Google partners with Pakistan to create smart classrooms, digitally transform education system

The exterior of the new headquarters of Google is seen at 550 Washington Street in Hudson Square on January 09, 2024 in New York City. (AFP/File)
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Updated 21 June 2024

Google partners with Pakistan to create smart classrooms, digitally transform education system

  • Search engine giant partners with Pakistan to set up local assembly of over 500,000 Chromebooks by 2026
  • Pakistan has a staggering population of over 26.2 million out-of-school children, second-highest in the world 

ISLAMABAD: Google and Pakistan’s education ministry on Thursday announced they were partnering up to provide access to education for millions of students across the country, digitally transform Pakistan’s education system and build smart schools, state-run media reported. 

Pakistan has a staggering population of 26.2 million out-of-school children, the second highest in the world, according to Unicef Pakistan. 

Last month, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif declared an education emergency in the country, hoping to ensure access to education for these out-of-school children and improve educational opportunities for them. 

On Thursday, PM Sharif met a high-level delegation of Google for Education headed by its Managing Director Kevin Kells in Islamabad. 

“Ultimately, Google’s collaboration with the Ministry of Federal Education aims to drive a large-scale digital transformation of Pakistan’s education system, creating smart classrooms and fostering a healthy learning ecosystem,” the state-run Associated Press of Pakistan (APP) said in a report. 

The state media said Google, through its Google for Education’s country partner Tech Valley, will work with the Pakistani government to establish a local assembly of over 500,000 Chromebooks by 2026. It would also provide access to digital tools and resources for students and teachers in Pakistan.

Chromebooks are a type of laptop or tablet that runs on Google’s Chrome OS operating system and are more cost-effective than regular laptops. 

“As part of the collaboration, Allied, an Australian manufacturer of Google Chromebooks, will establish an assembly line in Pakistan to locally assemble Google Chromebooks, making them more affordable for educational purposes,” APP said.

It said the goal of such an agreement is to ensure that every student in the country has access to “cutting-edge classroom technology” to enhance their learning experience.

“Under the agreement, the teachers would be trained how to use technology effectively in the classroom, develop and implement innovative learning programs that leverage technology,” it said. 

Pakistan’s Education Minister Dr. Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui praised the development, saying it was an important step in ensuring educational access to children. 

“We believe that technology can play a vital role in improving learning outcomes and preparing our students for the future,” he said. 

Farhan S. Qureshi, Google Pakistan’s country director, said access to digital tools will ensure Pakistani children get acclimatized to the digital economy. 
“Also, creating a local assembly of over 500,000 Chromebooks will help Pakistan’s manufacturing industry grow and attract more investments in technology,” Qureshi said.

Pakistani women married to Afghan nationals entitled to dual nationality, court rules

Updated 6 sec ago

Pakistani women married to Afghan nationals entitled to dual nationality, court rules

  • Peshawar High Court issued the verdict on 65 petitions filed by individuals who had Afghan citizenship, married Afghan nationals or had children with them
  • The petitioners moved the court after last year’s directives by Islamabad for all illegal foreigners to leave the country by November 2023 or face arrest

