After ICUBE-Q, Pakistan launches modern communication satellite into space

Update After ICUBE-Q, Pakistan launches modern communication satellite into space
The screengrab taken from China News Service via Reuters shows Pakistani communication satellite PAKSAT MM1 being launched into space in Xichang, China on May 30, 2024. (China News Service/Reuters)
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Updated 30 May 2024
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After ICUBE-Q, Pakistan launches modern communication satellite into space

After ICUBE-Q, Pakistan launches modern communication satellite into space
  • PAKSAT MM1 will help usher in digital era by providing Internet to country’s remote areas, national space agency says
  • Satellite launch from Xichang Satellite Launch Center broadcast live from Suparco centers in Islamabad, Karachi

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan launched its latest modern communication satellite, the PAKSAT MM1, into space on Thursday with Chinese assistance, weeks after its ICUBE-Qamar (ICUBE-Q) entered lunar orbit.

ICUBE-Q was launched into space on May 3 aboard China’s Chang’e-6 lunar mission from Hainan, China. A major milestone in Pakistan’s space exploration efforts, the satellite successfully entered the moon’s orbit on May 8, and shortly after began transmitting the first images to earth.

The launch ceremony of PAKSAT MM1 was broadcast live from the Islamabad and Karachi offices of the Pakistan Space and Upper Atmosphere Research Commission (Suparco), the country’s national space agency. The satellite was launched from China’s Xichang Satellite Launch Center. 

Pakistan’s second communication satellite PAKSAT MM1 has been launched into space,” the Pakistan Television (PTV) News wrote on social media platform X to announce the development. 

The state TV said the satellite would provide the best Internet facilities across Pakistan, and improve broadband, TV broadcasts and cellular connectivity. 

“MM1 will provide its services in August,” it said. 

Earlier, state broadcaster Radio Pakistan said the satellite has been conceived keeping in view the growing needs of the country in the broad spectrum of communication and connectivity.

“Based on advanced communication technologies, PAKSAT MM1 will play a pivotal role in the socio-economic uplift of the country and will prove to be a stepping stone in the transformation of the country into Digital Pakistan,” it said. 

Earlier this week, state media said the satellite would help usher in a digital era in Pakistan by helping provide Internet to remote areas, as per Suparco officials.

Established in 1961, Suparco manages Pakistan’s space program, enhancing the nation’s capabilities in satellite communications, remote sensing and meteorological science.

Chang’e 6 is a planned robotic Chinese and Pakistani lunar exploration mission that is attempting Beijing’s second sample return mission and aims to obtain the first-ever soil and rock samples from the lunar far side and return them to earth. The samples will contain material ejected from the lunar mantle and will be used to provide insight into the history of the moon, earth, and the solar system.

The primary phase of the mission is expected to last about 53 days. Around 100 students from Pakistan’s Institute of Space Technology (IST) contributed to developing the ICUBE-Q satellite.


US backs direct India-Pakistan talks following PM Sharif’s congratulatory message to Modi

US backs direct India-Pakistan talks following PM Sharif’s congratulatory message to Modi
Updated 14 sec ago
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US backs direct India-Pakistan talks following PM Sharif’s congratulatory message to Modi

US backs direct India-Pakistan talks following PM Sharif’s congratulatory message to Modi
  • State Department’s Matthew Miller says the ‘pace, scope and character’ should be determined by the two states
  • He highlights ‘a series of US-Pakistan military-to-military engagements’ to combat militant groups like TTP

ISLAMABAD: The United States said on Thursday it would support direct engagement between India and Pakistan after Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif congratulated his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi for securing a third term in office earlier this month.

The diplomatic relations between India and Pakistan have deteriorated significantly since August 5, 2019, when New Delhi revoked the special constitutional status of the disputed Himalayan region of Jammu and Kashmir, leading to heightened tensions and a series of retaliatory measures.

The two nuclear-armed neighbors expelled each other’s ambassadors and limited bilateral trade relations, as Modi’s administration decided to integrate the only Muslim-majority region with the rest of the Indian union and imposed a strict curfew and communication blackout in the area.

Pakistan and India have fought wars and a limited conflict over Kashmir since their independence in 1947. Both countries claim Kashmir in full, but control only parts of it.

“We value our important relationships with both India and Pakistan,” State Department Spokesperson Matthew Miller said during a media briefing in Washington while responding a question about the recent exchange between the top political leaders of the two South Asian states.

