Women’s stories the real gems of one Pakistani sister-run jewelry house 

Women’s stories the real gems of one Pakistani sister-run jewelry house. 
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Updated 12 January 2020

Women’s stories the real gems of one Pakistani sister-run jewelry house 

  • Brand founded by three sisters celebrates extraordinary historical and modern women 
  • The business has been an international success, with local and global influencers donning the unique pieces

ISLAMABAD: On the webpage of Pakistani jewelry house ‘Pierre Gemme,’ the brand is described as an enterprise profiling the stories of extraordinary women. With its unique brand image, the business, founded by three sisters-- twins Hira and Hajjra and their younger sister Hina Hur, holds an edge over most of its contemporaries. 

Hajra, Hira and Hina Hur are the sisters behind Pierre Gemme, a jewellery start-up based out of Islamabad that attempts to tell the stories of extraordinary women through jewellery design. August 12, 2019. (Image via Pierre Gemme Instagram)

Born in Quetta in Pakistan’s southwestern Balochistan province to a civil servant father, who the sisters describe as a “master storyteller,” and a dentist mother, the three sisters embarked on their joint venture in 2017 largely inspired by their life across Pakistan and their travels around the globe-- between them over 75 countries in the past 10 years. 
Their travels introduced them to different women from all facets of life they said, which inspired them to want to tell stories, particularly about women. They also credit their father for “unintentionally opening doors for inspiration and creativity for all three of us.”
“Like most South Asian parents, ours wanted us to be doctors or engineers,” said Hira Hur, but added that their creative urges couldn’t stay locked up for long.
Hina Hur initially followed in her mother’s footprints and became a dentist, but acted on her passion for art and design all the while, creating unique earrings.

"Gulestan" draws inspiration from the rose gardens of the Mughal Era as written by a poet of the era, Saadi. The earrings marry traditional aesthetics of South Asian jewelry design with modern-day touches. April 22, 2019 (Image via Pierre Gemme Instagram) 

She began sketching and designing graphics of jewelry and brought them to life in 2016, making her first pair at the workshop of the artisans she now works with. She emphasizes on creating designs with history and significance.
“It was not the design alone that was admired, the earrings started a conversation,” Hira said of her sister’s creations. 
Their first design, the “Pierre Gemme Signature,” earrings are a tribute to the Mughal empire and have made an international mark for themselves.
“The earrings made it to New York where one of us was working and one earrings’ request from a friend turned to 100 orders... and now we are selling around 10,000 pieces per year,” Hira told Arab News.

"Pursuit of Pleasure" features the portrait of a Mughal era woman. May 4, 2019 (Image via Pierre Gemme Instagram)

Pierre Gemme in French means gemstones, which are an often overlooked part of Pakistan’s offerings to the world. 
“The name is an homage to the natural beauty and landscapes of Pakistan. Beneath these landscape lies a whole new world of gemstones and its beauty. While living in Balochistan, we traveled along the silk road and got inspired by the gems each place had to offer. Pakistan is home to emeralds, peridots, aquamarine, Kundun, rubies, topaz, quartz, the list goes on,” Hira said.
“Our brand is more than jewelry,” she said. “It celebrates women who are not typically spoken about but created history through their activism in the early 17th and 18th century.”
“We believe telling and hearing stories is the most powerful means to educate, influence and inspire others,” she continued.
“Stories create connections — they move us and make us feel alive, they challenge and help us understand our place. We are seizing the power of art and combining it with jewelry to incorporate stories of extraordinary women and cultures, typically not well known.” 
The sisters research the real-life stories of the women they bring to life in their jewelry and then relay that story in captions on their buzzing Instagram page.

A client, Yemini artist and activist Bushra, wearing the "Kandaka" earrings in Yemen. August 21, 2019. (Image via Pierre Gemme Instagram)

“We go through a thorough research of selecting influential and lesser-known women in history who created movements and achieved something,” said Hira. 
“Our piece ‘Umrao Jan’ is inspired by Umrao Jan Ada, an early novel written in the Urdu language about a woman who narrates her tales of self-discovery, using art and poetry,” Hira said. Similarly, she explained, “Kahina is a pre-Islamic female warrior from Morocco’s Berber’s tribe.” 
Designs by the sisters also incorporate modern faces of trailblazing women, including Sudanese activist Alaa Salah, who became a recognizable icon of the Sudanese protests in March 2019 when her photograph went viral.
“She inspired and is depicted on ‘Kandaka — the Nubian Queen’ piece. That piece is from an unforgettable vision of a woman dressed in white, standing on top of a car chanting and pointing to the sky as the crowd holds up their hands. Her image defied false ideas of Muslim women as oppressed and being politically passive during the Sudanese revolution.”

