ISLAMABAD: Pakistan is planning to start work on phase-II of the Pak-China fibre optic cable that will be laid along three main routes of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), including railway tracks.
The two countries have already activated first phase of the fibre optic cable, which is an 820km long cable project from Rawalpindi to Khunjerab. In this regard, a Chinese company has already conducted successful tests and can generate a lot of revenue for the government.
The National Assembly Standing Committee on Information Technology and Telecommunication was informed by a representative of Special Communications Organisation (SCO) that the organisation was required to provide telecom services in areas of Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) and Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B).
He said first phase of the fibre optic cable from Khunjerab to Rawalpindi had been completed under CPEC, adding that traffic tests yielded positive results and the project would help generate a lot of revenue for the government. The official said the government was working on the second phase of the optic fibre cable to extend the network along three routes of CPEC. “Sites have been identified,” he said.
The project had been envisaged in 2017 and its PC-I was sent to the Planning Commission, he said. However, it has not been approved so far. The official said the National Highway Authority (NHA) and Pakistan Railways were also working on laying the fibre optic cable on motorways and Pakistan Railways’ ML-I project.
However, SCO had proposed to merge this project into the second phase of fibre optic cable. He said NHA, Pakistan Railways and the Planning Commission deputy chairman had reached an agreement in that regard, adding that the CPEC Authority chairman had held a meeting and asked for a joint proposal.
The official shared that the first phase had been executed by Huawei and the same high technology would be used for the second phase. “We are following the same standards,” he said. The second phase of the project will cost Rs29 billion and SCO has demanded an allocation of Rs5.19 billion for the year 2020-21.
He pointed out that SCO wanted to enforce the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act 2016 and mobile certification system in AJK and G-B. “We are asking for funds worth Rs235 million in this regard,” he said, adding that mobile devices would be registered in AJK under the project.
The parliamentary panel was informed that the IT ministry had demanded Rs32.9 billion in the last five years but the government allocated Rs12 billion for IT-related projects in the country. It was informed that the IT ministry was seeking allocation of Rs34.6 billion for 16 new and 15 ongoing IT-related projects in the year 2020-21.
Another official told the panel that attempts had been made to hack WhatsApp of officials in the country and there was a plan to replace the network. He said the cabinet had written a letter that no government officer would use third-party communication apps but there was no alternative platform.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 20th, 2020.
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