“As we have said, we support direct discussions between India and Pakistan, but the pace, scope and character should be determined by those two countries, not by us,” he added.

Miller was also asked about Pakistan’s interest in advanced US weapons to fight the proscribed Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) militant network whose operatives have used American military equipment handed over to the Afghan National Army before the withdrawal of international forces. However, he simply mentioned the shared US-Pakistan interest in fighting against such groups.

“The United States and Pakistan have a shared interest in combating threats to regional security,” he said. “We partner with Pakistan on security through our high-level counterterrorism dialogue, including several counterterrorism capacity building programs, and we support a series of US-Pakistan military-to-military engagements.”

“We are in regular communication with the Pakistani leaders as a part of our partnership on CT [counterterrorism] issues, and we will continue to discuss regional security in detail, including through our annual counterterrorism dialogue and other bilateral consultations,” he added.

Pakistan’s interest in US weapons was recently expressed by its envoy to Washington, Ambassador Masood Khan.

Other Pakistani diplomats and officials have also raised concern over the use of automatic assault weapons and night-vision devices by TTP militants in the past.


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

Google partners with Pakistan to create smart classrooms, digitally transform education system
Updated 21 June 2024
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Google partners with Pakistan to create smart classrooms, digitally transform education system

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.
 


Pakistan’s president advocates ‘political dialogue’ for Balochistan’s stability during Gwadar visit

Pakistan’s president advocates ‘political dialogue’ for Balochistan’s stability during Gwadar visit
Updated 30 min 7 sec ago
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Pakistan’s president advocates ‘political dialogue’ for Balochistan’s stability during Gwadar visit

Pakistan’s president advocates ‘political dialogue’ for Balochistan’s stability during Gwadar visit
  • Balochistan is viewed as strategically vital for Pakistan but has witnessed separatist and militant violence for decades
  • President Asif Ali Zardari calls for improved law enforcement capacity, better prosecution system to counter violence

ISLAMABAD: President Asif Ali Zardari on Thursday emphasized political dialogue for peace, development and prosperity in Pakistan’s southwestern Balochistan region, which has been recognized as vital for the country’s strategic interests but has also witnessed prolonged militant and separatist violence.

Pakistan’s largest province by area, Balochistan holds a strategic position that borders Iran and Afghanistan, making it pivotal for regional connectivity and central to the multibillion-dollar China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), which aims to strengthen the ties between Pakistan, the Middle East and Central Asia. The government has also taken initiatives to tap the province’s vast mineral and natural resources that largely remain underexploited, hoping to utilize them for the country’s economic growth.

However, Balochistan has witnessed a low-level insurgency carried out by Baloch nationalist groups who have long accused Pakistani governments of profiting from the province’s natural resources while leaving the region underdeveloped for its own residents.

Zardari, who went to the region’s strategic Gwadar port city on a daylong visit, chaired a meeting on the security situation in Balochistan on Thursday.

“Political dialogue is the way forward to bring prosperity, development and peace to Balochistan,” he was quoted as saying by his office after the meeting.

However, the president also spoke about enhancing the capacity of law enforcement agencies (LEAs) in the area, emphasized the deployment of “competent officers” in the province and called for a better prosecution mechanism to counter violence in Balochistan.

“Compensation for the families of martyrs of LEAs in Balochistan should be enhanced, bringing it at par with the rest of the provinces,” he said.

He also instructed the authorities to take necessary measures for the safety of religious tourists from other province who travel to the Middle East from Balochistan.

The president also maintained it was necessary to focus on skill development of people, adding that trained human resources should be equipped with foreign language skills to help them find jobs in other countries.

“There is a need for providing financing and equipment to local fishermen, apart from promoting sustainable fishing practices and checking the production of illegal fishing nets,” he added while speaking about one of the leading livelihood sources for people in Gwadar.

The meeting was also attended by Pakistan’s interior minister Mohsin Naqvi, Balochistan’s chief minister Sarfaraz Bugti and senior military officials.


Crowd in Pakistan’s northwest kills man accused of burning Qur’an – police

Crowd in Pakistan’s northwest kills man accused of burning Qur’an – police
Updated 21 June 2024
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Crowd in Pakistan’s northwest kills man accused of burning Qur’an – police

Crowd in Pakistan’s northwest kills man accused of burning Qur’an – police
  • The mob took the man away from a police station in Swat where he had been detained for his protection
  • The police say they fired warning shots into the air to disperse the crowd, but it further angered the people

PESHAWAR: A Pakistani man accused of desecrating the Holy Qur’an was slain and burned Thursday by a crowd that removed him from a police station where he had been detained for his protection, authorities said.

