Work on ‘Digital Silk Route’ link connecting Pakistan to Egypt to start in March

In this photo, fiber optic cable, 24 Tbps SEA-ME-WE-5 (high speed submarine cable) is being deployed at Transworld landing station Hawke's Bay Karachi, Pakistan on September 23, 2016. (Photo courtesy: Khizan photography)
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Updated 09 February 2021

Work on ‘Digital Silk Route’ link connecting Pakistan to Egypt to start in March

  • Pakistan all set to be connected with rest of the world by year end via China’s Digital Silk Route land and submarine cable network
  • Initiated under Belt and Road Initiative, the high-speed, 15,000 km subsea cable system will offer high-capacity, low-latency routes connecting China, Europe and Africa

KARACHI: Pakistan is all set to be directly connected with the rest of the world by the end of this year via the Digital Silk Route (DSR), a land and submarine cable network initiated by China under its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), Pakistani officials said, with cable deployment work on the most vital final link that will connect Karachi, Pakistan, with Zafarana, Egypt, to start next month. 
The network, called the Pakistan and East Africa Connecting Europe (PEACE), is a high-speed, 15,000 km subsea cable system that will offer high-capacity, low-latency routes connecting China, Europe and Africa. In addition to France, the cable will land in Malta, Cyprus, Egypt, Djibouti, Kenya, Pakistan and other countries and regions, with onwards terrestrial connectivity to China.
A majority of the work on the project has been completed, a top official in charge of the project told Arab News on Monday.
“All approvals have been granted by the government,” said Maroof Ali Shahani, Chief Operating Officer of Cybernet, the cable landing partner for PEACE in Pakistan, said. “Work on the deployment of cable will start in March (2021).” 
“Everything is on track. The work on the cable landing station is already underway in Karachi,” Shahani said adding: “The project is slated to be completed in the fourth quarter of the current year.”
The cable will be laid in the Arabian Sea by a consortium comprising telecom companies from Pakistan, Africa, France, Egypt, and Hong Kong. The consortium is headed by the Hengtong Group, China’s leading cable manufacturer.
The PEACE cable in Pakistan will be connected with the China-Pakistan Cross Border Fibre Optical Cable which has already been completed under the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) initiative. The fiber optic cable, covering an area of 820 km, connects China with Pakistan through Gilgit Baltistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and Punjab. It was completed back in 2018 at a cost of $37.4 million. The existing terrestrial network will be utilized to connect the cable with PEACE in Sindh for onward link, according to official documents. 
In November 2020, the first cable loading for the Mediterranean Segment (PEACE Med) was successfully achieved and work on the Egypt-France route was started. 
In the first phase, PEACE will connect the three most populated continents in the world and provide critical interconnection to the economic corridors of Asia, Europe, and Africa. 
A total capacity of 96 Tbps (terabits per second) will be added to Pakistan’s Internet infrastructure through the project, officials said. The round trip delay between Karachi and Marseilles (Pakistan-France) would be 89 millizecond.
“PEACE is offering better speed, better capacity and giving direct route,” Pervaiz Iftikhar, a member of the prime minister’s task-force on IT and Telecom, told Arab News. “Since it is direct it means latency, the time for the flow of data will be less.”
“It [PEACE] would drastically improve the data transmission performance and help to accelerate digital transformation in the participating nations on an unprecedented scale,” said Dr. Muhammad Khurram Khan, the founder and CEO of the Global Foundation for Cyber Studies and Research in Washington DC.
However, he warned that global reliance on submarine cables could exacerbate cybersecurity concerns.

“Though such cables have very strong resilience against accidental or natural damages,” Khan said, “but risks associated with cyberattacks, data theft, and sabotage by state and non-state actors should never be overlooked.”
 


Saudi Arabia to restore Pakistan’s pre-coronavirus quota of Hajj pilgrims in 2023 — official

Updated 15 sec ago

Saudi Arabia to restore Pakistan’s pre-coronavirus quota of Hajj pilgrims in 2023 — official

  • Over 179,210 Pakistanis will be able to perform Hajj in 2023, says government official 
  • Written agreement to be signed next month during Hajj conference in Jeddah, he says

ISLAMABAD: Saudi Arabia would increase Pakistan’s quota of pilgrims for next year's Hajj pilgrimage to almost 180,000, as the kingdom seeks to revive the old Hajj quota of countries around the world to pre-pandemic levels, a senior official of Pakistan’s religion ministry confirmed on Wednesday. 

