In province known for deadly mining accidents, a Pakistani man invents anti-risk helmet

Ali Gul, a student of Balochistan University of Information Technology, Engineering and Management Sciences, receives an appreciation letter for his prototype of the Smart Eye Helmet at the Islamabad Startup Club held in February this year. (Photo courtesy: Ali Gul)
Updated 25 July 2019

In province known for deadly mining accidents, a Pakistani man invents anti-risk helmet

  • Ali Gul’s Eye Smart Helmet uses sensors to monitor coal mine conditions, toxic gases, explosion risks, location and health vitals of miners
  • At least 120 workers die on average each year in mining accidents in Balochistan, 94 killed in first seven months of 2019 alone

KARACHI: A school bag slung over his shoulder and a dream in his eyes, little Ali Gul would often stop by at the coal mine where his brother worked on his way to school each morning in the mining town of Sinjawi in Pakistan’s southwestern Balochistan province. 
There he would sit for a while among the acrid smell of burning coal and quietly watch the miners, their faces caked in toxic dust and dried sweat from working up to 1,200 feet underground on grueling 8-hour shifts. 
As he would walk off to school moments later, Gul couldn’t help but wonder if he too might end up working at the mines like his brother Gul Muhammad and so many other relatives and friends from his village in Ziarat district, a few kilometers from the coal-mining center of Duki.
Instead, Gul traveled far away from home every single day for many years to attend school and eventually university in Quetta, resolved never to set foot in a coal mine.
In February 2015, Gul’s family received news that his brother had passed out in a mine after a toxic gas leak. Though Muhammad survived, the incident so shook Gul that he decided he had to do something to improve the precarious conditions that Balochistan’s 300,000 coal miners worked in at 3,000 mines across the province.
Just last week, rescue teams saved two miners and retrieved the bodies of eight others after a methane explosion trapped the 10 in a coal mine in Balochistan. Safety standards are widely ignored in the coal-mining industry in Pakistan, leading to numerous deadly incidents.




Ali Gul, a student of Balochistan University of Information Technology, Engineering and Management Sciences, works on the design of the Smart Eye Helmet project, which earned him a Rs14 million grant from Pakistan's Higher Education Commission on May 2, 2019: Photo taken on July 23, 2019. (Photo courtesy: Ali Gul)

“After my brother’s injury, I would think I have to do something to stop these lethal incidents from happening,” Gul, 24, told Arab News via telephone from Quetta. “It was usual for us to keep hearing about a new accident or that an acquaintance had died or was seriously hurt.”
When Gul moved to Quetta to study computer engineering at the Balochistan University of Information Technology, Engineering and Management Sciences (BUITEMS), his roommate, Gul Ustad, turned out to be a former coal miner himself, providing Gul with an even greater impetus to put his plan into action. 
Soon after, Gul started to conduct research and found that at least 120 workers died on average each year in mining incidents in Balochistan. Gul thus began to work on a prototype for what would come to be called the Eye Smart Helmet: a special headgear that uses sensors to monitor mine conditions, the presence of toxic gases, explosion risks, and the location and health vitals of miners working in a particular mine. 




Ali Gul, a student of Balochistan University of Information Technology, Engineering and Management Sciences, won a Rs14 million grant from Pakistan's Higher Education Commission on May 2, 2019 for his Eye Smart Helmet project to protect coal miners in Balochistan province, Pakistan. (Photo courtesy: Ali Gul)

Gul’s landlord in Quetta, who also happened to be a mine owner, saw the prototype of the helmet in his room one morning in 2016 and ordered him to make 20 samples. Gul delivered the order in 2017 but could not make any more helmets due to a lack of funds.
At the start of 2018, Gul took his helmet to Islamabad’s Startup Cup, a nonprofit venture that aims to foster entrepreneurial spirit in Pakistan. Here he met Jawad Khan and Muhammad Azeem who had brought their own startup, Qayaam, a platform for short-term renting, to the tournament. The three men got talking and exchanged numbers. 
“His prototype was brilliant but he didn’t know how to generate funds,” Azeem told Arab News, saying him and Khan shared their number with Gul and they all began working together on the project’s financial assessment.
The teamwork paid off. In May this year, Gul and his partners won a Rs14 million grant from the High Education Commission (HEC), which will be released incrementally for product development between July 1, 2019 to June 30, 2020. Gul and his team will be required to conduct primary research on mines, working conditions as well as the nature of the work and of the mines. They will also use the funds to improve their prototype in light of their research findings before testing it in Balochistan’s mines. After a successful test, set to be carried out before June 30, 2020, the product will begin to be produced for commercial use.




