Pakistan's northwestern province lays groundwork for first 'digital city'

A Pakistan Digital City signboard stands on its construction site in Haripur, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in this undated photo released by the KP Information Technology Board. (Photo courtesy of KP Information Technology Board via AN)
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Updated 18 August 2020

Pakistan's northwestern province lays groundwork for first 'digital city'

  • Pakistan Digital City will be located in Haripur district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province
  • Officials say the hub is expected to generate some 30,000 new jobs at about 20 various high-tech operations

PESHAWAR: Northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province will finalize in October the masterplan for Pakistan Digital City, which it expects to serve as a hub for high technology, innovation, and create thousands of new jobs in the high-tech sector, officials told Arab News.
Pakistan Digital City will be located in Haripur district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, a province which for years was a site of militancy and military operations and only in the recent past regained stability. While connectivity and Internet access still remain a problem in the province, its government in 2018 launched the “Digital KP” strategy aiming at job creation for youth in the digital economy.

“The master planning and designing will be finalized by the end of October this year,” Zahoor Shah Marwat of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Information Technology Board told Arab News on Friday.
He added that nearly 4.5 hectares of land had already been allotted for the project and more will be procured when it expands. Private investors will be allowed to lease land.
According to Ziaullah Bangash, information technology adviser to the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa chief minister, 70 percent of the land for the development had already been fenced off.
“Potential investors, including software houses, technology incubators, electronic manufacturers, mobile, computer and communications equipment manufacturers will be invited to establish their facilities,” he told Arab News.

Ziaullah Bangash, information technology adviser to the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa chief minister, center, visits the site of Pakistan Digital City in Haripur, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa on June 24, 2020. (Photo courtesy of KP Information Technology Board via AN)

The hub, he added, is expected to generate some 30,000 new jobs at about 20 various high-tech operations — ranging from software manufacturers to hardware factories.
IT sector players say the digital city — if it materializes — would trigger an “IT revolution” in the country by giving its talent space and opportunity to flourish.
“Currently, the government has no job opportunities for thousands of computer science graduates who complete their higher studies in IT at the country’s universities,” Aftab Jahan, an IT expert and owner of Elite Technology Abbottabad, told Arab News.
Nabila Naeem, assistant professor of computer science at Islamabad Model College for Girls, said that despite qualifications, her students hardly ever are able to find jobs in their field.
“My students often ask me what will be their future after graduation and receiving degrees in IT and computer science? The digital city will offer opportunities to our young professionals to get experience and demonstrate their skills,” she said.

Minister says Pakistan to finalize first artificial intelligence policy by December

Updated 13 sec ago

Minister says Pakistan to finalize first artificial intelligence policy by December

  • The information technology minister says it is important to help people develop AI skills since they are quite valuable
  • The government is setting up a policy committee of experts from IT industry and academia to finalize the draft policy

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s interim information technology minister Umar Saif said on Tuesday his team had prepared the draft of the National Artificial Intelligence Policy and was currently in consultation with relevant stakeholders to finalize it by December.
Artificial intelligence, often abbreviated as AI, refers to the development of computer systems that can perform tasks typically requiring human intelligence. These tasks include learning from data, recognizing patterns, making decisions, and solving problems. AI aims to create machines that can mimic human-like thinking and decision-making processes.
With this technology becoming more readily accessible, governments and private sectors across the world are beginning to reap its benefit while performing day-to-day functions. Pakistan’s planning ministry also acknowledged in April the AI incorporation in different government sectors would lead to better decision-making processes, personalized medical treatments, and enhanced learning experiences and solutions that were previously unattainable.
“There are far reaching consequences of this policy,” the information minister told Arab News in a brief conversation. “We have put it for public consultation. There is a draft which helped us get public comments from outside as well as inside the country … We need to train people to develop AI skills according to the policy since they can be quite valuable.”
“My goal is to finalize and notify this AI policy by December,” he continued.
Syed Junaid Imam, the spokesperson for the information technology ministry, also informed Arab News the country’s official artificial intelligence would be finalized after consultation with all stakeholders before being sent to the federal cabinet for approval.
“It is based on four main points,” he said while sharing details. “Enabling AI through awareness and readiness, AI market enablement, building a progressive and trusted environment, and its transformation and evolution.”
A recent notification by the information ministry said it was “forming a policy committee that will lead the policy consultation process and finalize the draft,” adding that the members of the committee would have experts from industry, academia and the government.
“The National AI Policy is crafted to focus on the equitable distribution of opportunity and its responsible use, having the defining attributes such as evidence-based and target oriented, user-centric and forward-looking, objective and overarching,” according to the draft of the policy, a copy of which was seen by the Arab News.
The draft also outlined how Pakistan would collaborate with other countries to share best practices and expertise in the AI field.
“The policy proposed the establishment of an AI regulatory directorate that ensures the ethical and responsible use of AI,” it read.
The draft policy also addressed the potential job displacement that could result from the global proliferation of the new technology.
“AI can help to promote economic growth by encouraging investment in AI research and development which can lead to the creation of new jobs and industries, as well as improved productivity and efficiency,” it said.
It further stated that owing to the impact of artificial globally, the Pakistani government envisioned embracing it by appreciating human intelligence and stimulating a hybrid intelligence ecosystem for equitable, responsible and transparent AI use.

