Pakistani cybersecurity expert leads King Saud University in winning US AI-based biometrics patent

An undated file photo of Prof. Muhammad Khurram Khan. (Photo courtesy:
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Updated 04 October 2023

Pakistani cybersecurity expert leads King Saud University in winning US AI-based biometrics patent

  • The university says it such research projects can help transform the kingdom into a knowledge-based economy
  • Muhammad Khurram Khan, who led the research team, has set up a cybersecurity think tank in the United States

KARACHI: King Saud University has won a patent from the United States by developing a biometrics-based iris recognition system after carrying out a project led by an accomplished Pakistani expert who is also the founded of an independent and non-partisan cybersecurity think-tank in Washington.
According to a post shared on the university’s website, the new system uses artificial intelligence and employs deep learning-based methods for extracting discriminant features from biometric traits obtained from eyeball images.
Muhammad Khurram Khan, who carried out and supervised the research, is a distinguished professor of cybersecurity from the Center of Excellence in Information Assurance and the founding CEO of the US think tank, Global Foundation for Cyber Studies and Research.
“The invention provides an innovative method based on multi-algorithm, multi-biometric, and multi-instance approaches to a single biometric source that enhances security and performance of the identification process at significant level,” the Saudi university announced.
“The invented technology has widespread applications, which are not only limited to areas such as immigration and border control, health care, banking and finance, consumer electronics, smart mobility, and military and defense, etc.,” it added.
The university website also proclaimed that Khan and his research team held a number of US patents in cybersecurity and had also published numerous high-impact research papers in flagship journals.
It also highlighted its own commitment to such research and development projects to transform the kingdom into a knowledge-based economy under Vision 2030.

On Qatar visit, Pakistan minister says 'well-equipped' to meet Gulf nation's expanding IT needs

Updated 03 December 2023

On Qatar visit, Pakistan minister says 'well-equipped' to meet Gulf nation's expanding IT needs

  • Pakistan's first-ever IT delegation arrived in Doha on Saturday, seeking investment, and exploring opportunities for Pakistani tech firms
  • Qatari companies exhibited significant interest in fintech, cybersecurity, artificial intelligence, and digital transformation, delegates say

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s Caretaker Information Technology Minister Dr. Umar Saif said on Sunday the South Asian country was "well-equipped" to meet Qatar’s expanding IT requirements as he led representatives of 30 leading Pakistani IT companies at meetings with officials of Qatari firms in Doha. 

Pakistan's first-ever IT delegation to Qatar arrived in Doha on Saturday for a five-day visit, aiming to attract investment and explore opportunities for Pakistani software houses and freelance developers.  

In line with broader trends in the Gulf region, Qatar is actively diversifying its economy and focusing on the technology sector, taking smart city initiatives, launching tech start-ups and hosting technologically advanced events like the FIFA World Cup 2022. The strategic shift includes the adoption of advanced digital technologies, such as AI, cloud computing and cybersecurity, to transition into a knowledge-based economy. 

On Sunday, an event titled as 'Pak-Qatar Tech Connect' brought together distinguished speakers from public and private sectors, who stressed the need to enhance collaboration and trade between both countries, according to the Pakistani IT ministry. The event served as a platform for some impactful business-to-business (B2B) interactions. 

“Pakistan, a vast country just two hours away, boasts a robust IT infrastructure, a wealth of IT products, services, and a pool of skilled professionals that can undoubtedly cater to Qatar's growing IT needs,” Saif told Arab News from Doha. 

The minister said he highlighted Pakistan’s IT potential at the conference in Doha, which included "exciting meetings" with businesses in Qatar to establish collaboration with Pakistani IT firms. 

“This time, 30 Pakistani firms are taking part in this conference, but in the near future, Pakistan will be showcasing 300 IT firms in Qatar,” he said. “There is a huge potential for Pakistani companies to expand their business in Qatar.” 

Saif expressed hopes that the Pakistan-Qatar IT conference would serve as a catalyst for stronger ties, shared growth and enhanced technological cooperation between the two nations. 

“We also had a great meeting with CEO of Qatar Financial Center Yousaf Mohammad Al-Jaida and his team to help establish a process and incentive packages for Pakistani IT companies to expand their businesses to Qatar,” he said. 

The visit of the Pakistani delegation is aimed at forging a common, secure platform that enables professionals from both nations to seamlessly share knowledge, expertise and technological advancements, according to the Pakistani IT minister.  

