Pashto, Punjabi added to list of languages at holy mosques in Saudi Arabia

In this file photo, Muslim pilgrims speak to an Urdu translator in Makkah during Hajj on Aug. 17, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 10 September 2019
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Pashto, Punjabi added to list of languages at holy mosques in Saudi Arabia

  • Move to facilitate translation of speeches and lectures for pilgrims in their local dialect
  • Pakistani nationals one of the largest groups to perform Hajj and Umrah every year

ISLAMABAD: In a bid to facilitate pilgrims from Pakistan, authorities at the two holy mosques in Saudi Arabia have added six new regional languages to a list for those performing Hajj and Umrah through the year, officials said on Monday.
In addition to Urdu, all lectures, speeches, and instructions will now be available in Pashto, Punjabi and Balochi as well.
The initiative, undertaken by the General Directorate of Languages and Translation at the General Presidency – which looks after the affairs of the Grand Mosque and the Prophet’s Mosque – will have translators adept at the three new languages.
According to the Director General of Languages and Translation, Emad Baaqeel, the General Presidency also has sign language facilities for those with speech and hearing imparities.
“Translation of speeches and lessons are available through FM frequencies, on the website of the General Presidency, on special translations devices available within the Two Holy Mosques and at Arafa in Hajj, and applications on mobile devices,” Baqeel added.
During Hajj this year, the Kingdom had deployed hundreds of volunteers to assist non-Arab pilgrims from across the world at airports in Makkah and Madinah.
Pakistani nationals usually constitute the third largest group – after Saudis and Indonesians – to perform Hajj every year.
Earlier this year, Saudi Arabia’s Hajj and Umrah Ministry had launched a Twitter service to address pilgrims’ basic questions in Urdu and 12 other languages.


PM Khan ‘will try to raise conscience of the world,’ at UN — spokesperson

Updated 17 September 2019
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PM Khan ‘will try to raise conscience of the world,’ at UN — spokesperson

  • There will be a planned protest outside UN offices after PM Khan speech at UNGA, says spokesman
  • President of Azad Kashmir, political leaders expect Khan will stress human rights violations in Kashmir

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s Foreign Office Spokesperson, Dr. Muhammad Faisal, told Arab News that Prime Minister Imran Khan would make efforts to ‘raise the conscience’ of world leaders against a continuing curfew in Indian-administered Kashmir, at his speech at the UN General Assembly (UNGA) session on September 27 in New York.
On Aug. 5, India flooded the Kashmir valley with troops, imposed a communications lockdown and abrogated a historic clause in its constitution that gave partial autonomy to the Muslim-majority region. Pakistan and India have fought two of their three wars over Kashmir, which both own in part but claim in full. 
In response to India’s abrogation, Pakistan has downgraded diplomatic ties, suspended bilateral trade and made appeals to the UN and international community to condemn the move as a violation of international law.
“We are not expecting that India will lift the clampdown after this speech, but we will try to raise the conscience of world leaders” the spokesperson said and added that the UNGA was not a decision-making forum, but that there would be a large protest outside UN offices.
“On the sidelines, the PM will also meet contact group on Jammu and Kashmir on September 25,” he said.
Referring to “multiple reports” by human rights organizations, Dr. Faisal said the Prime Minister would demand that major global players take note of human rights abuses in Indian-administered Kashmir.
“PM Khan...will demand from international community to take notice of grave human rights violations there which are mentioned in multiple reports by different human rights organizations including UNHRC,” Dr. Faisal told Arab News.
In a letter to the UN Security Council dated Aug. 13, Pakistan had asked for an urgent meeting on Jammu and Kashmir, and it had taken the matter up during its meeting on Aug. 16.
President of Azad Kashmir, Sardar Masood Khan, told Arab News that even though the Prime Minister had raised the Kashmir issue at the UN before, the “aggressive” actions of India had made even graver human rights violations to address, as well as the potential of a bigger conflict erupting in the region.
“When Pakistani PM will speak, he will challenge the international community to act and avert this war started by India, which could turn into a bigger conflict that can be disastrous for the whole region,” Khan said.
A senior leader of the opposition and a parliamentarian from PML-N, Ahsan Iqbal, told Arab News that India’s abrogation and curfew in Kashmir was a “human rights catastrophe,” which should be powerfully highlighted by Imran Khan during his UNGA address.
“He should also ask world community to play active role to compel India to lift the curfew immediately,” he said. 
The UN Security Council adopted several resolutions in 1948 and in the 1950s on the dispute between India and Pakistan over Kashmir, including one which says a plebiscite should be held to determine the future of Muslim Kashmir.
A former foreign secretary who has also served as Pakistani High Commissioner to India, Salman Bashir, said that many world leaders and multilateral forums had raised serious concerns about the worsening human rights situation in Kashmir, which Prime Minister Khan could use to his advantage to put pressure on the Indian government.
“He should also highlight Pakistan’s efforts for peace and stability in the region, especially Afghanistan,” Bashir told Arab News.
India upholds that the abrogation of the constitutional clause that rescinded the autonomy of Kashmir is New Delhi’s internal matter.