Russia confirms delivery of first LPG shipment to Pakistan via Iran in expanded energy ties

Updated 48 min 1 sec ago

Russia confirms delivery of first LPG shipment to Pakistan via Iran in expanded energy ties

  • Pakistan imported 100,000 tons of discounted Russian oil under a government-to-government arrangement in Juna
  • Consultations on second LPG shipment are underway after the first was routed through Iran’s Special Economic Zone

KARACHI: In a move marking an expansion of energy ties between the two countries, the Russian diplomatic mission in Islamabad confirmed the delivery of 100,000 metric tons of liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) to Pakistan through Iran on Tuesday.
The delivery follows an earlier government-to-government (G2G) deal that saw Pakistan import 100,000 tons of discounted Russian crude oil on June 11, which prompted former Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif to describe it as a “transformative day” for the economically struggling South Asian nation.
The LPG shipment, announced by the Russian embassy in a social media post, comes as Pakistan seeks to diversify its energy portfolio with more affordable options.
“Russia has delivered the first batch of liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) in the amount of 100 thousand metric tons to Pakistan through Iran’s Sarakhs Special Economic Zone,” it said on messaging platform X, formerly known as Twitter. “Consultations on the second shipment are underway.”

Pakistan has already started blending Russian oil with imported crude from the Gulf markets.
Zahid Mir, a top official at Pakistan Oil Refinery, told Arab News last month that the Russian crude had been successfully processed by the country, adding that the spot deal with Moscow was both technically and commercially viable.
He also informed negotiations for further cargo imports were underway.
Pakistan plans to import about 20 percent of its crude oil from Russia at discounted rates to meet its growing energy demand.
It meets about 43 percent of its LPG requirement, with a total annual consumption of 4,600 metric tons, through local production, according to data compiled by the Petroleum Club of Pakistan.
Pakistani officials could not be approached for comments on the story.

Pakistan cricket team departs for India to participate in World Cup 

Updated 27 September 2023

Pakistan cricket team departs for India to participate in World Cup 

  • Bowling coach Morne Morkel to join squad in Dubai, Team Director Mickey Arthur to meet team in Dubai
  • Pakistan last played cricket on Indian soil in 2016 when Shahid Afridi led them in the T20 World Cup that year

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan men’s cricket team left for India late Tuesday night to participate in the 50-over World Cup, which kicks off on Oct. 5. 

It is the first time in seven years that the South Asian country is sending its cricket team to India. The last time Pakistan’s men’s cricket team set foot on Indian soil was in 2016 to take part in that year’s T20 World Cup. 

Political tensions between the nuclear-armed neighbors mean they only play against each other at international venues. Skipper Babar Azam’s side will play two warm-up matches against New Zealand and Australia on Sept. 29 and Oct. 3 respectively before they begin their World Cup campaign against the Netherlands on Oct. 6. 

Pakistan's World Cup squad gets photographed in Lahore, Pakistan, before departing to India for the upcoming Cricket World Cup on September 26, 2023.(Photo courtesy: @TheRealPCB/X)

“Pakistan cricket team are at the Lahore airport to depart for India to participate in the World Cup,” the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) said in a statement. 

A short video clip shared by the PCB showed Azam, vice-captain Shadab Khan, and the other cricketers enjoying snacks at the airport lounge before their departure. 

“The travel contingent consists 18 players and 13 player support personnel,” the PCB said, adding that South African bowling coach Morne Morkel will join the team in Dubai while former Pakistan coach and current Team Director Mickey Arthur will join the squad in India. 

“Pakistan are scheduled to land in Hyderabad, India at 8:15pm (local time) on 27 September,” the PCB said. 

In his pre-departure press conference, Azam told reporters the team was enjoying a “very high morale” heading into the showpiece tournament.

“We are leaving tonight for the World Cup and as a team our morale is very high, there is confidence,” Azam said. “We will try to play our best cricket.

“We could not deliver up to the mark [in Asia Cup], but we learned from it. We just don’t point out our errors, but we also talk about how to improve those sides.”

Pakistan started the Asia Cup on a high note, beating minnows Nepal and Bangladesh and also bowling India out for 266 in the group fixture match between the two sides on Sept. 2. 

However, the hosts suffered a mammoth defeat of 228 runs at India’s hands in the Super Four stage of the tournament before a last-ball defeat against Sri Lanka meant they couldn’t qualify for the final. 