The Hajj is a spiritual journey that every Muslim adult must undertake once in his lifetime, to the holy sites in Makkah and Madinah, if he is financially and physically able to do so. It is one of the important five pillars of Islamic faith.

At the height of the coronavirus pandemic in 2020, the Hajj was restricted to just 1,000 local residents. Last year, the kingdom limited the pilgrimage to 60,000 domestic participants, compared with the pre-coronavirus pandemic figure of 2.5 million.

For this year’s Hajj, Saudi Arabia allowed 1 million people from both within and outside the kingdom to perform the pilgrimage. These included 83,132 Pakistani pilgrims. 

Secretary Religious Affairs, Aftab Akbar Durrani, told Arab News that Pakistan received a “verbal intimation” last week from a Saudi delegation, in a virtual meeting, that Pakistan's quota for Hajj pilgrims would be increased.

The Saudi delegation was led by Dr. Abdulfattah bin Sulaiman Mashat, Saudi deputy minister for Hajj and Umrah.

“They [Saudi officials] have informed us that they are reviving the old Hajj quota for the whole world including Pakistan,” Durrani said. 

After the revival of the pre-coronavirus Hajj quota, over 179,210 Pakistanis would be able to perform the pilgrimage next year, he said. However, Durrani added that Pakistan is yet to receive written confirmation from the Saudi authorities. 

“The written agreement will be signed in this regard with the Saudi government during a Hajj conference which is taking place next month on January 9 in Jeddah,” Durrani said.

Durrani added that either Pakistan’s religious affairs minister or he would represent Pakistan at the conference where all Hajj-related details would be finalized with the kingdom’s officials.

“We are also trying to reduce Hajj expenses for pilgrims which will also be finalized during the visit,” the official added.


Japan announces $38.9 million grant for Pakistan’s flood victims

Updated 07 December 2022

Japan announces $38.9 million grant for Pakistan’s flood victims

  • Floods in Pakistan earlier this year killed over 1,700, demolished millions of homes
  • Japan says will support Pakistan’s floods victims with international organizations

ISLAMABAD: Japan announced a grant assistance of $38.9 million for Pakistan as part of the country’s efforts to deliver life-saving aid to flood victims, the Japanese embassy in Pakistan announced on Tuesday.

Unusually heavy rains and melting glaciers during the monsoon season in Pakistan this year triggered flash floods in many parts of the country. Over 1,700 people were killed while millions of houses were swept away by raging currents.

The floods, as per Pakistan’s estimates, inflicted losses of up to $30 billion on the country. Millions were displaced from their homes while thousands continue to suffer from water-borne and vector-borne diseases.

Pakistan has appealed to the international community for aid to mitigate the massive losses caused to it by the floods.

“On December 2, the Government of Japan announced its plan to provide grant assistance of USD 38.9 million to Pakistan as part of Japan’s supplementary budget to deliver life-saving aid to the flood victims,” the Embassy of Japan in Pakistan said in a statement.

It said Japan would support flood victims in various social and economic dimensions in partnership with international organizations across Pakistan’s four provinces and in its capital city, Islamabad.

The embassy said an amount of $34.2 million would be provided for emergency medical assistance, food distribution, agriculture and livestock restoration, livelihood recreation, and gender-based violence risk mitigation and response.

“In order to ensure the rapid rollout to reach the most vulnerable, these projects will commence in January 2023,” it added.

Japan, the embassy said, would also provide support through JICA, equivalent to USD 4.7 million, for recovery from the floods in health, agriculture, education, gender, and resilient disaster management.


Pakistan could be world’s sixth largest economy by 2075— Goldman Sachs report

Updated 07 December 2022

Pakistan could be world’s sixth largest economy by 2075— Goldman Sachs report

  • China to overtake US as world’s largest economy by 2050, report says
  • Climate catastrophe, populist nationalists in power risk to projections

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan could be the sixth largest economy in the world by 2075, according to a report compiled by renowned US investment banking firm Goldman Sachs earlier this week.

Titled ‘The Path to 75’, the research report predicts the state of the global economy in the decades to come and goes as far as 2075. 

According to the report, China will dethrone the US in 2050 to become the largest economy in the world. However, by 2075, the report predicts the largest economies in the world would be China, India, the US, Indonesia, Nigeria and Pakistan.

“By 2075, with the appropriate policies and institutions, Nigeria, Pakistan and Egypt could be among the world’s largest economies,” it stated. The prediction regarding Pakistan’s growth was made due to the country’s population growth in the years to come.

