This small-town Pakistani restaurant owner was inspired by tea-drinking Indian pilot

Abdul Haq Khan, the owner of a new tea stall inspired by Indian pilot Abhinandan Varthaman, poses at his restaurant in Pakistan’s Rahim Yar Khan city on March 12, 2019. (AN photo)
Updated 13 March 2019
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This small-town Pakistani restaurant owner was inspired by tea-drinking Indian pilot

  • Indian airman captured by Pakistan and shown in videos drinking tea with Pakistani soldiers became a social media sensation last month
  • Abdul Haq Khan set up a hit new tea stall at his Rahim Yar Khan restaurant with the slogan: “The kind of tea that turns an enemy into a friend”

LAHORE: Abdul Haq Khan had been running a restaurant selling richly seasoned lamb curry for years when he got a new idea while watching the news last month in Rahim Yar Khan, the main Pakistani city in a district of sugarcane plantations and mango orchards along the Indus river.

The news bulletin showed a video released by the Pakistan army of an Indian pilot captured after an enemy jet was shot down.

“The officers of the Pakistani Army have looked after me well, they are thorough gentlemen,” the pilot said into the camera as he sipped tea from a white cup.

Tension between nuclear-armed neighbours and arch-rivals India and Pakistan escalated late last month as both countries engaged in aerial dogfights and carried out airstrikes against each other. The Pakistan army also captured Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, and after it released videos of the airman, he quickly became a social media sensation and was released two days later.

A customer poses next to a new tea stall in Pakistan's Rahim Yar Khan city on March 12, 2019. The stall is inspired by a tea-drinking Indian pilot captured and released by the Pakistan army last month. (AN photo)

As Khan watched the story unfold on his TV screen, he decided to set up a tea stall at his restaurant and had a banner printed with the face of Indian Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman splashed across it, his signature horseshoe moustache on full display.

“I never knew the power of tea until I saw a cup in the hands of Indian pilot Abhinandan Vardhaman, singing praises of the Pakistan Army,” Khan told Arab News via phone from Sadiqabad district in southern Punjab. “It was the cup of tea offered to him by our military officers with love that changed his ideas completely. He came here as an enemy but left as a friend."

Abdul Haq Khan, the owner of a new tea stall inspired by Indian pilot Abhinandan Varthaman, poses at his restaurant in Pakistan’s Rahim Yar Khan city on March 12, 2019. (AN photo)

Khan said this gave him the idea for a slogan for his tea stall: “The kind of tea that turns an enemy into a friend.”

People first arrived at the stall just to look at the banner and laugh but soon, many began to place orders for tea.

Abdul Haq Khan ( to the right), the owner of a new tea stall inspired by Indian pilot Abhinandan Varthaman, sits with a customer at his restaurant in Pakistan’s Rahim Yar Khan city on March 12, 2019. (AN photo)

“In the beginning the people looked at the banner and laughed but then they also ordered a cup of tea,” Khan said. “I had to explain to them that if tea can make an enemy pilot your friend it can also end all the bitterness in your life.”

Barbers in several cities in India reported receiving requests to copy Abhinandan’s distinctive facial hair, but in Pakistan, it is the videos of him sipping tea that have caught the public imagination.

An advertisement for Abdul Haq Khan’s new tea stall inspired by Indian pilot Abhinandan Varthaman who was captured and released by the Pakistan army last month. (Supplied)

“Offering a cup of tea to someone with love can change his thoughts and I learnt that from Abhinandan,” Khan said.

Muhammed Latif, a customer at Khan’s tea stall, said: “I am not fond of tea but this idea of Abhinandan, this picture, attracted me and now here I am, sitting with my friends and enjoying tea.”


What is pulling Pakistan’s currency six feet under?

Updated 27 min 54 sec ago
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What is pulling Pakistan’s currency six feet under?

  • Arab News hits the money trade markets to ask what factors are pushing the rupee down
  • Traders, businessmen, and citizens in a state of panic triggered by a dollar frenzy

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s rupee reached a new record low this week, selling at 153 against the dollar in the interbank market on Monday, continuing a slide that saw it lose more than 5 percent last week in the wake of a $6 billion loan accord with the International Monetary Fund.
Almost ten days after the new IMF accord, money traders are still uncertain which direction Pakistan’s currency will move. Some expect it will eventually stabilze while others are pessimistic about its future. But most traders, businessmen, and citizens across the country remain in a state of panic triggered by the dollar frenzy. 
Arab News hit the money trade markets in Islamabad to gauge the gravity of the situation and explore prime factors pulling Pakistan’s currency six feet under.