‘Rooh Afza diplomacy’: Pakistan offers to quench India’s thirst during Ramadan

Rooh Afza bottles seen at a stall in the Indian capital of New Delhi, featured in Taste Magazine on April 30, 2018. Pakistan said on Thursday that it was willing to send Rooh Afza to neighboring India to help make up for a shortage of the beverage in the Indian market. (Credit Taste Magazine)
Updated 09 May 2019

‘Rooh Afza diplomacy’: Pakistan offers to quench India’s thirst during Ramadan

  • Indian media reported the preferred drink of fasting Muslims had been unavailable for months
  • Pakistan foreign office says “absolutely” willing to send Rooh Afza to India to help overcome shortage

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan is “absolutely” willing to send the popular Rooh Afza drink to neighboring India to make up for a shortage of the beverage in the Indian market, the foreign office said on Thursday, after Indian media reported that the preferred drink of Muslims in Ramadan had been unavailable for months.
Rooh Afza, a rose-flavored concentrate of herbs, fruits, and flowers, is popular throughout South Asia and is a staple of Ramadan in both Pakistan and India, particularly in summer when it is mixed in cold water or milk and served at sunrise Sehri and sunset Iftar meals.
This week, Indian news website The Print reported that Rooh Afza had been off the shelves for at least four months in India, calling it a “major Ramzan crisis for Indian Muslims.”
“Absolutely. [We] will send Rooh Afza if it helps quench thirst in India,” Foreign Office spokesman Dr. Muhammed Faisal said during a weekly press briefing in response to a question about whether Pakistan was willing to help out neighbor overcome the Rooh Afza shortage.


Rooh Afza, a rose-flavored concentrate of herbs, fruits, and flowers, is a staple of Ramadan in both Pakistan and India. In this photo taken on May 9, 2019, a bottle of Pakistani-produced Rooh Afza is seen on a table next to a notebook with a Pakistan flag cover. (AN Photo)

Rooh Afza, a rose-flavored concentrate of herbs, fruits, and flowers, is a staple of Ramadan in both Pakistan and India. In this photo taken on May 9, 2019, a bottle of Pakistani-produced Rooh Afza is seen on a table next to a notebook with a Pakistan flag cover. (AN Photo)

This ‘Rooh Afza diplomacy’ could inject much needed levity in relations between Pakistan and India who have fought three wars and have suspended all bilateral talks over a range of issues, including cross-border proxy wars that both sides deny. Firing also continues intermittently along the Line of Control (LoC) that divides the disputed Kashmir region between the two countries.
Rooh Afza is produced in Pakistan and India by Hamdard Laboratories which was founded in 1906 by physician Hakim Mohammed Kabiruddin in India. At the time of the partition of Indian in 1947, the business was split between two brothers who now operate separate ventures in the two countries.
Mansoor Ali, Chief Sales and Marketing Officer at Hamdard India, told Arab News that production of Rooh Afza had been affected by “supply constraints of certain herbal ingredients.”
“Now production is in full swing at our factories and Rooh Afza is available across markets,” he said. “The situation is getting better every day with distribution reaching far and wide. There has been unprecedented demand due to Ramadan and peak summer season coinciding. Full capacity production and a well-planned distribution infrastructure are ensuring it reaches all corners.”
However, a source at Hamdard who declined to be named said the product was still unavailable at 450,000 retail stories across India.
“We have been unable to cater to influx of customers demanding Rooh Afza,” Praveen Kumar at ELT, a retail outlet in a suburb of Delhi, told Arab News. “We have not received the supply of the drink for the last four months.”
Customers are not happy.
“Not to have a glass of Rooh Afza at the end of the day-long fast is pinching,” Ovais Sultan Khan, a Delhi-based social activist, told Arab News. “No other clone of the brand gives you the feel that Rooh Afza gives you.”
Neyaz Khan from Gaya, a town in the eastern Indian state of Bihar said he was “very disappointed” when his favorite Rooh Afza was not available in the market when he went to buy it two days ago.
Across the border, some Pakistanis have suggested the country help India overcome its shortage by sending Rooh Afza over the Wagah border crossing.
Hamdard Laboratories Pakistan could not be reached for official comment on whether they were willing to supply to India but Usama Qureshi, a former CEO of the company, made the offer in a Twitter post that went viral.
“Pakistan could easily provide Rooh Afza [to India],” he posted. “We can easily send trucks through Wagah border if permitted by Indian Government.”
When questioned about his tweet, which Qureshi has since deleted, he told Arab News he had written it in response to Indian media reports and not in any official capacity.
“We have Rooh Afza everywhere and I thought we could let India know that if need be we could help them out there,” Qureshi said. “If that happens then it would be a great diplomatic move.”


Pakistan won’t be blacklisted, makes tremendous progress — Citibank

Updated 09 December 2019

Pakistan won’t be blacklisted, makes tremendous progress — Citibank

  • Blacklisting is not likely, Pakistan has made great strides, says Nadeem Lodhi
  • Greylisting of Pakistan is a geopolitical issue, according to Citibank

KARACHI: Citibank Pakistan has expressed its confidence that the country would not be further downgraded by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) on the back of progress it has shown.
“Blacklisting (of Pakistan) is not probability now or any other time,” Nadeem Lodhi, CEO of Citibank Pakistan told journalists at Pakistan Media Roundtable held in Karachi on Monday. 
“Pakistan is making tremendous strides on the list provided by FATF and our regulator is very strong and they have made whatever they have to implement in the financial industry,” he added.
Citibank, which operates in 98 countries and acts as a correspondent bank in Pakistan offering services to corporate and public sector clients – making payments around $4 trillion per day to other banks – says its operations have not been impacted by the greylisting of the country.
“We as a correspondent bank operate on the same alert level (as before greylisting) and it is unchanged for us and business is not impacted or that the business of our client including financial institutions is not impacted,” Lodhi said, explaining that the greylisting of Pakistan is “more of a geopolitical issue.” 
“When Afghanistan is on the white list how can Pakistan be on the grey or black list?” said Moiz Hussain Ali, Citibank Pakistan country treasury and markets head.
In October, the Paris-based FATF expressed concerns with regard to “overall lack of progress” by Pakistan in addressing its terror financing risks, and gave Islamabad time until February 2020 to complete its full action plan or risk further downgrading.
“Should significant and sustainable progress not be made across the full range of its action plan by the next plenary, the FATF will take action, which could include the FATF calling on its members and urging all jurisdictions to advise their FIs (financial institutions) to give special attention to business relations and transactions with Pakistan,” the FATF warned.
Citibank officials say Pakistan may remain on the greylist till the end of the upcoming year.
“The list given to Pakistan is quite long and it is not that you can do it overnight,” Ali said.
He expressed satisfaction with the government’s current economic policies and called for their continuation.
According to the Citibank officials, if the current political regime, where the army and political leadership look united, continues for the next two years, things should improve.
They said that a number of multinationals are planning investment – estimated at $500 million – in various sectors of the economy, ranging from consumer goods to energy.