Pakistani businessmen raise Rs21 million on WhatsApp for virus most affected

People queue as they wait to receive charity food alongside a road during a government-imposed lockdown as a preventive measure against the COVID-19 coronavirus, in Rawalpindi on March 24, 2020. (AFP)
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Updated 25 March 2020

Pakistani businessmen raise Rs21 million on WhatsApp for virus most affected

  • All donations were made via no-touch payment transactions
  • Corporate Pakistan Group (CPG) is also going to support frontline medical staff with personal protective equipment

KARACHI: Within two days, members of a Pakistani group on WhatsApp raised Rs21 million to help the country’s most vulnerable from sinking into poverty, as many commercial activities have been shut down amid the coronavirus outbreak.
The economic impact of the epidemic has already hit millions of Pakistani families, especially those whose livelihoods are dependent on daily wage work, testing both the government’s response and society’s generosity in a time of a major public health crisis. The latter gives hope.
“Two days back I shared my intention with the group members and the response was overwhelming,” said Muhammad Azfar Ahsan, founder of Corporate Pakistan Group (CPG). “Within two days we have received more than Rs21 million pledges made by our members through WhatsApp. Our target was Rs20 million.”
“The initiative was suggested by CPG member Shamsuddin Shaikh and now other members of the group, Zafar Sobani and Saleem Ranjha are managing this initiative with him,” Ahsan added.
CPG has 256 members, including the country’s top businessmen, policy makers, security officials, and scholars. Many of them pledge further donations.
Since cash has been increasingly seen as a vehicle for coronavirus, no-touch payment tools were used for all contributions, Ahsan said, “All transactions have taken place in virtual space without any physical contact.”

Muhammad Azfar Ahsan, founder of Corporate Pakistan Group. (Supplied)

He said the money raised was not transferred to any private account, but channeled directly to three renowned charities — Akhuwat Foundation, Bait-ul-Salam, and Orange Tree Foundation (Robinhood Army). Equal distribution of the funds was managed by two chartered accountants who volunteered their time for the purpose.
Besides organizing emergency food assistance to poor families affected by the crisis, the group is also going to support frontline medical staff with personal protective equipment, as shortages of masks and protective wear in Pakistan are directly putting at risk the lives of those who are saving others from the coronavirus pandemic
“Orders have been placed for manufacturing of safety kits for doctors and paramedical staff,” Ahsan said. “The state has to play major role but we will continue to play our role with continued funding.
“The first phase is challenging, we are preparing to face the challenges,” he said, admitting that the group is planning response activities for the next couple of weeks, as the health crisis situation is unfolding.
In preparation for other crisis scenarios in the future, by the end of the year the group is going to establish a think tank, Ahsan said, “It would be Pakistan’s biggest policy institute.”

Lightning kills six Hindu pilgrims, injures nine in southern Pakistan

Updated 11 sec ago

Lightning kills six Hindu pilgrims, injures nine in southern Pakistan

  • Pilgrims were on their way to Verhi Jhap village in Tharparkar’s Diplo district when they were struck by lightning
  • Hindu monastery Parbrahm Asheram attracts large number of Hindus from Sindh, Balochistan during annual festival

ISLAMABAD: A flash of lightning killed six Hindu pilgrims and injured nine others on Sunday evening in Tharparkar district in Pakistan’s southern Sindh province, the Sindh Health Department said in a report. 

According to the Sindh government’s incidence report, the pilgrims were struck by lightning at village Sathaar near Mithi, Tharparkar’s capital, while they were on their way to Verhi Jhap village in district Diplo. Verhi Jhap is home to the famous Hindu monastery Parbrahm Ashram, where an annual festival attracts Hindus in large numbers from Pakistan’s Sindh and southwestern Balochistan provinces. 

“On Sunday, May 29, 2023 after sunset, while it was heavily raining, a group of people on pilgrimage to Verhi Jhap came under a strong flash of lightning which resulted in the on-spot death of 06 persons and injuries to 09 others,” the incidence report said. “Dead bodies and injured were brought to Civil Hospital Mithi where the state of emergency had already in place on prior information call.”

According to the report, all the deceased included males in the 16-35 age group and were residents of Mithi and Sathaar villages. All of the injured were also males in the age range of 12-40 who were residents of village Sathaar, Dharar, and Harjani in Sindh.

The government said that the situation was handled diligently by medics and paramedics at the hospital, adding that those who required critical care were admitted for treatment. 

