ISLAMABAD -  While inaugurating the Pak-China Optical Fiber Cable project, Caretaker Prime Minister Justice (retd) Nasirul Mulk said on Friday that the development of information and communication technologies (ICT) was imperative for the socio-economic uplift of any country.

Addressing the inaugural ceremony, the interim prime minister said the project executed under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) would provide the first-hand land-based connectivity to Pakistan, minimizing country’s dependence on the submarine cable. The project was jointly organised by the SCO and Huawei.

The ceremony was also attended by Minister-in-charge for Information Technology and Telecommunications Yousuf Sheikh and Director General Special Communication Organization (SCO) Maj-Gen Amir Azim Bajwa, Huawei Middle East Region President Charles Yang, and Chinese Ambassador to Pakistan Yao Jing.

Completed within a record period of two years, the project features the development of communication infrastructure of around 820 kilometers underground OFC from Rawalpindi to Khunjrab, 172 kilometres aerial OFC from Karimabad to Khunjrab to supplement the landslide-prone areas. It also provides 26 high capacity microwave links as a backup to OFC network and nine node centres in different locations along the Rawalpindi-Khunjrab axis. The project belongs to the SCO while Huawei was the project contractor for engineering procurement construction.

The interim prime minister complimented the efforts of the workers of SCO and soldiers who executed the project successfully in one of the most difficult terrains of the world.

He said that the project would go a long way to develop the telecom sector in the northern parts and lauded the role of the SCO for serving the people of Azad Jammu and Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan.

The prime minister said that Pakistan greatly valued its time-tested friendship with China and the CPEC was one of the most important components of the One-Belt and One-Road initiative.

He said that the OFC project was significant for the development of the ICT in the area that, besides providing cross-border connectivity to Pakistan, would also give China with alternate and shorter access for transit telecom traffic to Europe, Middle East and Africa.

He said that in this era, the significance of IT had increased manifold and hoped that the OFC would prove to be a glorious chapter in the ICT development in the country.

In his address, Chinese Ambassador Yao Jing said that the OFC was one of the nine projects completed so far under the CPEC they had been contributing to Pakistan’s economy.

He said that both the countries were striving to transform the CPEC into the digital corridor and the completion of the OFC project within two years was an achievement.

He said after the One-Belt and One-Road initiative and signing of the CPEC, both the countries were working for connectivity and regional development.

Director General SCO Maj-Gen Bajwa said that after its approval in 2010, work on the project was formally launched in 2016.

He said that the communication link has been established with the Chinese side at the border and the link successfully tested for end-to-end connectivity.

He also presented a memento to the interim prime minister.

He said that due to its inherent potentials, the project has also a key role in support of other projects being undertaken under the CPEC.

During the ceremony, a live call was also made between the venue and SCO office in Khunjrab to show the clarity of the voice and real-time video result.

Earlier, two documents of collaboration were also signed between the SCO and China Telecom Global and the Pakistan Telecommunication Company.