Pakistan in ‘crucial’ talks with UAE over space security program

Officials from the Pakistani space agency announced on Thursday that they are to explore with their Emirati counterparts “in satellite manufacturing and relevant applications.” (Shutterstock)
Updated 21 March 2019
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Pakistan in ‘crucial’ talks with UAE over space security program

  • Pakistan aims to increase its presence in space in a bid to drive the country’s socioeconomic development and protect its sovereignty

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan has opened “crucial” talks with the UAE aimed at boosting its fledgling space program and strengthening national security.

Officials from the Pakistani space agency announced on Thursday that they are to explore options for joint ventures with their Emirati counterparts “in satellite manufacturing and relevant applications.” 

By collaborating with the UAE, Pakistan aims to increase its presence in space in a bid to drive the country’s socioeconomic development and protect its sovereignty.

Hassam Muhammad Khan, spokesman for the Pakistani Space and Upper Atmosphere Research Commission (Suparco), told Arab News: “The UAE is one of our best friends in the Muslim world and collaboration in space-related activities will help both the Emirates and Pakistan.” 

He said that space technology required “huge funds and special skills” which was why Pakistan was hoping it could draw on the UAE’s expertise in space technology. 

Last year, Pakistan signed an agreement with China to send the country’s first mission into space by 2022, and Khan said his country was a strong believer in the peaceful use of outer space and wanted to use technology only for socioeconomic development and national security. 

“The UAE has its own strengths in space technology, and we want to benefit from them,” he added.

Pakistan currently has four remote-sensing and communications satellites. In July last year, it launched two satellites with the help of China, enhancing its ability to predict and ascertain levels of precipitation and runoff water for a given area in the country.

Dr. Qamar Ul Islam, head of space science at the Institute of Space Technology, in Islamabad, said Pakistan lacked satellite launch facilities and capabilities and therefore had to seek assistance from “friendly countries.”

He told Arab News: “The real issues Pakistan faces at the moment are lack of funding, but our collaboration with the UAE in the space sector can really prove beneficial for both countries. 

“It has become crucial for Pakistan to have a good presence in outer space to protect its sovereignty and ensure security.”

Pakistan was represented by Suparco for the first time at the Global Space Congress, which was held in Abu Dhabi on March 19. 

The secretary of Suparco, Dr. Arif Ali, said that the commission was in initial talks with the UAE for potential collaboration in its space program.


UN gives Myanmar aid cut warning over Rohingya camp closures

Updated 18 June 2019
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UN gives Myanmar aid cut warning over Rohingya camp closures

  • Myanmar has closed several camps holding around 9,000 Rohingya
  • They have not been allowed to return to their former homes and remain dependent on handouts

YANGON: The UN has warned it will pare back aid to thousands of Rohingya Muslims left destitute as Myanmar’s government closes camps in Rakhine state, over fears its continued support “risks entrenching segregation.”
Aid agencies are facing an increasingly sharp dilemma in the region as they balance relief for desperate communities with leverage over the government.
The majority of Myanmar’s Rohingya were driven into Bangladesh by a 2017 army crackdown, but around 400,000 remain inside conflict-battered Rakhine.
Those include nearly 130,000 held since 2012 in squalid camps, currently supported by UN agencies and humanitarian groups.
As part of its strategy to address the crisis, Myanmar has closed several camps holding around 9,000 Rohingya.
But they have not been allowed to return to their former homes and remain dependent on handouts. Instead, they are being settled in new accommodation close to the former camps.
That has sparked fears aid agencies are effectively being used to prop-up a policy that fails to address the fundamental needs of the Rohingya, including housing, work, food and security.
The camp closure plan “risks entrenching segregation,” UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Myanmar Knut Ostby wrote to the government in a leaked letter, dated 6 June and seen by AFP.
The letter, also written on behalf of aid groups, warned support “beyond life-saving assistance” at the closed sites would in future be linked to “tangible” progress made on “the fundamental issue of freedom of movement.”
“Life-saving” support includes food, health and water, but site planning, shelter construction and education facilities could be phased out, aid agency sources told AFP.
The UN has faced criticism for a slow response to violence against the Rohingya, which escalated after 2012 riots between Muslim Rohingyas and ethnic Rakhine Buddhists.
A UN report released Monday admitted “systemic failures” in its handling of the build-up to the Rohingya crisis.
Limited access to Rakhine’s camps makes independent reporting on conditions difficult.
But AFP has reviewed recent interviews conducted in five camps by an NGO requesting anonymity to protect its work.
“If I build a house, it can be seized arbitrarily,” one Rohingya man said.
“I have no right to the land and I can also be arrested at any time.”
An aid worker called the remaining 23 sites in Rakhine little more than “concentration camps.”
On condition of anonymity, she spoke of the “complicity” humanitarian staff feel for perpetuating the segregation.
Amnesty International has described Rakhine as an “apartheid state.”
All aid must be “heavily conditioned,” researcher Laura Haigh said, warning donors that building infrastructure could make them complicit in crimes against humanity.
The government defended the camp closures, telling AFP it would continue working with the UN and NGOs on the issue.
Any former camp resident holding a National Verification Card (NVC) will be able to “move freely within their township” and access “education, health facilities and livelihood activities,” the social welfare ministry said.
Most Rohingya refuse to apply for the card believing they should already be treated as full citizens.
Those interviewed said the few to have caved had no more rights than anyone else.
They were also forced to designate themselves as “Bengali,” a term implying they are from Bangladesh.
“They are just trying to dominate us and make us illegal through different ways,” one Rohingya man said.