At Pakistan army facility, breeding Arabian horses is a passion and a science

Updated 58 min 37 sec ago

At Pakistan army facility, breeding Arabian horses is a passion and a science

  • Over 600 Arabians can be found at Remount Depot Mona in Mandi Bahauddin, trained for equestrian games and dressage events
  • It is one of the most ancient breeds, with archaeological evidence of horses in Middle East that resemble modern Arabians dating back 4,500 years

MONA/MANDI BAHAUDDIN: With its long, arched neck, a refined wedge-shaped head and high tail carriage, the Arabian is one of the most easily recognizable horse breeds in the world. It is also one of the most ancient, with archaeological evidence available of horses in the Middle East that resemble modern Arabians dating back over 4,500 years.

In Pakistan, over 600 Arabians can be found at the Remount Depot Mona military facility located in Mandi Bahauddin, with the animals especially trained for equestrian games and dressage events.

Founded in 1902, the Depot is spread over 10,000 hectares of land, complete with roads, buildings, a canal and a train line, and serving as a hub for breeding and nurturing horses, donkeys and mules. Pakistan started importing Arabian horses almost 70 years ago, often placing them in competitions as prized show animals and keeping a pool as gifts for foreign dignitaries.

“Pakistan had 808 Arab horses which are registered with the World Arabian Horse Organisation (WAHO), out of which 627 animals are from Mona Depot while only 181 are from all over the country,” Brigadier Muhammad Naeem, the commandant of the Depot, told Arab News during a visit to the facility last week.

WAHO, founded in 1970, is a UK-based charity with 82 affiliated countries that works to preserve pure Arabian bloodlines, promote breeding knowledge globally, coordinate member clubs, establish uniformity in breed terminology, and consult on other Arabian horse-related matters.

But what makes the Arab horses so special?

“In the known breeds of horses, the most ancient breed that is known is the Arabian horse which originated 2,500 BC from the Arab Peninsula,” Naeem said, adding that the animals were renowned for their “exceptional beauty,” particularly when they ran and raised their tails, showing off their “elegant form.”

Even though the precise origins of the Arabian are unknown, the breed is thought to have originated on the northern edge of the Syrian desert.

“They are widely recognized as one of the most famous horse breeds in the world."

Pakistan became a member of WAHO in 1997, with Mona Remount Depot its sole representative in the country. While horse breeding at the Depot began as a passion in 1956, the depot successfully turned to science in 2021 when it launched a test tube program.

“At our facility, we have successfully witnessed the birth of 15 test tube babies thus far, with an additional 12 pregnancies currently ongoing,” he said.

The first Arab horse at the Depot was imported in 1955 from the United States and 31 others after that from different countries.

“The price of an imported Arabian horse varies from $5,000 to $50,000, depending on the quality and pedigree of the animal,” Naeem said.

“The expenses for importing also vary depending on the country of origin and whether the animal is transported in a single cage or a group cage. From Gulf states, it costs around $10,000, while from Western countries and the United States, it can cost up to $20,000.”

At the Depot, the brigadier said, the cost of breeding, raising, and training an Arabian was "significantly lower due to locally produced fodder and other factors."

“The budget of the Depot is provided by the Ministry of Defense,” Naeem said.

A pool of Arab horses, the brigadier said, was also kept to be presented as gifts by the Pakistan government and army to visiting dignitaries.

“36 animals have been presented [gifted] to different heads of states including Saudi Arabia, UAE, Qatar, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and some other countries,” Naeem said, while the King of Jordan, the ruler of Qatar, and the King of Saudi Arabia had gifted horses to Pakistani rulers also at different points in the last many decades.

“King Faisal gifted an Arabic horse to General Zia ul Haq and the Saudi King also gifted a horse to General Pervez Musharraf,” he said.

Gifts of horses to Pakistani rulers were always kept at Mona Depot, Naeem said.

According to experts, the Arabian is classified as a "hot-blooded" breed, with its sensitivity and intelligence enabling quick learning and greater communication with riders. This is why the breed is trained for equestrian games such as riding, dressage, polo, and tent pegging.

“We have horses specifically trained for show jumping and vaulting, which are used for various functions,” Naeem said.

One of Mona's Arabian horses has won the best polo pony prize in Pakistan six times, the brigadier added.

“These horses are highly responsive animals,” said Muhammad Rasaldar, a trainer at the facility who daily runs trainings with the animals that start at 6am and continue through the day. “The more love and attention they receive, the more attached and responsive they become.”

“We have a 39-week-long training course for them, during which we expose them to various environments to eliminate their fears ...They also receive training for different games throughout this course.”

Muhammad Akhtar, who trains the horses for polo, said the animals responded to every command.

“A horse is a very powerful animal,” he said, “and man can control it only by training it with a lot of love and compassion.”

