PAKISTAN'S FIRST ISLAND IT PARK.
The project, the first of its kind in the country
By Syed M. Aslam
Oct 21 - 27, 2002
Pakistan is looking forward to have its first island technology park. The launching ceremony of the project called "Karachi Technology Island City" was held at Marina Club on the 7th of this month.
The project, the first of its kind in the country, envisions to turn an un-inhabited 300-acre island near Karachi into a Technology Park. The City District Government of Karachi, Army Welfare Trust, private software house EDP Services are the partners of the project while its patron is PASHA, Pakistan Software Houses Association which is a representative body of about 200 software houses nationwide. The funding for the project will be provided by AccessCAPITAL, a venture capital company based in Thailand.
The island is owned by the City Government which has agreed to provide not only the 'land' but also all basic amenities to the Island technology park while a number of reputable companies such as Intel and Microsoft have expressed interest in the project. Terming the development of a technology city 'an old dream' City Nazim (Administrator) Naimatullah Khan said in his welcome address that it would help provide some 50,000 employment opportunities.
PAGE talked to the Executive Vice President of AccessCAPITAL for Asia region, Marfred J. Pranada, who was present in Karachi to attend the launching ceremony. Marfred told PAGE that he is dealing with the legal structure and the implementation of the joint venture project, its first in Pakistan. He told PAGE that AccessCAPITAL had made the first personal contact with the partners of the project and would only decide about the specific funds for the project later.
The launching ceremony of the 'Karachi Technology Island City (KTIC)" shows that private sector is capable of initiating, and hopefully implementing, projects on its own with help from the public sector, in this case the City Government. The ceremony was the culmination of the efforts made by Hamza Matin, the former President of PASHA, over last five months when he started discussing the project with the chief executive of AccessCAPITAL, Raja S. Bashir, a Pakistani expatriate. Mr. Bashir was expected to be present at the launching ceremony but due to some important engagements in the US he was unable to attend it and was thus represented by Mr. Pranada.
Mr. Pranada informed PAGE that Mr. Bashir is keenly interested to promote Pakistan wherever he can and is thinking of establishing a joint venture company here to help local companies and small and medium entrepreneurs access the US and Asian markets. "We hope to explore this opportunity with our partners here in KTIC for future involvement as well."
Calling launching ceremony of KTIC a historic event Mr. Pranada said that it was important in two ways specifically. "Number one, it sends a strong message that Pakistan now wants to play a significant role in the global IT industry. And secondly, KTIC will promote the IT industry in Pakistan, but also strengthen the leadership of Karachi as a gateway to Central Asia and Middle East."
He hoped that KTIC will help "correct the current situation in Karachi which despite housing 70 per cent of software houses in Pakistan contribute just 30 per cent in total software exports of the country." He also expressed hope that establishment of KTIC will help achieve three important objectives — enhancing economic growth, attracting foreign investment and reducing unemployment.
He, however, also highlighted difficulties related to obtaining a visa at the Pakistani Embassy. Citing his own example he said that he almost missed the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding due to difficulties to get a business visa at the Pakistani Embassy.
PAGE had the unique opportunity to not only see the island from a safe distance from a speedboat but also from close proximity. In fact, this correspondent and a number of other media people including a team of Geo News channel had a picnic of sorts when they got stranded near the island for a couple of hours waiting from 'rescue.' How did we had such unique opportunity to walk on the future island technology park?
About seven of us were taken on a speedboat to see the island from a proximity. The Geo team wanted to talk to Hamza Matin with the island in the background and asked the driver of the speedboat to turn off the motor so that the noise did not affect the recording. By the time we realized that it was the time for lowtide the speedboat was stuck in waters which was turned pretty shallow. Despite several attempts including turning the throttle to maximum and collective pushing the boat remained stuck. Several attempts by a friendly fishermen of a fishing boat to tow the speedboat from a distance by a rope also failed as ropes broke one after another. Finally, SOS calls on mobile phones to Marina Club brought another speedboat which had to be boarded in safe waters which require walking a good distance on and around the island. The driver of the stuck speedboat had to stay behind for another five hours to pull it out when the hightide filled up the land again.
The Island technology park, if and when it would be developed, would remain etched in memories of all of us who really saw the island with a close proximity.