In this photograph taken in January 2018, a coal miner at 98 Quetta Mine Area is wearing a helmet designed by Ali Gul, a student of Balochistan University of Information Technology, Engineering and Management Sciences, whose Smart Eye Helmet project won a Rs14 million grant from Pakistan's Higher Education Commission on May 2, 2019. (Photo courtesy: Ali Gul)

“This [helmet] will help us to save the lives of coal miners and enable owners to increase their productivity,” Gul’s colleague Khan said, adding that the headgear would also help predict mine collapses more accurately in the future. 
“Once the project is completed, we will move toward the stage of mass generation and marketing,” said Azeem, whose role in the venture is to strategize and generate funds.
The team says though they have already been approached for orders by clients in Europe, their primary focus is Pakistan.
“We want to save the precious lives of our countrymen first,” Gul said. “We want to save lives and millions of rupees in losses and at the same time tell the world that there are some awesome, innovative made-in-Pakistan products available.”
Gul’s work, he says, is gaining in urgency as the number of mining deaths have gone up in recent years, from 120 deaths on average each year to 172 workers between July 2017-2018. Around 94 people have died in mining accidents in just the first seven months of 2019, according to the All Pakistan Labour Federation Balochistan.
“I had resolved as a young kid that I would never have anything to do with coal mines, that I would make a better life for myself,” Gul said. “I had never imagined I would even enter a coal mine. But now I have,” he said smilingly, “to take safety helmet for miners.”


Government says opposition will face 'humiliation' by launching protest on Pakistan Day

Updated 4 sec ago

Government says opposition will face 'humiliation' by launching protest on Pakistan Day

  • The Pakistan Democratic Movement plans an anti-government rally which will culminate in the federal capital on March 23
  • Pakistan plans to host Organization of Islamic Cooperation’s Council of Foreign Ministers only a day before the opposition’s protest

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s interior minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmad warned an opposition alliance in the country on Wednesday its anti-government campaign would only result in its political humiliation, saying its leaders had no reason to initiate the protest.

The opposition Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) alliance announced on Tuesday it would hold an anti-government rally that would culminate in Islamabad on March 23.

The rally coincides with Pakistan Day which is annually commemorated since the founding fathers of the country adopted a resolution demanding a separate homeland for the Muslims of Subcontinent on March 23, 1940.

“The democratic way for the opposition alliance is to display its political strength in parliament,” the minister told a gathering in Rawalpindi. “You [the opposition parties] have chosen to be on the streets which will only result in your humiliation.”

“Why are you coming here? There should be a reason [for the protest], an agenda. If it were not for the media, the nation would even forget your names,” he lashed out.

Rashid said March 23 was “a very sensitive day,” adding that Islamabad’s main routes would be blocked and there would possibly be no cellphone service due to stringent security measures.

Pakistan is scheduled to host a meeting of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation’s Council of Foreign Ministers in its federal capital on March 22 and has invited the delegates to attend its annual Pakistan Day parade as state guests the next day.

“You [the PDM members] are about to annoy the representatives of various Muslim countries [with the protest]. Do not think that the people are not aware of your intentions,” he continued, adding: “We will see where you stand after one and a half years [during the general elections in 2023].”


Noor Mukadam did not contact anyone to express threat to her life — police

Updated 41 min 32 sec ago

Noor Mukadam did not contact anyone to express threat to her life — police

  • The daughter of a former Pakistani diplomat was found beheaded in the country's federal capital on July 20
  • The murder case is now said to be in its concluding stage in a local court in Islamabad

ISLAMABAD: Noor Mukadam, a former Pakistani diplomat’s daughter who was found beheaded in Islamabad last July, did not contact the police or other individuals to caution them about a threat to her life, an investigation officer revealed on Wednesday.

Mukadam’s murder in Islamabad’s upscale F-7/4 neighborhood on July 20 sparked public outrage and grabbed media attention unlike any other recent crime against women. The key suspect Zahir Jaffer was arrested from the crime scene on the day of the murder and has since been in Rawalpindi’s Adiala Jail.