The report warned, however, that climate catastrophes and populist leaders were risks to its projections.
It added that populist nationalists in power may lead to increased protectionism that could potentially result in the reversal of globalization which could increase income inequality across countries.

Furthermore, Goldman Sachs predicted that global growth will average just under 3 percent a year over the next decade, down from 3.6 percent in the decade before the financial crisis. The report said that global growth would be on a gradually declining path afterwards, reflecting a slowing of the labor force growth.

In another key projection, the report said that emerging markets would continue to converge with industrial nations as China, the US, India, Indonesia and Germany top the league table of the largest economies when measured in dollars.

Nigeria, Pakistan and Egypt could also be among the biggest, it added.


Saudi Arabia committed to averting Pakistan’s economic crisis— ex-envoy Ali Asseri

Updated 07 December 2022

Saudi Arabia committed to averting Pakistan’s economic crisis— ex-envoy Ali Asseri

  • Pakistani PM has ability, courage and will to take country forward, ex-Saudi envoy says
  • Ambassador highlights ongoing ‘major transformation’ in Pak-Saudi economic relations

Saudi Arabia is committed to rescuing Pakistan’s economy and help the country achieve political and economic stability, Dr. Ali Awadh Asseri, Saudi Arabia’s former ambassador to Pakistan, said on Wednesday.

The statement from the ex-Saudi envoy comes at a time when the South Asian nation reels from dwindling foreign exchange reserves, a depreciating currency and a ballooning current account deficit amid soaring inflation.

To make matters worse, torrential rains in mid-June triggered flash floods across the country, killing over 1,700, destroying millions of homes and washing away large swathes of crops. Pakistan estimates losses from the climate disaster to be over $30 billion.

Speaking at the Islamabad Conclave organized by the Institute of Strategic Studies, Asseri said it was crucial for Pakistan to achieve economic stability as it brings about political stability and can help Pakistan safeguard its national security.

“This is clear from Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s personal resolve for not only addressing Pakistan’s immediate financial needs but also guaranteeing long-term investments in the energy sector,” he said.

Asseri said PM Shehbaz Sharif has the “ability, courage and will” to take Pakistan forward. “He can count on the Saudi nation and its leadership for whatever support is needed for economic and political stability,” he added.

Asseri pointed out that the Saudi Vision 2030 offered “enormous opportunities” for Pakistan’s trade and investment relationship with the kingdom. He said it was a chance for the South Asian nation to employ its skilled manpower in mega development projects.

He said a major transformation is underway in Pak-Saudi economic relations. Asseri said Riyadh was eyeing long-term investments in Pakistan.

“The Saudi leadership is committed to $20 billion dollars investment in refinery, petrochemical complex, mining and renewable energy projects in Pakistan,” he said.


Babar Azam reclaims number 3 position in ICC Test batter rankings

Updated 07 December 2022

Babar Azam reclaims number 3 position in ICC Test batter rankings

  • Babar Azam scored 136 runs in Pakistan’s first innings against England
  • Australia’s Marnus Labuschagne secures top spot in Test batter’s ranking

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s all-format captain Babar Azam on Wednesday reclaimed the third spot in the ICC Men’s Test Batting Rankings, according to the International Cricket Council (ICC).

Azam, widely regarded as one of the best batters in international cricket today, is currently ranked at number 1 and number 4 on ICC’s ODI and T20I batters rankings. According to the latest update to the ICC rankings released on Wednesday, Azam reclaimed the number three spot he had lost with 879 points.

He scored an impressive 136 runs against England in Rawalpindi during the first Test match between Pakistan and England. However, Azam was unable to hold off the English bowling onslaught in the second innings, succumbing to 4 runs from 5 balls off a Ben Stokes delivery.

Pakistan ended up losing the match by 74 runs, earning flak from cricket analysts and pundits for their defensive approach. Stokes and the English side, on the other hand, won praise for playing attacking cricket and forcing a result out of a Test match that was headed for a certain draw.

Azam will have a chance to further move up the rankings as Pakistan take on England again in the second Test match of the series. The match will be played in Multan from December 9-13.

Meanwhile, Australia’s Marnus Lasbuschagne removed Joe Root to claim the top spot in the ICC’s Test Batter rankings.

Labuschagne registered scores of 204 and 104* against the West Indies during the first Test in Perth and that helped him take the top ranking and rise to a total of 935 rating points.

Currently, Australia’s Steven Smith is placed at number 2 with 893 points, followed by Azam with 879 points.