In ‘major breakthrough,’ joint venture signed to establish Chromebook assembly line in Pakistan

A Chromebook Pixel is on display on February 21, 2013 as Google unveiled in San Francisco the touch-screen notebook computer designed for high-end users. (AFP/File)
Short Url
Updated 25 June 2024
Follow

In ‘major breakthrough,’ joint venture signed to establish Chromebook assembly line in Pakistan

  • Production capacity to be scaled up from 500,000 to million Chromebooks per year
  • Partnership expected to boost technology sector, generate employment, PID says

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan government has signed a letter of understanding (LoU) with a local Google partner and a foreign company to establish a state-of-the-art Chromebook assembly line through a joint venture, the Press Information Department (PID) said on Tuesday.
Pakistan’s IT sector has been performing well in recent years, marking another all-time high record of $310 million in inflows in April. 
Central bank data shows the country achieved 62 percent year-on-year growth in the sector. During the 10 months of the current fiscal year (10MFY24), IT exports clocked in at $2.59 billion, up by 21 percent annual basis as compared to $2.14 billion recorded in 10MFY23.
Pakistani IT exports are expected to rise to above $3.5 billion after the government allowed a retention limit from 35 percent to 50 percent in the Exporters’ Specialized Foreign Currency Accounts.
“In a major breakthrough, National Radio Telecom Corporation (NRTC) Pakistan, Allied Australian, and Tech Valley Pakistan signed a letter of understanding (LoU) at the Ministry of Federal Education, paving the way for a groundbreaking joint venture to establish a state-of-the-art Chromebook assembly line in Pakistan,” PID said in a statement on Tuesday. 
Tech Valley Pakistan is a social enterprise and the official country partner of Google for Education, Google Workspace and Google Cloud in Pakistan.
The statement said the joint venture was aimed at harnessing the expertise, technology and market insights of each party to establish a world-class assembly line at NRTC and Haripur City in the country’s northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province after receiving regulatory approvals and infrastructure availability.
PID said the partnership would help boost the country’s technology sector, create new opportunities for economic growth, and generate employment.
“The assembly line will have an initial production capacity of 500,000 Chromebooks per year, which will be scaled up to one million per year,” the statement said, adding that the collaboration had the potential to transform Pakistan into a hub for technology manufacturing and innovation in the region.


US voices concern over arrests of opposition leaders, urges adherence to democratic norms in Pakistan

Updated 24 July 2024
Follow

US voices concern over arrests of opposition leaders, urges adherence to democratic norms in Pakistan

  • A senior media manager, central information secretary of ex-PM Khan’s party were arrested in Pakistan this week
  • The two PTI members are facing charges of pushing an ‘anti-state narrative’ to undermine Pakistan’s sovereignty

ISLAMABAD: The United States on Tuesday expressed concern over the arrests of leaders belonging to former prime minister Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party, saying it was important to uphold democratic principles within the constitutional framework of the country.
PTI has frequently complained of a state crackdown since its top leaders and supporters were blamed for carrying out violent protests in different parts of the country in which government buildings were vandalized following Khan’s brief arrest on corruption charges last year in May.
Earlier this week, the party’s senior media manager Ahmed Waqas Janjua and its information secretary Raoof Hassan were arrested by the authorities after accusing them of pushing “anti-state narrative” to undermine Pakistan’s sovereignty.
While Janjua largely remains behind the scenes while managing PTI’s social media, Hassan has been quite vocal as its spokesperson.
“We have seen the reports of the arrests of PTI leaders,” Matthew Miller, the State Department’s spokesperson, told a media briefing in Washington. “We are always concerned when we see arrests of opposition leaders. I’m always personally concerned when I see the arrest of a spokesperson.”
“We support the peaceful upholding of constitutional and democratic principles, including the rule of law, equal justice under the law, and respect for human rights like freedom of expression and freedom of peaceful assembly,” he continued. “And we urge that these principles be respected in accordance with Pakistan’s constitution and laws.”
The Pakistani authorities also sealed the central PTI secretariat on Tuesday, saying it violated safety standards.
The development took place only a day after Hassan’s arrest from the same building in the federal capital.


US plans $101 million investment to strengthen democracy, counter militancy in Pakistan

Updated 24 July 2024
Follow

US plans $101 million investment to strengthen democracy, counter militancy in Pakistan

  • Donald Lu says the US wants to stabilize Pakistan’s economy and prevent its ‘overreliance’ on China
  • He maintains the US is living in a ‘world of constrained budgets’ while dealing with an ‘assertive’ China