PESHAWAR: A high court in Pakistan has ruled that Pakistani woman married to Afghan nationals were entitled to hold dual nationality despite possessing the Afghan Citizens Card (ACC) or Proof of Registration (PoR), with a lawyer representing petitioners describing the ruling as a “landmark” development.
A two-member bench of the Peshawar High Court (PHC), comprising Justice Arshad Ali and Justice Wiqar Ahmad, issued the 62-page judgment, deciding 65 petitions on issues surrounding Pakistani citizenship filed by individuals who either had ACC or PoR cards, married an Afghan national or had children born to Pakistani-Afghan parents.
The decision, announced on July 9, came after a number of Pakistani and Afghan nationals filed petitions in the high court to seek relief following last year’s directives by the Pakistani government for all illegal foreigners to leave the country by November 2023 or face arrest.
“This is a landmark decision of the Peshawar High Court as several individuals were suffering for years. This is not an issue of these 65 individuals but thousands of individuals who have been suffering over some time now,” Nouman Muhib Kakakhel, one of the lawyers who represented the petitioners, told Arab News on Sunday.
“Pakistan didn’t have any dual nationality law with Afghanistan. This decision will pave the way for many to address their issues in the court.”
The verdict divided the case into four categories, including children born to Pakistani and Afghan parents with ACC or PoR cards issued in their name, Pakistanis holding an ACC who claim dual citizenship, Afghans married to Pakistani nationals seeking PoR or citizenship, and individuals who were Pakistani but were mistakenly declared Afghan and issued ACC cards.
“The situation that emerges from this analysis invariably leads one to a conclusion that a female Pakistani citizen who marries an Afghan citizen can retain dual nationality. Similarly, children born out of such wedlock can also retain their dual nationality of Pakistan as well as Afghanistan till attaining the age of 21 years,” the verdict read.
“They cannot be denied citizenship status as citizens of Pakistan for the reason that they are ACC or PoR holders. Their entry can co-exist, as such in NADRA database as well as in other databases of the government of Pakistan. Their CNICs [computerized national identity cards], if issued already, couldn’t be blocked for the reason that names of such persons have been found in the data of Afghan Citizenship or they have been found to be holders of PoRs.”
About such children, the court ruled that they would be “entitled to citizenship of Pakistan by issuance of Form B, notwithstanding the fact that they have been entered [as] ACC or PoR holders.”
The court ruled that the applications of Pakistani nationals, who had acquired ACC and PoR cards, would be “processed and decided swiftly by realizing that certain citizens of the state are also suffering and their grievances require to be remedied quickly.”
Hayat Roghani, a human rights activist, the verdict would encourage many Afghans and Pakistanis, who had been facing similar issues, to go to a court for relief.
“The Afghan refugees have lived together with Pakistani Pashtuns and have relations with each other,” he said. “The last year’s order of the Pakistan government to expel undocumented foreign nationals to their countries intensified the problems of Pakistanis too.”
Roghani noted that Pakistani Pashtuns and Afghan refugees had shared businesses and married each other, but the directives to expel foreign nationals made things difficult for them both.
“The decision of the Peshawar High Court is a precedent and many others will benefit from it in the future,” he added.

Pakistani minister, Iraqi envoy discuss possibility of free entry visas for pilgrims 

Updated 14 July 2024

Pakistani minister, Iraqi envoy discuss possibility of free entry visas for pilgrims 

  • Pakistani Shia Muslims Muharram travel to Iraq’s Najaf, Karbala cities during Muharram every year
  • Iraqi envoy assures Pakistan’s interior minister of making travel easier for pilgrims, says state media 

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s Interior Minister Mohsin Naqvi discussed the possibility of free entry visas for Pakistani pilgrims into Iraq with the country’s envoy Hamid Abbas Lafta, state-run media reported. 

Iraqi cities of Najaf and Karbala hold tremendous significance for Shia Muslims around the world, including from Pakistan, who travel to these cities during the first two months of the Islamic lunar calendar to recall the sacrifices made by Imam Hussain, the grandson of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). 

Lafta met Naqvi and Chaudhry Salik Hussain, the minister for overseas Pakistanis in Islamabad to discuss ways to improve the travel experience for Pakistani pilgrims in Iraq. 

“The discussion highlighted the possibility of free entry visas for Pakistani pilgrims and increasing the number of people allowed to visit each year,” the Associated Press of Pakistan (APP) reported. 

Pakistan’s national airline last week launched special flights to Najaf city during Muharram for the country’s pilgrims. Pakistan said it would operate return flights for pilgrims from Najaf from July 20. 

Naqvi expressed “serious concern” about travel agents charging Pakistani pilgrims excessive fees, ensuring the Iraqi envoy he would take action against those breaking the law. 

