Saudi Vision 2030 offers ‘tons of opportunities’ for IT firms — Pakistani tech magnate 

Saudi men attend the Gitex 2018 exhibition at the Dubai World Trade Center in Dubai on October 16, 2018 Gitex ("Gulf Information Technology Exhibition") is a consumer computer and electronics trade show. (AFP/File)
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Updated 26 July 2023
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Saudi Vision 2030 offers ‘tons of opportunities’ for IT firms — Pakistani tech magnate 

  • Systems Limited chief Asif Peer says his firm is focused on markets in Gulf countries and is in the process of acquiring more companies 
  • Peer’s IT firm generates over 80 percent of its revenue from the export of services to various geographies and below 20 percent from domestic market 

KARACHI: Saudi Arabia’s diversification of its economy under the Vision 2030 offers “tons of opportunities” for information technology-based companies, CEO of a Pakistani tech giant said on Tuesday, stressing on “diversification and specialization” as the key to benefit from these opportunities. 

Saudi Arabia is consolidating its economy on modern lines under the Vision 2030, which is a strategic development framework intended to cut the Kingdom’s reliance on oil. It is aimed at developing public service sectors in the Kingdom such as health, education, infrastructure, recreation and tourism. 

In an interview with Arab News, Pakistani IT magnate, Asif Peer, was a “big market” for players across all sectors, particularly the IT sector. Peer’s Systems Limited boast of being Pakistan’s first IT company, established in 1977, with a market capitalization of Rs128 billion ($444 million) and revenue generation of Rs20.64 billion ($69 million) in fiscal year 2022. 

“I would say the money that is being spend by the Saudi conglomerates, the corporate enterprises and most importantly the public sector, the government that is taking lot of initiatives, all is mostly toward technology,” Peer said. 

“If everybody is aware of what’s happening... there will be tons of opportunities for everyone,” he said, adding, “diversification and specialization is the key.” 




Asif Peer, CEO of Systems Limited speaks to Arab News during an interview on July 25, 2023 in Karachi, Pakistan. (AN Photo) 

Peer’s firm generates over 80 percent of its revenue from the export of services to various countries in North America, Europe, the Middle East and Africa, and less than 20 percent from the domestic market. It already has a sizeable presence in the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Egypt, Singapore, South Africa, Australia and the Netherlands. 

Peer, however, said that Pakistani companies must be aware of the opportunities coming as part of the Vision 2030 to benefit from them. Vision 2030 has many facets, including infrastructure development but technology, business and digital transformation, and gender diversity, he said. 

“They all will need technology at the backbone or at the back. We just need to know about these projects and just need to be registered with all these companies, with all these big consulting partners,” he said. “So we know that which projects are coming and we try to position ourselves.” 

Last year, Systems Limited incorporated a company, Systems Arabia, in the Kingdom, which has secured sizeable contracts in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, according to the CEO. 

The healthy pipeline will help with the momentum in the Kingdom as the company is currently targeting customer acquisition in both public and private sectors. 

“They are all in expansion, they all are focused on technology and digitization, AI. So we have ample opportunities to double down, triple down our investment in these markets,” Peer said. 

“Our Egypt center is not only a market for us, but it is also a supply center for us,” he said, adding the company employed hundreds of people at the center that supported GCC clients, mostly because of the language and much-needed cultural mix. 

Using Egypt as a spring board, Peer’s firm is also focused on other regional markets for acquisitions. 

“We are really focused right now on those markets, acquiring more companies, either in those markets or those domains which are relevant and pertinent, because I believe in organic and inorganic growth both will yield better results,” he told Arab News. 

To a question about the challenges faced by his firm in the Gulf region, Peer said there were no major challenges in the Middle East. 

About his growth plans at home and abroad, the Systems Limited CEO said his company was in hypergrowth mode to beat its own expectations. 

“When you are scaling and growing there are two sides of it, one is demand and one is supply, so in supply side we are scaling robustly not just by hiring people, but we have lots of training programs that we run in every competency in every area,” he said. 

Peer informed his firm recently won ‘Microsoft Partner of the Year’ award in recognition of development and delivery of outstanding Microsoft-based applications, services and devices during the past year. 
 


Fast bowler Haris Rauf ruled out of PSL after dislocating shoulder

Updated 25 February 2024
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Fast bowler Haris Rauf ruled out of PSL after dislocating shoulder

  • Haris Rauf fell awkwardly on his shoulder during Karachi-Lahore match on Saturday
  • Doctors have advised Rauf to rest for 4-6 weeks to recover from injury, says Lahore Qalandars 

LAHORE: Fast bowler Haris Rauf has been ruled out of the remainder of the Pakistan Super League after dislocating his shoulder during two-time defending champion Lahore Qalandars’ two-wicket loss against Karachi Kings on Saturday.

