Pakistan set to advance space programme

(F Z Khan, Islamabad)

Almost all Indian media outlets – from electronic and print media to social media – are giving wide coverage to an apparently “unusual development in the region” under which Pakistan is all set to upgrade and advance its indigenous space programme which previously had “limited quality advancements” as compared to that of India who has of late been engaged in active cooperation with the United States in order to enhance and upgrade its (Indian) satellite programme. In the recently announced annual budget, the Pakistan government has allocated a reasonable funding for the current fiscal. After successful completion of the programme, Pakistan is likely to come at par in space technology as well.

Obviously the news of Pakistan’s more vibrant and advance space programme plan has sent shockwaves especially across India as the report published in newspapers specifically mentions that this programme is primarily aimed at keeping an eye on the Indian side, besides other purposes. However, on the other hand, people of Pakistan, civil society, intelligentsia and political-cum-defence observers have expressed great satisfaction as for Pakistan advance space programmes were the need of the hour not only for the defence point of view but also due to the growing demand from the civil communications, including the GPS, mobile telephony and the internet as well as due to changing scenario in the region, under which India has advanced itself to create security imbalance in the region.

Pakistan is entering a new era of advancement after its most successful, advance and vibrant nuclear deterrent and missile system programmes. This will help reduce Pakistan’s dependence on foreign satellites it needs to use for civil and military purposes. Earlier Pakistan had been getting help from the US and France. Under the new indigenous space programme Pakistan plans to initiate several projects to develop its own self-reliance capacity while reducing the dependence on foreign satellites.

The budget for SUPARCO (Pakistan’s “Space and Upper Atmosphere Research Organisation”) for the upcoming fiscal year 2018-2019 has been set as Rs 4.70 billion, which includes Rs 2.55 billion for three new projects. SUPARCO has regularly been conducting activities each year to increase awareness of space technology and to promote its peaceful usage amongst the students and the masses in Pakistan since 2005. The budget allocation includes funding of Rs 1.35 billion for Pakistan Multi-Mission Satellite (PakSat-MM1). Likewise, Pakistan is planning to establish various Space Centres for example in cities like Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad with the allocation of Rs 1 billion. Another project, third in the row, which is on cards, is establishment of Space Application Research Centre in Karachi with the budget of Rs 200 million in 2018-2019. The total cost of PakSat-MM1 is said to be Rs 27.57 billion and the cost of the space centres is Rs 26.91 billion.

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