Others charged in the case include Jaffer’s parents, Zakir Jaffer and Asmat Adamjee, their three household staff, Iftikhar, Jan Muhammad and Jameel, and six employees of Therapy Works, a counseling center from where Jaffer had received certification to become a therapist and where he had been receiving treatment in the weeks leading up to the murder.

The case is now in the concluding stage in Islamabad’s district court, where additional sessions judge Atta Rabbani has been conducting the hearings. Eyewitnesses have recorded their statements in the case and defense attorneys are now cross-examining them.

During the cross-examination on Wednesday by advocate Sajjad Ahmed Bhatti, who is representing Jaffer’s household staff, the investigation officer Inspector Abdul Sattar said Mukadam’s mobile phone was working from July 18 to July 20 until 10 am. She had entered the Jaffer house on July 18, according to CCTV footage.

“Noor Mukadam had received and made phone calls and text messages during these two days,” he said while referring to the call data obtained from her phone. “She didn’t inform the police or 15 [police emergency service], or any of her loved one through a phone call or message between July 18 and 20 that her life was in danger.”

Policemen escort Zahir Jaffer, key suspect in Noor Mukadam murder case, after his court hearing in Islamabad, Pakistan, on October 20, 2021. (AFP/File)

The investigation officer said the three accused were not nominated in the initial police complaint, adding the plaintiff Shaukat Mukadam later filed an application against them on July 24 while mentioning their involvement in the murder.

Sattar said the police had not taken photogrammetry test of the three accused, adding that there was also no eyewitness in the case.

Earlier, Therapy Works counsel Akram Qureshi cross-examined the investigation officer. The counseling center employees had reached the crime scene before the police and one of them, Amjad, was attacked and injured by Jaffer while they were trying to physically overpower him.

The investigation officer said the DNA test of blood samples collected from the crime scene had confirmed Amjad’s presence, adding he had also admitted to the police that he was injured by Jaffer.

He said that Therapy Works employees informed the police after the arrest that they had reached the crime scene to provide medical assistance.

Sattar said that Amjad’s father had told the police he did not want to initiate any legal proceedings against the accused.

“We didn’t collect medico-legal certificate of Amjad from hospital, nor he become part of the investigation,” he said, adding that he was arrested on August 14 and his statement was recorded.

Judge Atta Rabbani kept taking notes and statements on his computer during the proceedings while making occasional interventions for clarification of any statement or remark of the investigation officer and defense lawyers.

Shortly after the hearing started, Islamabad police officials brought Jaffer, his father and other suspects in the crowded courtroom in handcuffs.

During the proceeding, two police officials made Jaffer stand at the back of the courtroom by holding him by his arms for at least two hours. Later, the police removed his handcuffs, allowed him to sit on a wooden desk and gave him a glass of water.

His mother Asmat Adamjee and another female relative remained seated in a chair in the courtroom. His father, Zakir Jaffer, who appeared composed and confident, also remained seated on a wooden desk during the proceeding and occasionally engaged in a conversation with a police official holding him by an iron chain.

Zakir Jaffer and his wife also seated side by side in chairs for a brief interaction in the courtroom.

The proceedings lasted for over three hours while a couple of armed police personnel stood outside the courtroom to avoid any untoward incident.

The court will now hand over a questionnaire to all suspects in the case to be submitted back before February 2.

The hearing will resume next Wednesday.


Former English striker Michael Owen says Pakistan 'perfect destination' for football

Updated 26 January 2022

Former English striker Michael Owen says Pakistan 'perfect destination' for football

  • Owen inaugurated the construction of the country’s first football stadium designed to meet international standards
  • The former English player is on a three-day visit to Pakistan for talent hunt organized by Global Soccer Ventures

KARACHI: Legendary English footballer Michael Owen on Wednesday inaugurated the construction of Pakistan’s first football stadium designed to meet international standards in Karachi while calling the country 'perfect destination' for the game.

The stadium is a joint initiative of Global Soccer Ventures (GSV) and the NED University of Engineering & Technology.

The event marked the beginning of the construction work on the stadium under the 10-year agreement to create the first soccer city in Pakistan.

“Pakistan is the perfect destination for football, and the passion of the young Pakistani footballers has no bounds,” Owen said while addressing the gathering attended by local students and footballers.

“I am thrilled to be part of Pakistan’s historic football transformation program, as I look forward to taking football to a whole new level,” he added.

The English footballer arrived in Pakistan on Tuesday and met with the army chief and other government functionaries in the federal capital. He is also scheduled to meet young players in Lyari, a town in Karachi which is frequently called “mini-Brazil” and the country’s football center on Thursday morning.