ISLAMABAD: The United States plans to spend $101 million to strengthen democracy in Pakistan, address the threat of militancy and prevent Islamabad’s reliance on China in fiscal year 2025, said a senior American official who presented a written budget request to the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee on Tuesday.
Budget requests, policy proposals and funding plans are frequently presented by relevant officials to various congressional committees in the US. These testimonies are part of the legislative process and are used to inform and persuade lawmakers about the importance of proposed expenditures and policy directions.
The overall budget proposal of $1.01 billion for South and Central Asia was presented by Donald Lu, the assistant secretary for the region, who said it represented a 1.9 percent decrease from fiscal year 2023.
“On Pakistan, we face ongoing challenges and opportunities,” he told the House Foreign Affairs Committee. “The President’s Budget requests a straight lining of our $101 million Pakistan budget.”
“That money would be used to strengthen democracy and civil society, to fight terrorism and violent extremism, and to support economic reforms and debt management to help stabilize Pakistan’s economy and prevent further overreliance on the PRC [People’s Republic of China],” he continued.
The American official, who was widely blamed by former prime minister Imran Khan’s party for contributing to his administration’s downfall, an allegation denied by Washington, said the US was struggling to compete with China in the region, which is seeking to secure military and commercial footholds in the Indian Ocean.
He also noted that the US administration had to “live in a world of constrained budgets.”
“Our most effective strategy to counter an assertive PRC is to demonstrate that we have something better to offer — better development opportunities, better commercial deals, and better solutions for their security challenges,” he added.


The vanishing roadside book stalls of Rawalpindi

Updated 24 July 2024
Follow

The vanishing roadside book stalls of Rawalpindi

  • Roadside book bazaar along Rawalpindi’s main Saddar market came up in the eighties, thrived until at least 2010
  • Rise of e-books has changed reading habits, economic factors and urban development have also impacted bazaars

RAWALPINDI: For Kishwar Naheed, one of Pakistan’s greatest living Urdu poets and writers, visiting the hundreds of book stalls stretched along Rawalpindi’s main Saddar market was once a usual Sunday morning activity. 
But as the stalls have dwindled and book hawkers have disappeared, Naheed and others like her have been left only with the memories and a deep sense of loss over a disappearing literary culture and what was once the center of Rawalpindi’s intellectual life.
“Every Sunday morning, Zahid Dar [Urdu poet], Intizar [Hussain] Saab [novelist], myself, all my writer friends, we used to go there [Rawalpindi book bazaar] and try to pick up books,” Naheed told Arab News in an interview this week. “It was a craze for books.”
Rawalpindi’s open-air book stalls came up in the eighties and thrived until at least 2010 when the downfall slowly began, said Fareed-ul-Haq, a 69-year-old book stall owner. 
“I’ve been selling books in this market for 25 years and this roadside book bazaar has been around for 50 years,” he told Arab News, saying people used to travel from other cities to visit the stalls, browsing for hours and often arriving with handwritten notes of titles they wanted. 
“I have seen the high point of this market when the condition was such that it was so crowded it was difficult to walk here. Now people bring their books and it turns out they are their grandparents’ books and the grandson wants to sell them because he doesn’t value books.”
The roadside stalls offer a wide variety of new and old books: antique volumes, school books, historical works, fiction in different languages and all kinds of magazines. 
But the rise of digital media and online bookstores has impacted the viability of book bazaars, sellers and customers said, with smartphones and social media causing a shift worldwide in how people consume information and read.
“We live in an era of social media, online and virtual books and many people don’t prefer reading physical books anymore,” Noaman Sami, a media sciences student at Rawalpindi’s Riphah International University, told Arab News.
Economic factors are also behind the decline in book bazaars, according to Muhammad Hameed Shahid, a Pakistani short story writer, novelist and literary critic.
Rising rents, inflation and the increasing cost of living had made it difficult for many booksellers to sustain their businesses, while customers had less money to spend on luxuries like books. Urban development projects have also displacd book bazaars as the literary corners are repurposed for commercial or residential development.
“Ordinary people often can’t afford expensive books, but at these roadside book stalls, you would find treasures,” Shahid said. “There’s a wide variety of books available, and these vendors sitting on our footpaths deserve support so that through them the flame of knowledge stays alive and books continue to reach our children.”
The bazaar, the writer said, had been a major player in his own literary journey:
“These vendors who used to be sitting on the footpaths with books spread around them, those books, covering all sorts of topics, they played a vital role in my career, they inspired me to become a writer.”
Future generations in Rawalpindi won’t get to experience this, Haq, the bookseller, lamented. 
“I’ve seen this market crowded with people,” he said as he sat alone at his stall on a Sunday morning this month, waiting for customers. “But now, it’s nearly empty.”


UK parliamentarians demand release of jailed Pakistan ex-premier Imran Khan

Updated 24 July 2024
Follow

UK parliamentarians demand release of jailed Pakistan ex-premier Imran Khan

  • Khan has been in jail since August last year, even though all four convictions handed down to him ahead of an election in Feb have either been suspended or overturned
  • A UN panel of experts this month found that Khan’s detention ‘had no legal basis and appears to have been intended to disqualify him from running for political office’