A client, Yemini artist and activist Bushra, wearing the "Kandaka" earrings in Yemen. August 21, 2019. (Image via Pierre Gemme Instagram)

The Hur sisters have employed men and women in Lahore to create their original pieces. For them, their women artisans are also a critical part of their story. 
“We have five artisans working with us at the moment of which four are women and one is a man. It takes between a month or two to produce the first pair of earrings. After the design is final, all earrings are made by hand and we make about 10 pairs a day on average,” Hira said.
“We noticed that jewelry making is a male-dominated profession,” she added. “It took us a long time to encourage and get women to make jewelry, so we can create better opportunities for women in Pakistan.”
The sisters hope to build up their brand and get the opportunity to employ more people from Pakistan and expand their story-telling around the globe. They will be taking their jewelry to Cairo later this year.
“It will be amazing if we can build a movement of women across the world telling stories through the art of jewelry making,” said Hira. “We would love to grow Pierre Gemme as symbolic jewelry that connects women to their emotions, grace, strength, vulnerability, and sense of humor.”

Popular British High Commissioner Dr. Christian Turner to leave Pakistan

Updated 7 sec ago

Popular British High Commissioner Dr. Christian Turner to leave Pakistan

  • Turner posted to London as Director General Geopolitical at Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office
  • Position of Political Director, equivalent of Under Secretary of State, seen as UK’s second most senior diplomat

ISLAMABAD: British High Commissioner to Pakistan Dr. Christian Turner CMG has been posted to London as Director General Geopolitical at the UK’s Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO), the British Foreign Office said on Monday.

The position is equivalent to the Under Secretary of State.

Turner has been High Commissioner to Pakistan since December 2019 and is expected to depart the country and take up his new role in London by mid-January 2023. This follows the end of a standard three year diplomatic posting.

Over his three years as High Commissioner, Turner oversaw the UK’s COVID-19 repatriation efforts, welcomed a UK Foreign Secretary visit, lobbied for and secured direct flights from the UK to Pakistan, initiated a drive to double UK-Pakistan trade by 2025, ensured that the UK was at the forefront of the international Pakistan flood crisis response and played a pivotal role in the promotion of sports diplomacy and the return of the England Men’s cricket team to Pakistan following a 17-year absence.

“The last three years have been some of the most rewarding of my life, both professionally and personally,” Turner said in a statement. “I will continue closely to follow Pakistan’s future in my new role in London.”

The position of Political Director is traditionally seen as the UK’s second most senior diplomat who is responsible for bringing together the UK government’s cross-cutting geopolitical work on security, international architecture and alliances, as well as UK values.

No announcement has been made regarding the appointment of a new High Commissioner to Pakistan. The Deputy High Commissioner, Andrew Dalgleish, will take on the role of chargé d’affaires to cover the interim gap until a new High Commissioner arrives.

Prior to his appointment as High Commissioner to Pakistan, Turner was the Prime Minister’s International Affairs Adviser and Deputy National Security Adviser from April 2017 to July 2019. He previously served as the Director General, Political (Acting) and Director General for the Middle East and Africa, leading the UK organization of the London Syria Conference in February 2016.

From 2012 to 2015, Turker was British High Commissioner to Kenya, and from 2009 to 2012 he was FCO’s Director for the Middle East and North Africa. Between 1997 and 2008 he held various positions in the Foreign Office, the Cabinet Office and 10 Downing Street, including as Private Secretary to the Prime Minister, in the Prime Minister’s Strategy Unit, as Secretary to the Economic & Domestic Committees of Cabinet, and as First Secretary in the British Embassy in Washington from 2002-2006.

Before joining the government, Turner made television documentaries, following the completion of his PhD. He is married with two children.

Afghan Taliban blame foreign Daesh fighter for Pakistan embassy attack

Updated 45 min 10 sec ago

Afghan Taliban blame foreign Daesh fighter for Pakistan embassy attack

  • A Pakistani security guard was wounded in a gun attack on Friday
  • Pakistan called it attempt to assassinate its head of mission, who was unhurt

KABUL: Afghanistan’s Taliban said on Monday a Daesh militant attack on Pakistan’s embassy in Kabul was carried out with involvement of unidentified foreign groups with the intention of sowing distrust with Pakistan.

Daesh, which fights the Taliban in Afghanistan, claimed responsibility for the Friday gun attack on the Pakistani embassy in a statement carried by one of its affiliated channels on the Telegram messaging service on Sunday.

A Pakistani security guard was wounded in the attack that Pakistan called an attempt to assassinate its head of mission, who was unhurt.

