U.S.-based digital music distributor and marketer the Orchard has signed an exclusive deal to distribute and market more than 150,000 tracks belonging to Karachi-based EMI Pakistan Ltd.

The agreement represents the first move by the hitherto CD-only EMI Pakistan into digital distribution.

Among the acts whose recordings are covered by the deal are Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, a veteran musician specializing in Qawwali, a form of devotional music; the dynastic Sabri Brothers; and Runa Laila, who is Bangladeshi in origin but sings pop and Ghazal music in Arabic and Farsi.

According to a statement from the Orchard's European representatives, EMI Music U.K. sold EMI Pakistan to Ameed Riaz, a Pakistani entrepreneur, in 1993. But it was closed down the following year because of the CD piracy plaguing the local market. EMI Pakistan re-opened for business in August 2006.

The IFPI reported more than 230 million units of illegal CD copies were exported to 46 countries annually from piracy-ravaged Pakistan in 2002.

"There has been something of an improvement in the intellectual property landscape in Pakistan, and that has encouraged companies to look at the market again, but it is still very early days," says a spokesperson for the IFPI, which has an anti-piracy enforcement representative in Pakistan.