In northwestern Pakistan, banquets and blessings for a pilgrim setting off on Hajj

Ewaz Muhammad Khan (first from right) prays along with other villagers after attending a dinner hosted in the honor of his going on Hajj this year. Photo taken on June 26, 2019. (AN Photo)
Updated 13 July 2019
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In northwestern Pakistan, banquets and blessings for a pilgrim setting off on Hajj

  • 55-year-old Khan has attended over 60 dinners and lunches since he heard on June 26 that he would perform the pilgrimage this year
  • He also organized a huge dinner and led a congregation prayer to thank friends and family for their generosity

MONAKHEL: At Ewaz Muhammad Khan’s home in the small, dusty town of Monakhel in northwestern Pakistan on Thursday, friends and relatives burst into tears as they hugged him one by one.
This is no scene of mourning. The tears are of joy and gratitude as Khan readies to join almost two million foreign pilgrims in Makkah, Saudi Arabia, for Hajj, the annual pilgrimage that Muslims from around the world make to follow in the footsteps of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).

Ewaz Muhammad Khan embraces villagers who queue up at his residence while another individual (second from right) bursts into tears after saying goodbye to him on July 11, 2019. Khan is embarking on the sacred Hajj pilgrimage this year. (AN Photo)

On Thursday, hundreds of residents from Monakhel, 140 kilometers away from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province’s capital city of Peshawar, gathered at Khan’s house for a meal and to say goodbye.
In the past, the long journey to Makkah was full of peril for foreign pilgrims, who often did not know if they would return home. While such dangers no longer exist, devout Muslims still reflect on the fragility of life as they embark on the journey. 
“I’m leaving behind my relatives, friends and villagers and I’m not sure if I’ll meet them again,” 55-year-old Khan told Arab News, describing feeling “a strange sense of joy and tranquility” over the news received on June 26 that he would be performing Hajj this year.
On that day too, he said, hundreds of villagers had gathered at his residence to congratulate him and to invite him for banquets to celebrate the occasion. Many even gave him cash, hoping he would spend it in Makkah and Madinah, two of Islam’s holiest cities, and become a source of divine blessing for them.
In the last 15 days, Khan said he had attended more than 60 lunches, dinners and tea parties because it was unimaginable to turn down invitations from family and friends wanting to celebrate the auspicious occasion. 
“There were days when I attended two dinner parties on the same night since people get upset if you don’t acknowledge their generosity,” Khan said, smiling.

A religious scholar delivers a sermon about various aspects of the Hajj while Ewaz Muhammad Khan (fourth from right in the first row) sits with other villagers and listens to the sermon on July 11, 2019. (AN Photo)

Last week, it was Khan’s turn to repay the favor, and he arranged a massive banquet and led congregation prayers attended by hundreds of villagers. The day after the event, soon after breakfast, hoards of people arrived at his house with garlands and gifts. As he hugged each and every guest, they requested him to pray for them while performing Hajj, many telling him specifically what to ask for.
Octogenarian Rehan Shah said he had walked for nearly an hour to reach Khan’s home.
“I can’t afford to go to the Hajj,” he said. “But it’s enough for me to meet a man who’s visiting the house of God in Makkah.”
Hanifullah Khattak, Khan’s younger brother, said he felt “incredibly blessed” that someone so close to him would be embarking on the spiritual journey of a lifetime. 
“Hajj may be one of the hardest rituals, yet it brings people closer together,” Khan said on Thursday as he got into a car to drive to Islamabad from where he will take a special Hajj flight to Saudi Arabia on Sunday. “It’s both inspiring and powerful in many ways.”


UAE says will open Asia’s biggest visa center in Karachi in September

Updated 3 min 6 sec ago
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UAE says will open Asia’s biggest visa center in Karachi in September

  • Another all-purpose visa center to begin operations in Islamabad in first week of October 2019
  • UAE ambassador says Pak-UAE ties could be strengthened by exploring more opportunities for trade and investment

KARACHI: United Arab Emirates ambassador to Pakistan, Hamad Obaid Alzaabi, said on Friday the UAE Embassy would open its biggest visa center in Asia in the port city of Karachi in the first week of September this year and another all-purpose visa center in Islamabad in the first week of October.
“Everything will be done here, including medical insurance, checkups and the contracts etc. to facilitate visa issuance from the visa center in Karachi which will be the biggest visa center of Asia,” Alzaabi said at a meeting during a visit to the Karachi Chamber of Commerce & Industry. “The entire team for this Visa Center at Khayaban-e-Shamsheer in Karachi will come from UAE.”
Deputy Consul General of UAE Bakheet Ateeq Alremeithi, Chairman Businessmen Group and Former President KCCI Siraj Kassam Teli, President KCCI Junaid Esmail Makda, Senior Vice President KCCI Khurram Shahzad, Vice President KCCI Asif Sheikh Javaid and KCCI Managing Committee members were also present at the meeting.
While expressing gratitude to KCCI for extending its hospitality, the UAE Ambassador said that relations between Pakistan and UAE had always been very strong but could be strengthened by exploring opportunities and potential areas for enhancing trade and investment. 
“The governments of UAE and Pakistan are working very hard to narrow the gap and find opportunities, chances and potential for trade and investment,” Alzaabi said. “We are trying to find new areas of cooperation where we could work together and also examining the challenging areas so that these could be addressed by the authorities in UAE. Inshallah we will put our hands together to move forward in future.”
He said the UAE was now offering Pakistanis Silver Investment Visas for 5 years and Golden Investment Visas for 10 years and stressed the need for a legal framework between UAE and Pakistan to encourage and save investments made in either of the two countries. 
Chairman BMG & Former President KCCI Siraj Kassam Teli appreciated the support and cooperation being extended by UAE’s Embassy and its Consulate in Karachi but requested the Deputy Consul General to devise a system in collaboration with KCCI so that visas could be issued to credible businessmen and industrialists with a personal guarantee by KCCI. He also requested the Ambassador to only entertain visa recommendation letters and requests from those Chambers of Commerce and trade associations which were legally registered at the Ministry of Commerce, adding that the UAE Embassy could easily obtain a list of all legal Chambers of Commerce and trade bodies along with their jurisdiction details from the Ministry of Commerce that would help in better understanding the legalities and jurisdictions of 42 Chambers of Commerce and around 120 sector-specific trade associations in Pakistan.
President KCCI Junaid Esmail Makda said KCCI would soon sign a Memorandum of Understanding with the UAE Chamber to improve trade and investment ties and bring the business communities closer to each other. 
“We should work collectively to enhance bilateral trade and deal with all the irritants and barriers, particularly the non-tariff barriers between the two countries,” Makda said, adding that other than tourist visas, the UAE government must also look into the possibility of issuing business visas to Pakistan’s business community.