The franchise said in a statement on Sunday that doctors have advised Rauf to rest for 4-6 weeks to recover from the injury after undergoing scans.

Rauf fell awkwardly on his shoulder in the last over while holding onto a stunning catch of Hasan Ali during Karachi’s thrilling run-chase as Lahore lost its fourth successive game in Pakistan’s premier domestic Twenty20 event.

Rauf struggled in the first three games but bounced back against Karachi with economical figures of 1-22 off his four overs.

“We are deeply saddened by Haris Rauf’s injury,” Lahore captain Shaheen Shah Afridi said. “It was painful to see him missing out … and his absence will be felt.”

Rauf’s injury is the second major bowling setback for Lahore after its premier spinner Rashid Khan of Afghanistan was ruled out before the tournament due to a back injury.


Pakistan approves mergers of leading Saudi company with stakes in its steel sector

Updated 25 February 2024
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Pakistan approves mergers of leading Saudi company with stakes in its steel sector

  • M/s Saudi Iron and Steel Company (Hadeed) deals in spot sales in Pakistan’s steel market, exports to South Asian country
  • Three mergers are not anticipated to raise competition concerns in the relevant market, says competition commission

ISLAMABAD: The Competition Commission of Pakistan (CCP) this week approved three mergers concerning a leading Saudi company that has a significant presence in Pakistan’s steel market, the regulatory body said. 

Based in the kingdom, M/s/ Saudi Iron and Steel Company (Hadeed) produces a range of steel products and deals in spot sales in Pakistan’s steel market. Hadeed also exports to the South Asian country through international traders.

The CCP said in its press release on Saturday that the Public Investment Fund (PIF), Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund, sent a pre-merger application to CCP to acquire 100 percent shareholding of Hadeed from M/s. Saudi Basic Industries Corporation (“SABIC”).

“PIF has entered into a share purchase agreement with SABIC, under which SABIC agrees to sell its entire share capital of Hadeed to PIF,” the CCP said. 

The second merger involved Hadeed acquiring 100 percent shareholding of Al Rajhi Steel Industries Company from M/s. Mohammad Bin Abdulaziz Al Rajhi & Sons Investment. 

Al Rajhi Steel, established in 1978, is a subsidiary of Al Rajhi Invest and is known for its steel manufacturing capabilities in Saudi Arabia. This involved a share exchange agreement between Hadeed and Al Rajhi Invest.

In the third stage, the CCP said PIF intends to dispose off its 44.5 percent shareholding in Hadeed to M/s. Mohammad Bin Abdulaziz Al Rajhi & Sons Investment, the CCP. It added that the move was intended to share control over Hadeed and Al Rajhi Steel to improve their respective production capabilities and increase their operational efficiency.

“These transactions, as per the information available, are not anticipated to raise any competition concerns in the relevant market,” the CCP said. 

It said Pakistan’s steel sector is “one of the most important industries in the country” and with investments, can raise the country’s GDP to bring benefits to both the economy and investors.


Pakistan inaugurates ‘pivotal’ polio campaign to immunize over 45.8 million children

Updated 25 February 2024
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Pakistan inaugurates ‘pivotal’ polio campaign to immunize over 45.8 million children

  • Polio volunteers to immunize children under five years old from Feb. 26 to March 3, says national health ministry 
  • Many believe in the conspiracy theory that polio vaccines are part of a Western ploy to sterilize Pakistan’s population

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s federal health secretary Iftikhar Shallwani on Sunday inaugurated a nationwide campaign against polio that aims to immunize over 45.8 million children against the disease, the national health ministry said. 

Pakistan is one of only two countries in the world where polio is endemic. The disease affects the nervous system of children and ultimately leads to paralysis.

The South Asian country’s efforts to contain polio have often been met with opposition, especially in the country’s northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, where militants have carried out attacks against vaccinators and the security teams guarding them. 

Many believe in the conspiracy theory that polio vaccines are part of a plot by Western outsiders to sterilize Pakistan’s population. 

Shallwani inaugurated the campaign, which is set to launch nationwide on Monday, by administering polio drops to children. 

“This pivotal campaign, scheduled from Feb 26 to Mar 3, aims to immunize over 45.8 million children under the age of 5 across the country,” the Ministry of National Health Services wrote on X platform. 

Shallwani said polio is a “terrible” disease that can cause paralysis in children.

“Unfortunately, it continues to be a threat to our children because some people refuse to vaccinate children based on misconceptions and false information about the vaccine,” he said. 

He said volunteers will deliver the vaccine to people’s doorsteps from next week, requesting parents to cooperate with them. 