“He also requested the Iraqi government to consider the issue of permitting Pakistani pilgrims to keep their passports while in Iraq,” the APP said. 

The Iraqi ambassador assured full cooperation in making travel easier for Pakistani pilgrims and provided a list of travel agents who had been overcharging visitors, the state media said. 

“The two sides also agreed to quickly finalize a visa waiver agreement for diplomats and officials from both countries,” APP said. 

The APP said both countries are additionally working on a deal that will make it easier for Pakistani workers to obtain work permits in Iraq.

Heavy rains leave 24 dead, 80 injured in Pakistan’s Punjab

Updated 45 min 59 sec ago

Heavy rains leave 24 dead, 80 injured in Pakistan’s Punjab

  • More heavy rains expected across the province on Monday, Tuesday
  • Authorities warn citizens against unnecessary travel in bad weather

ISLAMABAD: At least 24 people were killed and 80 others injured in rain-related incidents in Pakistan’s Punjab province over the weekend, the Provincial Disaster Management Authority (PDMA) said on Sunday, warning of more showers in the next two days.
Pakistan’s National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) this month warned that the country’s Punjab and Sindh provinces could face an “emergency” situation due to torrential rains this monsoon season.
Torrential rains lashed Lahore, Sargodha, Toba Tek Singh, Faisalabad, Kot Addu and Bahawalpur cities of the Punjab province in the last two days, according to the Punjab PDMA.
“At least 24 people were killed and another 80 were injured due to torrential rains, while around 40 houses were damaged since Friday across the province,” Punjab PDMA spokesperson Muhammad Mazhar told Arab News.
“Tonight, there are chances of heavy rains in different districts of Punjab, with more heavy rains expected across the province on Monday and Tuesday.”
The provincial government had directed authorities to provide financial compensation to relatives of the victims, according to the PDMA spokesperson.
Mazhar urged people to maintain a safe distance from electric poles and wires, and avoid gatherings on dilapidated roofs during the forecast period.
The PDMA has asked district authorities to activate round-the-clock control rooms to monitor situation in each district.
“Municipalities and the Water and Sanitation Agency (WASA) have been asked to remain vigilant, especially in low-lying areas, and keep de-watering and pumping stations ready,” it said in a statement.
Monsoon rains in Punjab are expected to continue till July 15, while the flow of water in the province’s rivers and barrages is at normal level for the time being.
“In emergency situations, call on PDMA’s flood helpline 1129,” the PDMA added.
Earlier in April, heavy rains triggered landslides and flash floods in Pakistan, leaving 92 people dead and another 116 wounded.
Pakistan’s Punjab reported 21 deaths from lightning and roof collapses while the country’s southwestern Balochistan province reported at least 15 deaths from torrential rains.
The NDMA this month launched a community engagement app for Pakistanis ahead of the monsoon season. The ‘Pak NDMA Disaster Alert’ mobile app generates alerts and updates guidance for organizations and individual responders in national and provincial languages.
Large swathes of the South Asian nation were submerged in 2022 due to extremely heavy monsoon rains and melting glaciers, a phenomenon linked to climate change, that damaged crops and infrastructure. killed at least 1,700 people, displaced millions, and inflicted billions of dollars in losses.

Pakistan court hands death sentence to mobile snatcher for killing Karachi youth 

Updated 14 July 2024

Pakistan court hands death sentence to mobile snatcher for killing Karachi youth 

  • Man found guilty of shooting dead 21-year-old in Sept. 2018 for resisting robbery 
  • Street crimes and mobile snatchings are rampant in Karachi, a city of 20 million people

ISLAMABAD: A sessions court in Pakistan’s southern port city of Karachi this week sentenced a convict to death on charges of killing a youth in 2018 for resisting robbery.

Additional District and Sessions Judge Ameeruddin sentenced to death convict Shakoor Khan on Saturday for shooting dead Sajid Hussain, 21, when he resisted Khan’s attempt to snatch his mobile phone on September 25, 2018. 