Pro-Imran Khan Pakistani TV journalist returns home after being freed

Updated 30 May 2023

Pro-Imran Khan Pakistani TV journalist returns home after being freed

  • Sami Abraham went missing last week when eight people abducted him in Islamabad, his family said
  • Another pro-Khan TV journalist, Imran Riaz, went missing earlier this month, is yet to be recovered

ISLAMABAD: A prominent Pakistani television journalist who went missing last week, apparently because of his public support to former Prime Minister Imran Khan, returned home early Tuesday after being released by his captors, his family and his employer said.

Sami Abrahim’s brother, Ali Raza, took to Twitter to confirm his release. BOL TV confirmed his release in a news announcement.

Abrahim went missing Thursday when eight people in four vehicles intercepted his car on his way back home from work in the capital, Islamabad, and took him away, according to his family and BOL TV where Abrahim works.

No one had claimed responsibility for Abrahim's abduction, but it is widely believed that he was being held by the country's security agencies, which are notorious for abducting, harassing and torturing journalists.

Abrahim has long publicly opposed the government of Khan’s successor, Premier Shahbaz Sharif. Khan, a former cricket star who became an Islamist politician, was in office in 2018-2022 and was ousted in a no-confidence vote in Parliament last year.

Another pro-Khan TV journalist, Imran Riaz, went missing earlier this month and was yet to be freed.

Third Indian inmate dies in Pakistani jail in a month, raising alarm about prison conditions

Updated 30 May 2023

Third Indian inmate dies in Pakistani jail in a month, raising alarm about prison conditions

  • Indian prisoner Balo passes away in Mali prison due to health complications, confirms official
  • Indian, Pakistani prisoners languish in prisons for years for violating territorial waters mistakenly

KARACHI: An Indian fisherman named Balo passed away while being detained at the Malir prison in Pakistan’s southern port city of Karachi last week, a jail official confirmed on Monday, making it the third Indian inmate within a month who died in the same jail.

Fishermen from both India and Pakistan are frequently detained on charges of violating territorial waters of each other’s countries. Pakistan’s and India’s borders are not clearly defined in the Arabian Sea and many fishing boats lack the technology needed to be certain of their precise location. The fishermen often languish in jail even after serving their term, as poor diplomatic ties between the two arch-rivals mean fulfilling official requirements can take a long time.

Balo, son of Jetha, was arrested for crossing into Pakistan’s territorial waters, and subsequently sent to Malir prison last year. On May 22, while receiving treatment at the National Cardiovascular Diseases institute, the Indian prisoner passed away, Malir prison’s Superintendent Muhammad Arshad said.

“The body is currently being kept in Edhi cold storage,” Arshad told Arab News, adding that jail authorities were waiting for legal formalities to be completed before handing it over to his relatives.

On May 8, 50-year-old Indian fisherman Soma Deva died in the same prison after suffering from a lung and heart disease. According to jail authorities, Deva’s condition deteriorated over a period of time, adding that he was admitted to a hospital and provided treatment before he died. His death closely followed the demise of another Indian inmate Zulfiqar, who passed away in Malir prison on May 6. His death was confirmed by Faisal Edhi, chairman of the Edhi foundation, which keeps the deceased inmates’ bodies in its morgue.

Although Arshad says the hospital extends medical help to inmates inside the prison and at major hospitals, at least four Afghan nationals have also passed away during their detention in Malir prison since November 2022.

Faiz Muhammad, who arrived in Pakistan from Afghanistan to have his ailing his sister-in-law treated, passed away in Malir prison after being diagnosed with hypertension, diabetes, and depression following a severe ear infection earlier this year.

Taj Muhammad, another Afghan inmate who was detained in January 2022, died nine months later, while Afghan inmate Abdul Khalil died in December after being taken into custody in November 2022. Additionally, Wali Khan, a fourth Afghan who was arrested in November, died in late January 2023.

The alarming number of deaths have raised suspicion on how inmates are treated inside the prison and whether or not they are provided adequate treatment facilities.

IMF continues engagement with Pakistan for board meeting before current program expires at June end

Updated 30 May 2023

IMF continues engagement with Pakistan for board meeting before current program expires at June end

  • A staff-level agreement between Pakistan and the IMF remains delayed since November
  • Pakistan, desperate to shore up foreign exchange reserves, is looking to revive stalled loan

KARACHI: The International Monetary Fund (IMF) continues engagement with the Pakistani authorities to pave the way for a board meeting before the current program expires at end of June, the IMF mission chief for Pakistan said.

A staff-level agreement on the review has been delayed since November, with more than 100 days passed since the last staff level mission to Pakistan, the longest such delay since at least 2008.