Pakistan wants Facebook’s parent company to establish local office


2022-09-21 13:31:00

Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari (centre) speaks with Meta officials on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly’s (UNGA) 77th session in New York, US, on September 21, 2022. — RadioPakistan
  • FM Bilawal Bhutto Zardari meets Meta’s Nick Clegg on sidelines of UNGA.
  • Meta affirms interest in continued engagement with Pakistan.
  • Clegg says Meta’s Pakistan team comprises entirely of Pakistani professionals.

Minister for Foreign Affairs Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has asked a high-ranking Meta official to open their company’s office in Pakistan in a bid to facilitate communication between the local authorities and the social media giant.

Facebook is now called Meta, the company announced last year, in a rebrand that focuses on building the “metaverse,” a shared virtual environment that it bets will be the successor to the mobile internet.

The foreign minister met Meta’s Global Affairs President Nick Clegg on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly’s (UNGA) 77th session, where he is part of the delegation representing Pakistan.

The foreign minister, talking about the opportunities available in Pakistan, said that the country has a tech-savvy young population (64% below the age of 30), high teledensity, massive digitisation of the economy, and a business-friendly regulatory regime.

“Pakistan’s IT sector has registered strong growth in the recent past opening new opportunities for platforms like Meta to expand its operations in Pakistan”, the foreign minister told the social media company’s official.

Clegg said that Meta’s Pakistan team comprises entirely of Pakistani professionals. He briefed the foreign minister on Meta’s ongoing connectivity and capacity-building programmes in Pakistan.

Clegg reaffirmed Meta’s interest in continued engagement with Pakistan to explore modalities of further strengthening collaboration in digital space.

In October last year, the government introduced Removal and Blocking of Unlawful Online Content (Procedure, Oversight and Safeguards) Rules, 2021, directing social media platforms to register themselves with the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA). However, it has borne no fruit so far.

Flood help

FM Bilawal also thanked Meta for donating Rs125 million for humanitarian assistance to Pakistan in the wake of the deadly floods.

“These are testing times for Pakistan and this donation would be helpful for our flood relief operations,” FM Bilawal noted.

The foreign minister said after the floods, the task of full recovery, rehabilitation, and reconstruction cannot be accomplished without the support of the private sector.

In response, Clegg expressed his solidarity and sympathy with Pakistan on the devastation caused by unprecedented floods.

Record monsoon rains and glacial melt in northern Pakistan triggered the flooding that has impacted nearly 33 million people in the South Asian nation of 220 million, sweeping away homes, crops, bridges, roads and livestock in damages estimated at $30 billion. Scientists say the disaster was exacerbated by climate change.

Hundreds of thousands of people displaced by the floods are living in the open and as flood waters spread over hundreds of kilometres (miles) start to recede — which officials say may take two to six months — stagnant waters have led to diseases like malaria, dengue fever, skin and eye infections and acute diarrhoea.

In what UNICEF described as a situation “beyond bleak,” it said an estimated 16 million children have been impacted by the floods, and at least 3.4 million girls and boys remain in need of immediate, lifesaving support.

The government says GDP growth will likely drop to 3% from a previous estimate of 5% for the 2022-23 financial year.

— Additional input from Reuters

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