Pakistan has for decades had good relations with the Afghan Taliban but recently ties have been strained over security concerns on their common border.

The Taliban said they had arrested one suspect and recovered two guns and Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid said in a statement the suspect was a foreign Daesh member.

“Behind the attack there is the hand of some foreign groups and their aim is to create distrust between the two brotherly countries,” Mujahid said.

He did not say which country the suspect was from. An investigation was continuing, he said.

The Daesh affiliate in Afghanistan has claimed several high-profile attacks in Kabul in recent months, including a suicide blast outside the Russian embassy in September.

Pakistan said earlier it was consulting Afghan authorities to verify the report of a Daesh claim of responsibility for the attack.

Pakistan said it had no plan to close the embassy and the head of the mission was in Pakistan for consultations.

Head of Pakistan's newly formed reforms commission 'confident' of simplification of tax system

Updated 05 December 2022

Head of Pakistan's newly formed reforms commission 'confident' of simplification of tax system

  • Ashfaq Tola says the independent commission will address issues pertaining to complex tax system, budget
  • The reforms commission head says it'll be able to give first set of recommendations by the mid of April 2023

KARACHI: Ashfaq Yousuf Tola, chairman of recently formed Reforms and Resource Mobilization Commission (RRMC) of Pakistan, on Sunday said he was "confident" of playing a catalyst role in the simplification of the country’s complex taxation system and cut the informal, parallel economy to size.  

Pakistan has been grappling with a widening current account deficit, a balance-of-payment crisis and inflation hovering around historic highs in recent months. The South Asian nation has also witnessed an economic slowdown in the wake of recent floods that have damaged huge infrastructure and agriculture output.  

Pakistan’s Finance Minister Ishaq Dar last week constituted a powerful commission to review the existing revenue policies, identify issues and risks of existing tax system, review budget proposals and evaluate their consequences as well as review complexities of tax legislation.

An undated file photo of Ashfaq Yousuf Tola, Chairman of Reforms and Resource Mobilization Commission (RRMC). (Supplied)

Tola, who is currently serving as a technical advisor on the Board of International Federation of Accountants, would directly work under the finance minister and hold a full-time office at the Islamabad headquarters of the national tax agency, the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR).   

“This commission is completely independent and will play a key role in addressing complex taxation and other economic issues,” Tola told Arab News in an exclusive interview on Sunday.   

“The commission will have access to analyses, revenue policies and meet with the stakeholders. The commission will have its input in budget and budget evaluation.”  

The RRMC head, president of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Pakistan (ICAP), has an experience of over 30 years in financial and forensic auditing, tax advisory and corporate structuring.   

The 11-member commission headed by him comprises FBR chairman, experts on taxation and economy, and representatives of the business community. 

This is the second commission formed by Dar in the last eight years and is given both short- and long-term objectives, with a major focus on finalization of taxation measures for next fiscal years.  

“This commission is completely different from the previous one and it has no lifecycle,” Tola said. “This time strong players have been picked up for the commission who have the capability to deliver.”   

Asked how the commission would work, Tola said it would form different sub-groups to come up with assessments of their relevant fields.  

“For instance, economists would be tasked to evaluate the size of parallel economy and the chartered accountants would be asked to draw global comparison and identify snags and [present] recommendation on how to rectify them,” he explained. 

Pakistan has complex taxation measures in place, which experts say are highly "oppressive" in nature.  

“Pakistan’s tax system is complicated, fragmented, oppressive, narrow and anti-growth. It has one of the highest rates for the corporate sector,” Dr Ikramul Haq, a Lahore-based taxation expert, told Arab News.   

“It is highly oppressive for salaried persons and citizens with fixed income living under hyperinflation. It levies and collects main taxes at import stage, making exports uncompetitive and increasing the already heavy cost of doing business.” 

The Tola-led commission is assigned a daunting task to come up with recommendations to reform the ages-old taxation system and broaden the tax net.  

Pakistan has less than 3.5 million income tax filers, with a majority declaring its income below the taxable limit or reporting losses. The number of individuals registered for sales tax is less than 350,000 and actual payers are less than 85,000, the rest claim refunds, according to official data.   

Haq suggested dismantling the fragmented tax structure by giving power to the federation to levy and collect tax from all sources, including from the ones whose income is based on agriculture.  

Provinces should have exclusive jurisdiction over harmonized sales tax on goods and services and all these should be collected through a national tax agency, he added. 

The RRMC is given an April 2023 deadline to submit its first report, which Tola is confident to meet.   