Both countries can propel their technological landscapes to new heights by leveraging their technical knowledge. 

“This collaboration aims to create a secure technological ecosystem, aligning with Qatar's remarkable strides in automating various business sectors,” he said. 

“I extend an invitation to my counterpart Mohammed bin Ali bin Mohammed Al-Mannai to visit Pakistan at his convenience to witness firsthand the technological developments and collaborative potential between our nations.” 

He appreciated the role of Qatar Financial Centre and Qatar Free Zone in providing an international platform to Pakistani business houses to set up and launch innovative ventures in Qatar. 

Zohaib Khan, chairman of the Pakistan Software Houses Association (P@SHA), said today's primary focus were the B2B interactions, which included participation from top 30 Pakistani IT companies specializing in cybersecurity, digital transformation and various other IT services. 

“Qatari companies exhibited significant interest in fintech, cybersecurity, artificial intelligence and digital transformation,” he told Arab News over the phone. “Numerous Pakistani businesses secured promising leads, expected to materialize in the upcoming weeks.”  

Khan said collaborations were underway with Qatari firms and several Pakistani entities were considering registration in the Gulf nation. 

The upcoming events would be centered around government-to-government (G2G) meetings, which are anticipated to have a highly positive impact on Pakistani IT exports through increased remittances, he added. 

Pakistan's stance on climate finance for developing nations acknowledged at COP28 in Dubai — PM

Updated 03 December 2023

Pakistan's stance on climate finance for developing nations acknowledged at COP28 in Dubai — PM

  • Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar, who is leading Pakistan delegation at COP28, addressed some pressing issues related to the climate crisis
  • His visit saw an early victory at COP28, with delegates adopting a new fund to help poor nations cope with costly climate disasters

ISLAMABAD: Caretaker Prime Minister Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar has said that Pakistan has been a strong voice and a proactive advocate for climate finance for developing countries that was fully acknowledged by the world at the 28th United Nations Conference of Parties (COP 28) in Dubai, Pakistani state media reported on Sunday. 

PM Kakar, who is currently leading Pakistan's delegation at COP28, addressed some of the most-pressing issues related to what experts say is a rapidly accelerating climate crisis and its impacts on the developing countries.  

His visit saw an early victory at COP28, with delegates adopting a new fund to help poor nations cope with costly climate disasters on the opening day of the conference this week. In establishing the fund, they opened the door for governments to announce contributions.  

Speaking to foreign media in Dubai, the prime minister noted that Pakistan had advocated for the "loss and damage" fund in last year's COP27 in Egypt to assist developing countries in facing climate challenges in terms of mitigation and risk reduction. 

“Pakistan has always been advocating that the countries who have not contributed to the carbon emissions but remained one of the worst affected by the climate disaster must be compensated in terms of mitigation, climate adaptation and receiving climate finance to address all those challenges,” he was quoted as saying by Pakistan's state-run APP news agency. 

Pakistan, one of the most vulnerable nations to climate change, had set up its own pavilion at the COP28 venue to use the conference to remind wealthy countries of their “crucial” responsibility in supporting climate-vulnerable nations and the need for “equity and justice” in global climate policies.  

PM Kakar said the operationalization of the fund by the announcement of $30 billion by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) was a "good start" in the right direction, according to the APP report.  

Initially, he said, the funding should be utilized through multi-lateral organizations like the World Bank to swiftly start the implementation process.  

On Saturday, PM Kakar participated in the Global Stock Take event to assess the progress made by the world to collectively deal with the issue of climate change. 

“In his remarks at this roundtable discussion, the Prime Minister highlighted the acuteness of the climate crisis and laid emphasis on providing adequate means of implementation including climate finance, capacity-building and technology, to developing countries to tackle this growing challenge,” PM Kakar's office said in a brief statement. 

He pointed out that climate finance would always be the enabler for climate action, adding that the needs of developing countries far exceeded the unfulfilled $100 billion pledge made in Paris during the 2015 conference to ensure climate adaptability. 

COP28 delegates urge greater action on climate-linked health risks

Updated 03 December 2023

COP28 delegates urge greater action on climate-linked health risks

  • In September, Storm Daniel killed over 11,000 in Libya, floods in Pakistan last year fueled a 400% increase in malaria cases
  • Experts say countries will need to boost funding for healthcare amid heatwaves, diseases like malaria and cholera spreading

DUBAI: Physicians, activists and country representatives at this year's COP28 U.N. climate summit in Dubai have called for greater global efforts to protect people from the increasing health and safety risks posed by climate change. 