Former English footballer Michael Owen and NED University vice-chancellor Dr. Sarosh Hashmat Lodhi can be seen together during the groundbreaking ceremony of the country’s first football stadium designed to meet international standards in Karachi, Pakistan, on January 26, 2022 (Photo Courtesy: Sheeraz Mohiuddin)

The football stadium in Karachi is designed to meet the Union of European Football Associations’ standards. It has been inspired by German engineering and will be first in a series of football infrastructure projects in Pakistan by GSV.

The world class football facility will also have an international standard academy.

Speaking on the occasion, NED University vice-chancellor Dr. Sarosh Hashmat Lodhi praised the initiative.

“This will let our students and other football players from the city explore much-awaited opportunities,” he said. “International interest in grooming our young talent is a great opportunity for our youth. We are delighted to have international star Michael Owen as part of this life-changing vision. We hope this stadium will be making international football stars.”

GSV group chairman Yasir Mahmood said the 10-year agreement with the Pakistani university was in line with the government’s vision to empower youth and ensure their progress.

“GSV will materialize the dreams of youth by providing them with the opportunity to make their mark globally,” he said.

GSV chief executive officer Zabe Khan maintained the aim of the project was to “identify and develop players from the grassroots” while allowing them to continue their education.

Responding to an Arab News query, he said the project also had the government backing.

“We have the support of the government from top,” he said while hoping the initiative would transform Pakistan “into the greatest football playing nation.”


New treaties to streamline Pakistani-Saudi anti-trafficking efforts, prisoner transfer

Updated 26 January 2022

New treaties to streamline Pakistani-Saudi anti-trafficking efforts, prisoner transfer

  • Agreements were signed during Prime Minister Imran Khan's visit to the kingdom last year
  • Saudi Arabia's cabinet approved the bills during a session chaired by King Salman on Tuesday

ISLAMABAD: Recently ratified agreements will help Pakistan and Saudi Arabia streamline the transfer of prisoners and measures to counter human and drug trafficking, Pakistani officials said on Wednesday.

The treaties were signed during Prime Minister Imran Khan's visit to the kingdom in May last year. Saudi Arabia's cabinet approved the bills during a session chaired by King Salman on Tuesday, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

"The agreements will play a significant role in streamlining issues related to transfer of convicted individuals, and drug trafficking," Aimen Nadeem, the spokesperson of the Pakistani embassy in Riyadh, told Arab News.

The Pakistani prime minister's special adviser on the Middle East, Tahir Ashrafi, said it was a "very welcoming and positive development."

"We are thankful to Saudi King and the cabinet for this,” he told Arab News.

Ashrafi said the treaty on trafficking will "enhance and strengthen Pakistan, Saudi Arabia cooperation in controlling illicit human and drug trafficking."

The treaty on prisoner transfer will allow individuals convicted in Saudi Arabia to complete their jail terms at home.

"They can spend their jail terms inside Pakistan," Ashrafi said, adding that the development was also awaited by the Pakistani diaspora in the kingdom.

Pakistan and Saudi Arabia enjoy deep-rooted strategic ties. Around 2.5 million Pakistani expats are living in the kingdom, and are the biggest single source of foreign remittances to the South Asian nation.

"Both countries have increased bilateral cooperation and engagements in many fields recently," Ashrafi said.

"A Saudi delegation is visiting Pakistan to enhance cooperation in green and clean environment projects. Similarly, a Pakistani delegation is visiting Saudi Arabia nowadays"


Foreign cricket stars to feature in Pakistan Super League

Updated 26 January 2022

Foreign cricket stars to feature in Pakistan Super League

  • Afghan players Rashid Khan and Mohammad Nabi have been roped in by Lahore Qalandars and Karachi Kings
  • PSL’s seventh edition will start in Karachi on Thursday and run through Feb. 27

ISLAMABAD: As Pakistan’s own professional T20 cricket league, the Pakistan Super League (PSL), is set to start on Thursday, fans will see several international cricket stars participating in the country’s most popular sports event.
Launched in 2016, the PSL has been a huge success, with over 80 million people, roughly 70 percent of Pakistan’s TV-viewing public, tuned in to watch the final game of the series last year.
Besides crowds of spectators, it also attracts foreign players. Here are some of those who will compete in the tournament this year.