According to the prosecution, Hussain was sitting outside his home in Karachi’s Baldia Town area with his friends when Khan and his accomplice, Shoukat, attempted to rob them. Hussain resisted and a scuffle ensued following which Khan shot Hussain in the chest and fled with the accomplice. Hussain succumbed to his wounds on the way to the hospital. 

“The convict deliberately fired at the deceased from close range while the latter resisted a robbery of a mobile phone alongside co-accused,” the judge’s written order read. 

The court noted that the eyewitness testimonies, police investigation of the crime scene and medical evidence all corroborated the prosecution’s account. 

“Given these circumstances, the death penalty is a fitting punishment as a necessary measure to deter such heinous crimes of murder during robberies and to ensure that justice is served,” the order said. 

Karachi, a metropolis of 20 million that hosts the stock exchange and central bank, has for decades been beset by armed violence. While an armed campaign by the military, with help from police, paramilitary Rangers and intelligence agencies, against armed gangs and suspected militants in the city brought down murder rates after 2013, street crimes have been on the rise again since last year, with shooting deaths in muggings and robberies once again becoming a daily headline. 

The judge ordered Khan to pay compensation of Rs300,000 [$1080] to the legal heirs of the deceased. He also slapped the convict with a 20-year jail sentence for crimes committed under Sections 397 (robbery or dacoity, with an attempt to cause death or grievous hurt) and 392 (punishment for robbery) of the Pakistan Penal Code.

However, the judge said the guilty had the right to appeal against the sentence. 

The court observed that Karachi, once a vibrant city that is also the country’s commercial hub, now grapples with a “troubling surge” in crime rates, particularly mobile snatchings and robberies which are often compounded by acts of murder. 

It said that this surge in crime not only affects the sense of security of the city’s residents but also tarnishes Karachi’s long-held reputation as a prosperous urban center. 

“Stringent measures to deter crime are essential, with a focus on the swift and fair adjudication of robbery and snatching cases within the judicial system,” the court noted. 

“The imposition of appropriate and timely penalties will serve as a powerful deterrent for potential offenders.”

India beat Pakistan to clinch World Championship of Legends cricket tournament 

Updated 14 July 2024

India beat Pakistan to clinch World Championship of Legends cricket tournament 

  • India chases Pakistan’s 157-run target with five wickets in hand, five balls to spare
  • Ambati Rayudu scores 30-ball fifty, Anureet Singh returns figures of 3-43 for India 

ISLAMABAD: India beat arch-rivals Pakistan in Birmingham on Sunday by five wickets to clinch the World Championship of Legends tournament inspired by impressive performances from Ambati Rayudu and Anureet Singh. 

The World Championship of Legends cricket tournament features retired cricketers taking part in a T20 cricket tournament. This year’s edition features teams from Pakistan, India, England, Australia, West Indies and South Africa. 

Batting first, Pakistan managed to put up 156/6 from their 20 overs. Former Pakistan cricket captain Shoaib Malik top-scored from his side by scoring 41 runs from 36 balls. The only other notable contribution came from Kamran Akmal, who scored 24 runs from 19 balls. 

In response, India achieved the target at the loss of five wickets and in the 20th over of the match, with five balls to spare. 

“Congratulations India Champions,” the WCL account posted on Instagram. “What a finish to the first season of World Championship of Legends.”

Singh kept the Pakistani batters at bay, returning figures of 3-43 while Rayudu top-scored with 50 runs from 30 balls. Pakistan’s Aamer Yamin returned figures of 2-29 while Saeed Ajmal, Wahab Riaz and Malik each took a wicket. 

India Champions qualified for the final after defeating Australia Champions by 86 runs in the second semifinal which was played at the County Ground in Northampton on Friday.

Pakistan Champions, meanwhile, won the first semifinal against the West Indies Champions at the County Ground, Northampton on Friday.