With global temperatures set to continue climbing for decades, experts say countries will need to boost funding for healthcare as heatwaves become more dangerous and diseases like malaria and cholera spread. 

Climate-related impacts "have become one of the greatest threats to human health in the 21st century", COP28 President Sultan Ahmed Al-Jaber said in a statement. 

Late on Saturday, 123 of the nearly 200 countries gathered at COP28 signed a declaration acknowledging their responsibility to keep people safe. The declaration made no mention of fossil fuels, the main source of climate-warming emissions. 

Thanks to climate change, cases of malnutrition, malaria, diarrhoea and heat stress are already on the rise in some regions. 

A small group of physicians in white coats and climate activists held a small demonstration within the COP28 compound to raise awareness of the issue on Sunday. 

"We are in a lot of trouble," said Joseph Vipond, an emergency physician from Alberta, Canada. He recalled the case of a child dying from an asthma attack made worse by smoke inhalation from Western Canada's record wildfires this year. "This is having real world impacts." 

Climate change is also increasing the frequency of dangerous storms and more erratic rainfall. 

In September Storm Daniel killed more than 11,000 people in Libya, and last year's massive flooding in Pakistan fueled a 400% increase in malaria cases across the country, according to the World Health Organization. 

Governments and philanthropic bodies are expected later on Sunday to announce new financing for climate-related health issues. 

The World Bank on Sunday launched a new Climate and Health program to explore possible interventions and public health solutions for developing countries. 

Ten of the world's top development banks including the World Bank also said on Sunday they would work together to help countries track climate impacts, including public health risks, and to identify investment opportunities and priorities. 

In a statement, the banks said the window of opportunity to secure a liveable planet was "rapidly closing". 

Microsoft co-founder turned philanthropist Bill Gates said scientists were working on new treatments for and prevention of mosquito-spread malaria as the rise in temperatures creates more hospitable habitat for the insects to breed. 

"We have new tools at the lab level that decimate mosquito populations," said Gates, whose foundation supports public health research and projects for the developing world. 

"These new innovations give us a chance, at a reasonable cost, to make progress." 

Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also spoke on Sunday at COP28, urging reform to the world's insurance system as another key requirement to keep people safe. 

"Right now insurance companies are pulling out of so many places, they're not insuring homes, they're not insuring businesses," Clinton said, addressing a panel on women and climate resiliency 

"As the climate changes, as storms increase and drought and heat increase ... it's people everywhere who are going to be left out with no backup, no insurance for their business or their home," she said. 

Transporters in northern Pakistan strike over killing of eight people in attack on passenger bus

Updated 03 December 2023

Transporters in northern Pakistan strike over killing of eight people in attack on passenger bus

  • The attack took place near the Chilas town of Pakistan's northern Gilgit-Baltistan region
  • Pakistani Taliban distance themselves from the attack, no other group claims responsibility

KHAPLU, Gilgit-Baltistan: Transporters across Pakistan’s northern Gilgit-Baltistan region on Sunday observed a wheel-jam strike after a passenger bus was targeted by unidentified militants near the Chilas town, killing eight people and injuring 25 others a day earlier.  

Chilas, a rugged, mountainous town, lies in GB's Diamer district, which has been a site of militant attacks, including some claimed by the Pakistani Taliban. In 2018, militants torched 13 girls’ schools in the district, while in 2012, unidentified gunmen killed nine passengers and torched six buses in the region. 

However, the Pakistani Taliban distanced themselves from Saturday's attack, while no group immediately claimed responsibility for targeting the passenger bus that was en route to Rawalpindi from Gilgit. Officials said they were investigating the attack. 

“All transporters are on strike today after this tragic incident in all districts of Gilgit-Baltistan,” Ashraf Al-Hussaini, president of the GB transporters association, told Arab News.  

"This is not the first incident in this region. We had to face such incidents in the past as well in which many people were killed."

Law enforcement officers stand next to a damaged bus that came under attack by unidentified militants in the Diamer district of Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan on December 2, 2023. (Photo courtesy: Facebook/Pamir Times)

He urged the government to increase patrolling of law enforcement agencies and set up security check-posts along a section of the Karakoram Highway passing through the district. 