Only two players from Pakistan’s current squad have traveled to India before: Mohammad Nawaz, who was part of Pakistan’s 2016 T20 World Cup squad, and Agha Salman, who was in the Lahore Lions’ squad for the Champions League T20.

“I’m very excited to play in Ahmedabad. It is the biggest stadium in the world and will be jam-packed for the India-Pakistan clash,” Azam said about playing in India for the first time in his years-long career.

 “I have spoken to former cricketers about the condition and they are not that different … I will try to perform to the best of my ability. I can’t exactly tell you how I will do since I’m not an astrologer.”

Ex-PM Khan shifted to Rawalpindi’s Adiala Jail on court’s orders

Updated 26 September 2023

Ex-PM Khan shifted to Rawalpindi’s Adiala Jail on court’s orders

  • A day earlier, Islamabad High Court ordered authorities to shift Khan to Adiala Jail 
  • Khan had filed a petition seeking to be transferred from high-security prison in Attock

ISLAMABAD: Former prime minister Imran Khan was moved on Tuesday to Rawalpindi’s Adiala Jail from a prison in Attock two days after orders from the Islamabad High Court, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party said. 
Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party said earlier during the day that its chairman was not shifted to Adiala Jail despite the Islamabad High Court’s (IHC) directives on Monday. The cricketer-turned-politician was arrested on Aug. 5 and taken to a high-security prison in Attock after a trial court in Islamabad found him guilty of “corrupt practices” in a case involving the unlawful sale of state gifts during his tenure as prime minister from 2018 to 2022.
The IHC suspended Khan’s sentence on Aug. 29 but he remains in jail on remand in another case, popularly called the cipher case, in which he is charged with leaking state secrets. The latest extension of the remand order will keep Khan in jail until Oct. 10. Meanwhile, the former PM had filed a petition with the IHC seeking his transfer to Adiala Jail.
“PTI Chairman Imran Khan, who has been serving a three-year sentence in the Toshakhana case at the Attock Jail, was on Tuesday shifted to Rawalpindi’s Adiala jail on directives of the Islamabad High Court (IHC),” Pakistan’s English-language daily Dawn said.
Separately, the PTI shared a video from the Islamabad Toll Plaza in which a few party supporters could be seen showering rose petals at the convoy of police cars transporting Khan. 

On Monday, IHC Chief Justice Aamer Farooq observed that under-trial prisoners (UTPs) of all the courts in the federal capital were kept at Adiala, issuing directions to shift Khan to that prison.
In the state secrets case, Khan is charged with making public the contents of a confidential cable sent by Pakistan’s ambassador to the United States and using it for political gain, according to the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA).
Khan alleges that the cable proves the United States had pressed Pakistan’s military to orchestrate the fall of his government because he had visited Russia shortly before its invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.
Washington and the Pakistani military have denied Khan’s accusations.
The former prime minister also faces a range of other legal cases he says are politically motivated.


Pakistan moves to remove investment impediments in agriculture, IT, mining and energy sectors

Updated 26 September 2023

Pakistan moves to remove investment impediments in agriculture, IT, mining and energy sectors

  • Pakistan in June set up Special Investment Facilitation Council, a civil-military forum, to attract foreign funding
  • SIFC’s executive committee meets to review measures to improve Pakistan’s investment environment

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s top investment body on Tuesday said it had finalized plans to resolve key issues related to the country’s economic sectors of agriculture, information technology, minerals and energy.
Pakistan in June set up the SIFC — a civil-military hybrid forum — to fast-track decision-making and promote investment from foreign nations, particularly from Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) nations. The council has pinpointed five key sectors for attracting investment: agriculture, mining, information technology, defense production, and energy.
The South Asian country established the council as it grapples with a serious economic crisis that has seen its currency weaken against the US dollar over the past one year amid staggering inflation. Pakistan is also facing an acute balance of payments crisis amid increasing foreign debt.
The SIFC’s executive committee held its fifth meeting on Tuesday to review measures for improving the investment environment in the country, a statement from the body said.
“After healthy debate, the Committee formulated workable options, by drawing consensus among stakeholders, to resolve key impediments to investment environment in the country,” the SIFC said. “The plans were also finalized to resolve issues related to four key sectors (Agri, IT, Minerals and Energy) besides, adding new projects to the forum.”
Last week, Pakistan’s Caretaker Prime Minister Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar, during his visit to New York to attend the UN General Assembly, met business and thought leaders and stakeholders to pitch the forum to them and made the case for improved business climate in Pakistan together with its potential for foreign direct investment in a range of sectors.
Earlier this month, Kakar confirmed Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) would invest $25 billion each in cash-strapped Pakistan within the next five years as part of projects under the SIFC.
Saudi Arabia has also explored investment opportunities in Pakistan’s mining sector and contributed $500 million to modernize Pakistan’s agricultural sector through the Land Information and Management System Center of Excellence (LIMS-CoE). This continued financial backing from Gulf allies is crucial for Pakistan’s economic stability.