“On the evening of the 20th, locals in the Madian area detained a man, alleging he had burned the Qur’an. The police intervened, rescued him, and took him to the local police station,” a police source in Swat told AFP, noting the man was not from the area.

But the crowd, urged on by local mosques, converged on the police station and pelted it with stones.

“To disperse the angry mob, police fired warning shots into the air, which further incited the crowd. The mob overpowered the police, dragged the man out, and beat him to death with sticks,” the source said.

Later, some people poured oil on his body and set it ablaze, the source added.

A local official confirmed the incident, saying: “After killing the man, the enraged protesters started stoning the police, forcing them to abandon the station.”

The situation in the area remained tense, with protesters blocking the main road, according to the official.

Blasphemy is a highly sensitive subject in majority Muslim Pakistan, where even accusations without evidence can stir up anger among crowds and spark outbreaks of violence.

In late May, a Christian accused of burning pages of the Holy Qur’an was also lynched by a mob in Pakistan’s eastern Punjab region, before succumbing to his injuries in early June, according to police.

Also in Punjab, in February 2023, a crowd beat to death a Muslim accused of having desecrated the holy book.


Pakistan’s ruling party, key ally to hold further talks to bridge budget differences

Pakistan’s ruling party, key ally to hold further talks to bridge budget differences
Updated 21 June 2024
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Pakistan’s ruling party, key ally to hold further talks to bridge budget differences

Pakistan’s ruling party, key ally to hold further talks to bridge budget differences
  • Pakistan Peoples Party, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz agree to form committees to resolve differences 
  • Bhutto-Zardari led PPP has accused government of ignoring its recommendations in federal budget

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s ruling party and one of its major coalition allies, the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) on Thursday agreed to form committees to bridge their differences over the fiscal budget and other matters related to the allocation of development funds, the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) said in a statement. 

Differences between the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and the PPP parties arose last week when the government unveiled its much-awaited Rs18.877 trillion ($67.76 billion) federal budget for the fiscal year 2024-25 on Wednesday. 

The tax-heavy budget is expected to play a pivotal role in Pakistan’s negotiations with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for a fresh financial assistance program with the global lender. The PPP alleged that the government did not take it into confidence regarding key aspects of the budget.

PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari called on Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif with a delegation of senior party leaders on Thursday to discuss the main points of contention between them, ahead of the key vote on the budget slated for next week. PPP lawmakers’ votes will be crucial for the government, without which it would not be able to pass the document. 

“All political parties have to work together for the country’s progress, prosperity and public welfare,” Sharif was quoted as saying in a handout issued by the PMO after the meeting concluded. 

The prime minister said the government has taken measures in the budget to provide relief to the common man.

“Further consultation will continue through the committees,” the statement said. 

It pointed out how Pakistan’s benchmark index rose to a historic high on Thursday, saying that it was proof that the budget had been validated by traders and investors. 

Pakistan’s benchmark share index rose 2.8 percent to a new record high on Thursday, as investors welcomed the budget since it avoided an anticipated increase in capital gains tax, despite an ambitious tax revenue target.

Pakistan’s parliament held a debate session on the budget after a hiatus of a week on Thursday. Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Omar Ayub described it as “economic terrorism.”

“This budget in actuality is economic terrorism against the people and the future of the country,” Ayub said. 

'RUBBER STAMP IN PARLIAMENT'

PPP lawmaker Sehar Kamran told Arab News earlier this week that the government had ignored her party in pre-budget consultations and wanted to use them as a “rubber stamp” in parliament to have the budget passed.

“Shehbaz Sharif’s government wants to use us as a rubber stamp in parliament to pass the budget, but we won’t do it if our reservations are not addressed,” Kamran said.

Kamran said the two parties also disagreed over the distribution of development funds and various projects related to Pakistan’s provinces.

The PPP, which voted Sharif into power after the contentious national election in February, is not part of the federal government but has its government in Pakistan’s southern Sindh province. 

“If the government needs our votes in parliament to pass the budget, then it will have to listen to us first to address our grievances,” she had said.