ISLAMABAD: A number of British parliamentarians on Tuesday called for the release of former Pakistan premier Imran Khan, who has been in jail since August last year, Khan’s party said.
The UK parliament held a hearing on Tuesday that saw over a dozen parliamentarians listen to members of Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party speaking about his incarceration, deteriorating law and order as well as growing censorship in Pakistan.
The event, jointly hosted by Conservative Peer Lord Daniel Hannan and British-Pakistani Labour MP Naz Shah, was attended by former Tory home secretary Priti Patel, Baroness Sayeeda Warsi, Labour MP Naushaba Khan, Lord Tariq Ahmad of Wimbledon and others.
The hearing resolved that the parliamentarians will call on British PM Keir Starmer and State Secretary David Lammy for the UK government to take note of a recent United Nations report into Khan’s incarceration and demand his release from prison, Khan’s PTI party said.
“As friends of Pakistan and friends of Pakistani democracy, we want to see that country prosper. We want to see the UN’s recommendations implemented, including an end to the detention of Imran Khan and a timetable for free and inclusive elections,” the PTI quoted Lord Hannan as saying.
“We will continue to press for democracy on a cross-party basis, and in both parliamentary chambers. And we will link up with parliamentarians in other friendly countries to make the case internationally.”
Khan has been in jail since August last year, even though all four convictions handed down to him ahead of a parliamentary election in February have either been suspended or overturned.
After being acquitted on the last of those four convictions, authorities rearrested Khan and his wife in an old corruption case on charges of selling state gifts unlawfully. He also faces an accusation of inciting his supporters to attack military installations in May last year. Khan denies all the accusations.
A UN panel of experts this month found that Khan’s detention “had no legal basis and appears to have been intended to disqualify him from running for political office.”
During the event, Sayed Zulfikar Bukhari, a key Khan aide, and PTI member Meher Bano Qureshi apprised the UK parliamentarians of their concerns with regard to the situation in Pakistan.
“As somebody with a large Pakistani constituency and as an MP of Pakistani heritage, I want to see Pakistan succeed, particularly democracy in Pakistan, as well as freedom of the press, and justice,” MP Shah was quoted as saying.
“The UN report into the incarceration of Imran Khan should be of great concern to all of us. We cannot shy away from it and we must continue to work across parliament to ensure progress is made for Pakistan.”
The development followed fresh arrests of PTI members, including Information Secretary Raoof Hasan and senior media manager Ahmed Waqas Janjua.
Last week, Pakistan’s government announced it would move to ban the PTI for involvement in anti-government and anti-military riots last year, for leaking state secrets and for receiving illegal foreign funding. Khan and the PTI say all charges against them are motivated to keep them out of politics and dent their popularity.
Khan’s PTI party secured the largest number of seats in parliament in the February general election despite what it says is a military-backed crackdown that aims to keep him out of power. It also won nearly two dozen extra parliament seats after a court ruling last week.
Khan blames his 2022 ouster in a no-confidence vote on Pakistan’s powerful army generals after he fell out with them, a charge the army denies.


Pakistan hails reconciliation among Palestinian groups at China talks as ‘important diplomatic success’

Updated 23 July 2024
Follow

Pakistan hails reconciliation among Palestinian groups at China talks as ‘important diplomatic success’

  • Various Palestinian factions agreed to end their divisions and strengthen Palestinian unity by signing the Beijing Declaration on Tuesday morning
  • PM Shehbaz Sharif says the ‘agreement ignites hope that lasting peace can be achieved,’ urges world to press Israel to end ‘brazen violence’ in Gaza

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Tuesday hailed as “important diplomatic success” an agreement among leading Palestinian groups to form an interim unity government during talks in China.
Various Palestinian factions agreed to end their divisions and strengthen Palestinian unity by signing the Beijing Declaration on Tuesday morning in China, according to Chinese state media. The declaration was signed at the closing ceremony of a reconciliation dialogue among the factions held in Beijing on July 21-23.
A total of 14 Palestinian factions including the leaders of rival groups Fatah and Hamas also met with the media, with China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi present, CGTN said in a social media post. As the meeting wrapped up, China’s top diplomat said the groups had committed to set up an “interim national reconciliation government” to govern Gaza.
Welcoming the Beijing Declaration, the Pakistan prime minister praised China for the efforts to unite the Palestinian factions, urging the world to press Israel for an end to its “brazen violence” that has destroyed Gaza and killed thousands of Palestinians since Oct 7 attacks by Hamas.
“For long the people of Palestine have seen nothing but pain and suffering,” Sharif said on X. “Today’s agreement ignites hope that lasting peace can be achieved.”
Pakistan does not recognize nor have diplomatic relations with Israel and calls for an independent Palestinian state based on “internationally agreed parameters” and the pre-1967 borders with Al-Quds Al-Sharif as its capital.
Since the beginning of Israel’s war on Gaza in October last year, Pakistan has repeatedly raised the issue at the United Nations and demanded international powers and multilateral bodies stop Israeli military actions in Gaza.
“Pakistan reaffirms its unwavering support for the Palestinian cause,” Sharif said. “Unity among Palestinian factions is essential for a strong & effective voice for peace, justice & statehood. We stand with the Palestinian people in their quest for self-determination.”
Israel has vowed to eradicate Hamas after militants killed 1,200 people and took more than 250 hostages in a cross-border assault on Oct. 7, 2023, according to Israeli tallies.
The death toll among Palestinians in Israel’s retaliatory offensive since then has surpassed 39,000, Gaza health authorities say.