ISLAMABAD: A top military official on Tuesday said some incoming and outbound internet traffic landed in India before being routed to its destinations, posing a security risk for Pakistan.

“The network which brings internet traffic into Pakistan through submarine cables has been developed by a consortium that has Indian companies either as partners or shareholders, which is a serious security concern. We would like to propose a new alternative network system to be set up in Gwadar for the flow of internet traffic,” Director General Special Communications Organisation (SCO) Maj-Gen Amir Azeem Bajwa informed the National Assembly Standing Committee on Information Technology during a briefing.

Mr Bajwa was seeking approval for the establishment of a cross-border optic fiber connectivity network under the Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP).

The project will include laying of over 800 kilometres fibre optic cables along the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) starting from Khunjerab to Rawalpindi to Gwadar and finally terminating in Karachi.

He explained to the lawmakers that a consortium - without Indian partners - would be engaged to lay the network along the CPEC.

“Security of CPEC and its related projects is of utmost priority for Pakistan,” Mr Bajwa said.

According to the general, the new network will link Pakistan with the outside world through China. It will also reduce Pakistan’s dependency on submarine cables that are often damaged, disrupting internet services in the country.

After the army officer convinced the members on the strategic importance of the project, the committee approved it and directed the Ministry of Information Technology (IT) and the SCO to work together on the plan.

The committee expressed displeasure over the failure of government departments and divisions to switch to an automated office environment.

The e-office project was started in 2007 and revised in 2011-12. The project deadline is set for June 2017. The committee felt that the project had been prolonged.

After the Ministry of Information Technology spent $480 million and trained more than 7,000 government employees on e-office, only a handful of offices such as the Establishment Division and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the commerce ministry switched to the paperless environment.

Minister of State for IT Anusha Rehman said her office had done its part to train government employees on the computerised systems.

“However, most ministries and divisions are unwilling to adopt the new advanced mechanism and resisting the change. We proposed to the prime minister twice to make it mandatory for all offices to switch to the automated office environment at the earliest,” said Ms Rehman.

Realising that the automated system would ensure transparency and efficiency, the committee chairman, MNA Mohammad Safdar of the PML-N, directed the state minister to take up the matter with the prime minister in the next cabinet meeting.

MNA Awais Ahmad Khan Leghari of the PML-N suggested discussing the matter in the National Assembly to emphasise the importance of e-office.

Published in Dawn January 25th, 2017

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