somasegar describes her as the youngest MCP in the world, but according to a Channel News Asia report, the youngest ever to attain that qualification is India's Mridul Seth, who is said to have gained it at age 8 in November 2004.

According to Microsoft, Karim is part of a select group, as one of only a few certified professionals in the world to qualify below the age of 10.

Karim has been honored for her achievement by the Mir Khalil-ur-Rehman Foundation in Karachi, where she was presented with an award for excellence. She was the first recipient of the award, which will honor students "who have displayed exemplary achievements and skills in their respective fields." For her efforts, Karim was also given a computer.

Colin Barker reported for ZDNet UK. CNET's Jonathan Skillings contributed to this report.