ISLAMABAD, Jan 25: Pakistan entered the space age with the formal launching of Paksat-I by President Gen Pervez Musharraf at an impressive ceremony here on Saturday.

The president emphasized that Paksat-I must serve as a link between Pakistan and the Muslim world to help the spread of knowledge.

“I am really delighted to note that Pakistan’s space programme now is a reality and our scientists must build our own indigenous satellite within three years instead of five years,” he said. The president pointed out that four educational channels will aid the government to provide free education.

The satellite hired by Pakistan was relocated at 38 degree east by the country’s own space scientists. With a lifetime of five to eight years, it will mainly transmit educational programmes.

Inaugurating the satellite, the president described it as a truly historic achievement for Pakistan and Pakistanis. “This marks a tremendous achievement demonstrating the skill and technical excellence of the country’s manpower.”

“Pakistan’s space programme is now ahead of India after the formal launching of Paksat-I and this is due to the hard work of our scientists and I am sure Indians would take another 30 months to do the job,” Gen Musharraf claimed.

Referring to Pakistan’s achievement in information technology and communication, the president said Internet facilities were now available in 1,000 towns and cities.

The budget for science and technology, he pointed out, had been increased by 4,000 per cent and the bandwidth rates reduced from $86,000 to $3,800 per annum. “And who does not know that there is a 50 years tax holiday for the IT sector.”

The president expressed the confidence that the present government would carry on the space and communication development programme from where it was left by the previous regime.

APP adds: The president told the higher education commission and the education ministry to dovetail their efforts with the ministry of science and technology to project Pakistan beyond its borders.