Hussaini said their strike was only for Sunday and they would announce their next move soon. 

GB Information Minister Iman Shah said law enforcement authorities were investigating the attack and trying to ascertain the motive behind it. 

“Treatment of the injured people is ongoing and bodies of the deceased are being shifted to their native towns and villages," Shah told Arab News over the phone. “No one has yet claimed the responsibility for the attack.” 

Diamer Superintendent of Police (SP) Sheheryar Khan said unidentified militants opened fire on the bus in the Chilas-Hudur region at around 6:30pm on Saturday. 

Arif Ahmed, the Diamer deputy commissioner, said some of the passengers hailed from the northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and southern Sindh provinces. 

"Two Pakistan Army soldiers were among the people martyred in the attack," he told reporters. 

In a text message to Arab News, the Pakistani Taliban distanced themselves from the attack. 

“Tehreek-e-Taliban has nothing to do with the firing incident on a bus in Gilgit-Baltistan’s Chilas area,” said Muhammad Khurasani, a spokesperson for the group. 

In boost for Modi, India’s BJP set to win 3 of 4 key state polls

Updated 03 December 2023

In boost for Modi, India’s BJP set to win 3 of 4 key state polls

  • Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Telangana states voted last month before the national vote due by May
  • BJP had established clear leads in three of these states and appeared set to win them, vote-counting data suggested

NEW DELHI: India’s ruling nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Sunday appeared set to win three of four states in key regional polls, in a big boost for Prime Minister Narendra Modi ahead of general elections in six months. 

The heartland states of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, and the southern state of Telangana, voted last month in the last set of provincial elections before the national vote due by May, when Modi seeks a third term. 

BJP had established clear leads in all three heartland states and appeared set to win them, vote-counting data from the independent election panel and five news TV channels showed. 

BJP’s performance was better than widely expected as opinion and exit polls had suggested a close contest between Modi’s party and the main opposition Congress, indicating BJP and Modi’s growing popularity despite a decade in power nationally. 

Although Congress won Telangana, its second victory in the south this year, Sunday’s outcome is seen as a setback to the party and its leader Rahul Gandhi as it was wiped out of the politically critical heartland. 

“We always said we will win the heartland states,” BJP President Jagat Prakash Nadda told Reuters. “The results are the outcome of our finest political strategy and work on the ground.” 

BJP members and supporters burst firecrackers, distributed sweets and danced in the streets to the beat of drums in the three states. 

“It’s a clean sweep by the BJP in three states, the mandate proves voters trust Modi,” said federal aviation minister Jyotiraditya Scindia, who belongs to Madhya Pradesh. 

Modi remains widely popular after a decade in power and surveys suggest he will win again next year. However, a 28-party opposition alliance led by the Congress party has come together to jointly fight BJP, posing a new challenge. 

Congress disappointed 

BJP also suffered a setback when it lost the big southern state of Karnataka to Congress earlier this year as Gandhi worked hard to revive the party since its drubbing in the 2019 general elections and went on a 135-day march across the country covering more than 4,000 km (2,500 miles). 

He also helped build the opposition alliance, called the Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance or INDIA, after the Karnataka victory and his temporary disqualification from parliament after being convicted in a defamation case. 

But the alliance did not feature in the state polls due to internal rivalries and it was a direct contest between BJP and Congress. 

“The Congress has done extremely well in Telangana... Yes, it is disappointing to see losses in three states, but we are still the opposition with a strong presence,” Congress spokesperson Supriya Shrinate told Reuters. 

The four states are home to more than 160 million voters and account for 82 seats in the 543-member parliament. 

Modi and leaders of Congress, led by Gandhi, criss-crossed the states, addressing campaign rallies and promising cash payouts, farm loan waivers, subsidies and insurance cover, among other incentives, to woo voters. 

Politicians and analysts say state elections do not always influence the outcome of the general elections or accurately indicate national voter mood. 

Results of the last round of state elections before national elections have been misleading in the past. 

Sunday’s outcome is, however, expected to boost market sentiment. 

“Markets may have had a whiff of the likely results given the gains last week but the margin of victory will be a surprise,” said Gurmeet Chadha, managing partner at asset management firm Complete Circle. 

Markets should gain on Monday on the results, he said, adding it could be a “big move.” 

The small northeastern state of Mizoram also voted last month and votes there are due to be counted on Monday.