Rashid Khan

Lahore Qalandars' Rashid Khan arrives for practice before the start of the Pakistan Super League (PSL) T20 cricket match between Lahore Qalandars and Quetta Gladiators at the National Stadium in Karachi on February 22, 2021.  (AFP/FILE)

Considered one of the world’s best spinners, the Afghan cricketer is also one of the most sought-after players, featuring in all prominent international cricket leagues, including Australia’s Big Bash League, India’s Indian Premier League (IPL) and the PSL.
Khan, 23, is known for bowling wicket-to-wicket and his googly — a leg-spinner’s trick that makes the ball spin against his normal stock delivery — has cemented his status as an automatic pick for Afghanistan across all formats of the game.
Khan has played 56 T20I matches, grabbing 103 wickets at an average of 12.73.
Like last year, he has been roped in for the PSL by Lahore Qalandars.
Mohammad Nabi

Karachi Kings' Mohammad Nabi takes part in a practice before the start of the Pakistan Super League (PSL) T20 cricket match between Islamabad United and Karachi Kings at the National Stadium in Karachi on February 24, 2021. (AFP/FILE)

Another big name from Afghanistan, the 37-year-old all-rounder is a strong middle-order batter who also bowls flight off-spin and can make important breakthroughs.
Like Khan, Nabi is an automatic pick for Afghanistan, providing stability and depth to its batting line-up. Nabi has enjoyed a few stints over the years as captain of the Afghan cricket team, leading them into the 2015 World Cup.
He has played a total of 318 T20s, scoring 4,851 runs from them and making 14 half-centuries. He has taken an impressive 296 T20I wickets at an average of 24.13 which includes a fifer.
Nabi will play for Karachi Kings under Babar Azam’s captaincy in this year’s PSL.

Imran Tahir

Multan Sultans' Imran Tahir celebrates after the dismissal of Lahore Qalandars' Dane Vilas during the Pakistan Super League (PSL) T20 cricket match between Multan Sultans and Lahore Qalandars at the Gaddafi Cricket Stadium in Lahore on February 21, 2020. (AFP/FILE)

A Pakistani-South African cricketer, Tahir has played for 25 teams, including four English counties, three South African franchises, an IPL team, and regularly features in the PSL.
Tahir, 42, has carved a reputation for himself as one of the best limited-overs leg-spinners of his time. His trademark celebration after taking a wicket has earned Tahir a massive fan following around the world.
From the 344 T20s that Tahir has played, he has managed to take 435 wickets which include three fifers, at an average of 19.59.
Playing for defending champions Multan Sultans, Tahir will undoubtedly prove to be a potent weapon for skipper Mohammad Rizwan during this year’s tournament.

Rilee Rossouw

Multan Sultans' Rilee Rossouw arrives to bat during practice before the start of the Pakistan Super League (PSL) T20 cricket match between Peshawar Zalmi and Multan Sultans at the National Stadium in Karachi on February 23, 2021. (AFP/FILE)

A PSL stalwart, the South African cricketer returns once again to play for Multan Sultans and will be a handy batter that helps Rizwan defend the trophy. He hasn’t played much international cricket but has enjoyed a stint with the IPL’s Royal Challengers Bangalore in 2014. Two years later, he signed with Hampshire.
Rossouw, 32, improved in the shortest format of the game as the years ticked by, becoming the leading run-scorer in the Bangladesh Premier League (BPL) by scoring an impressive 558 at an average of 69.75, and then winning PSL with Quetta Gladiators, Rossouw has played 225 T20s where he scored 5,534 runs at an average of 29.75 and has scored three centuries.

Alex Hales

Islamabad United's Alex Hales warms up before the start of the Pakistan Super League (PSL) T20 cricket match between Islamabad United and Quetta Gladiators at the National Stadium in Karachi on March 2, 2021. (AFP/FILE)

Alex Hales, 31, is one of the world’s most talented openers.
In 2018, he committed himself solely to limited-overs cricket by signing a white-ball only contract with Nottinghamshire and playing IPL for Sunrisers Hyderabad. He had averaged 27.28 in his 11 Tests, and prospects of further opportunities were minimal, although he did signal his intention to reconsider his future after the 2019 World Cup.
In the 327 T20s that Hales has played, he has scored over 9,000 runs at an average of 30.95 and scored five centuries.
In this year’s edition of the PSL, he has been included as a mentor for the Islamabad United squad.