To a question about the timing of the RRMC formation amid an uncertain and fluid political and economic situation, Tola said the formation of the commission was a "good initiative" and must be kept apolitical.   

“This is a good thing formed and if it is kept apolitical that would be good for the country,” he said.   

He, however, conceded that there was no guarantee of the commission’s future in case the government changes.  

Pakistan has been hit by political instability for years now, which has aggravated since the ouster of former prime minister Imran Khan in April. 

The instable political situation has been taking a toll on the country's frail economy, already suffering from devastating impacts of the floods. 

For Pakistani beauty and fragrance brands, the newest craze is Middle Eastern scented wood chips

Updated 05 December 2022

For Pakistani beauty and fragrance brands, the newest craze is Middle Eastern scented wood chips

  • Popularly known as 'bakhoor' in the Arab world, the agarwood chips are said to have several medical and psychological benefits
  • Local businesses say the incense chips are in high demand in Pakistan, though many customers also find them quite expensive

KARACHI: Beauty and fragrance brands across Pakistan have been importing a product which has long dominated the Middle East culture and is widely used in traditional Arab households and markets. 

'Bakhoor,' or agarwood chips, are used to spread lingering fragrance at homes, shops and offices. Pakistani businesses have been bringing these scented bricks from Arab countries before offering their different varieties to customers. 

A salon in Karachi, for instance, provides hair bakhoor scalp treatment which, it says, is quite popular in the Arab World. 

"Bakhoor is in high demand in Pakistan," Adeel Shafiq Alam, chief executive officer of an Arabian fragrance shop, Souk Galleria, told Arab News. 

Alam's organization has been doing good business in Karachi and Lahore since 2020 and boasts international outlets in places like Dubai and the United States. 

"We import bakhoor from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates," Alam added. "Bakhoor farming is not common in Pakistan. Even if we start it today, it will take another 25 years for us to benefit from it. A large number of people in Pakistan are still not very familiar with bakhoor." 

A Saudi man holds a handful of Bakhoor or Agarwood at his shop in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia on October 10, 2007. (AFP/File)

Alam, whose business offers several types of bakhoor products, said people used to ask him all sorts of questions about the scented bricks when Souk Galleria started advertising bakhoor in Pakistan two years ago. 

"Many of them want to buy bakhoor but are usually deterred by high prices," he continued. "Most of them find it difficult to afford good quality bakhoor, which can cost around Rs1,000 per gram." 

The incense chips, which have been used in the Middle East for centuries, are said to have several medical and psychological benefits. Some say they change people's mood and relieve them of stress and anxiety. 

"The future of bakhoor is bright in Pakistan since many people from this country visit Arab states, especially for Hajj and Umrah, and see how Arabs use these scented chips," Shiekh Faisal Ghani, chairman of Saeed Ghani, a popular Pakistani brand for herbal and skincare products, told Arab News. 

Ghani's business offers bakhoor fragrances that include Oud Wood, Oud Combodi, Oud Kindi and Oud Amber. 

"Ninety-nine percent of bakhoor is imported from Gulf countries, such as Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Oman," he added. 

Karachi's Scalpxury, a beauty salon, says it is the only place in the country offering bakhoor hair treatment. 

"Hair bakhoor are different from normal bakhoor sold in Pakistan. The fragrance and texture are slightly different and they give longevity to one’s hair," said Shehla Khan, the salon owner. 

"Conventionally and commercially, hair bakhoor are not available in the market. I get them from the Arab region." 

Khan said her business was different since it was not retailing or selling bakhoor, but using them to offer a popular variety of hair treatment. 

England's Livingstone out of Pakistan tour with knee injury

Updated 05 December 2022

England's Livingstone out of Pakistan tour with knee injury

  • The 29-year-old all-rounder made his Test debut Thursday in the ongoing first Test in Rawalpindi
  • Livingstone jarred his knee while fielding on day two and did not bowl in Pakistan's first innings 

RAWALPINDI: All-rounder Liam Livingstone has been ruled out of the rest of England's tour of Pakistan with a knee injury, the team's management said Monday. 

The 29-year-old made his Test debut Thursday in the ongoing first Test in Rawalpindi, scoring nine and seven not out in England's two innings. 

But he jarred his knee while fielding on day two and did not bowl in Pakistan's first innings. 

Livingstone also missed the Twenty20 series against Pakistan a few months ago after suffering an ankle injury. 

England have yet to decide if a replacement will be called up. 

Pakistan were chasing 343 Monday on the fifth and final day of the first Test. 

England are on their first Test tour of Pakistan since 2005, having declined to visit in the interim years on security grounds. 

The second Test is in Multan from December 9-13, and the third in Karachi from December 17-21.