“I implore you to recognize the threat posed by the poliovirus to your children and ensure that you open your doors to facilitate their vaccination,” the health official said. 

Pakistani masses’ doubts regarding polio campaigns were exacerbated in 2011 when the US Central Intelligence Agency set up a fake hepatitis vaccination program to gather intelligence on former Al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden. 


Undefeated Quetta lock horns with Multan Sultans in PSL 9 clash

Updated 25 February 2024
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Undefeated Quetta lock horns with Multan Sultans in PSL 9 clash

  • Multan Sultans lost their first match of the tournament to Peshawar Zalmi this week 
  • Despite the loss, the Sultans top the Pakistan Super League points table due to strong run rate

ISLAMABAD: The undefeated Quetta Gladiators will be put to the test today, Sunday, when they face table-toppers Multan Sultans in match number 11 of the Pakistan Super League (PSL) 2024 set to take place in Multan. 

The Sultans sit pretty at the top of the table with six points from four matches. However, they lost to former champions Peshawar Zalmi on Friday by five wickets at their home ground in Multan. 

Under new skipper Rilee Rossouw, however, the Gladiators have won all three matches of theirs. 

“I am aware of the conditions on Multan hence I don’t encounter any difficulties playing there,” Rossouw said. “Every match is a new contest, we will implement our plan to win it.”

The Gladiators have the same number of points as the Gladiators, six, from three matches. However, they are placed at number two on the table due to a net run rate of +0.686. The Sultans have a run rate of +0.812 from their four matches. 

The match between the two sides is expected to begin at 2:00 p.m.

Playing XIs (probable):

Multan Sultans: Mohammad Rizwan (c & wk), Dawid Malan, Reeza Hendricks, Yasir Khan, Iftikhar Ahmed, Khushdil Shah, David Willey, Usama Mir, Abbas Afridi, Mohammad Ali, Shahnawaz Dahani

Quetta Gladiators: Saud Shakeel, Jason Roy, Rilee Rossouw (c), Sarfaraz Ahmed (wk), Khawaja Nafay, Shefane Rutherford, Akeal Hosein, Abrar Ahmed, Mohammad Amir, Mohammad Wasim, Mohammad Hasnain


Pakistan’s Sindh Assembly elects speaker from majority party 

Updated 34 min 32 sec ago
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Pakistan’s Sindh Assembly elects speaker from majority party 

  • Pakistan Peoples Party’s Syed Owais Qadir Shah secures 111 votes to win speaker’s election 
  • Election for the post of Sindh chief minister is scheduled to be held on Monday

KARACHI: Syed Owais Qadir Shah, a member of the Pakistan Peoples Party which won the highest number of seats in the southern Sindh province during this month’s polls, won the election for the provincial assembly’s speaker on Sunday.

Sofia Saeed Shah, a member of the Muttahida Quami Movement Pakistan (MQM-P) who contested against Shah, polled 36 votes, outgoing speaker Agha Siraj Durrani announced during the assembly’s session. 

“So, I declare honorable member Syed Owais Qadir Shah who has secured the highest number of votes to have been elected as a speaker of the provincial assembly of Sindh,” Durrani said to thunderous applause from legislators. 

Shah took oath shortly and chaired the Sindh Assembly’s session, which will also see the election of Shah’s deputy. 

The voting took place a day after the inaugural Sindh Assembly session when newly elected members of the southern province were sworn in.

Saturday’s oath-taking ceremony was marred by protests in Karachi staged by supporters of various political parties who alleged that the Feb. 8 elections were heavily rigged.

Supporters of the Jamaat-e-Islami, Grand Democratic Alliance, Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI) and other nationalist parties gathered near the provincial assembly in Karachi’s southern zone to protest alleged manipulation of Feb. 8 election, which was marred by a mobile network outage and delays in release of constituency results.

The PPP has nominated Murad Ali Shah, former Sindh chief minister, for the top provincial office once again. The party has also nominated Anthony Naveed for the post of deputy speaker of the Sindh provincial assembly.

The PPP bagged 84 seats in the southern Pakistani province, followed by the Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P) which secured 28 seats, while 14 seats were won by independent candidates. The JI and the GDA won two seats each.

While the inaugural Sindh Assembly session was in progress, several Pakistani parties on Saturday announced they would observe February 27 as a “Black Day” in response to Sindh police firing tear gas at their supporters protesting suspected rigging in the general elections earlier this month.

In view of the protest calls, the Sindh caretaker government on Friday imposed a ban under Section 144 on public assembly, gatherings, protests, processions, and demonstrations in Karachi’s South zone, where the provincial legislature is located, for a period of 30 days, according to the provincial home department.

Section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) empowers the administration to issue orders in public interest and place a ban on any activity for a specific period of time.