Indian cricketers face backlash for supporting Pakistan virus fund

In this file photo, Indian bowler Harbhajan Singh, left, celebrates the wicket of unseen West Indies batsman Kieron Pollard with Yuvraj Singh during the Cricket World Cup match in Chennai on March 20, 2011. (AFP)
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Updated 01 April 2020

Indian cricketers face backlash for supporting Pakistan virus fund

  • Former Pakistan captain Afridi's appeal for donations to help people affected by the deadly virus
  • Two countries are bitter rivals and the move touched a raw nerve in India

NEW DELHI: Indian cricketers Yuvraj Singh and Harbhajan Singh have unleashed a social media storm by backing former Pakistan captain Shahid Afridi's foundation in its fight against the coronavirus pandemic.
The two countries are bitter rivals and the move touched a raw nerve in India.
Afridi's appeal for donations to help people affected by the deadly virus in Pakistan has had overwhelming support from leading cricketers.
Harbhajan urged people to contribute in a video message, and called on other cricketers in the two countries to make similar appeals.
"These are testing times, it's time to look out for each other," Yuvraj wrote on Twitter in a call for funds.
While Afridi thanked the two, Indian Twitter users reacted with fury at the support for a rival player who has been a vocal critic of India's handling of the Kashmir dispute.
"Do you have any sense?" wrote one Twitter user. "Lost respect" for Harbhajan Singh, added another. "Sorry guys you lost it."
India and Pakistan have not played a bilateral cricket series since 2012-2013 and have seen a new peak in tensions over Kashmir, which has been at the centre of two wars between the neighbours since 1947.
Kashmir has been divided between the two since their independence seven decades ago and India frequently accuses Pakistan of organising "terrorism" on its side of the border.
World Cup-winning batsman Yuvraj, who made a return from cancer before finally retiring last year, has also raised money to fight coronavirus through his 'YouWeCan' foundation.
India, which has been under a 21-day lockdown since March 24, has so far confirmed more than 1,600 coronavirus cases and 38 deaths.


Queen Elizabeth honors two Pakistani friends with ‘Points of Light Award’

Updated 07 June 2020

Queen Elizabeth honors two Pakistani friends with ‘Points of Light Award’

  • Recognizes voluntary efforts made by their social enterprise for a “hunger-free Pakistan“
  • Rizq includes a network of over 3,000 volunteers who distribute free meals to the needy

ISLAMABAD: UK’s Queen Elizabeth II has honored two Pakistani friends with the Commonwealth Points of Light Award, for their efforts to provide free meals to local communities during the coronavirus outbreak in the country, a statement released by the British High Commission in Islamabad said on Saturday.

In this undated photo, volunteers from a Pakistan-based social enterprise, Rizq, get ready to distribute free meals on their motorbikes. (Photo courtesy: British High Commission in Islamabad)

“The award to Huzaifa Ahmed and Syed Hassaan Irfan recognized their work for providing food security to local communities, especially during the coronavirus pandemic,” excerpts from the statement read, sharing details of a phone call between British High Commissioner Dr. Christian Turner and the Queen.
It added that during the coronavirus pandemic in Ramadan, they “mobilized a network of over 3,000 volunteers to distribute over 2.2 million meals across 23 cities.”
Rizq (sustenance) was launched in Pakistan, in 2015, as part of Ahmed and Irfan’s university project to ensure a “hunger-free Pakistan” by distributing “excess food to the most vulnerable.”
Humbled by the recognition of their efforts, Ahmed, who is the co-founder and CEO of Rizq, said he wanted to dedicate the award “to our amazing volunteers and heroes.”

Volunteers from a Pakistan-based social enterprise, Rizq, distributed more than 2.2 million meals across 23 cities during Ramadan, to facilitate people dealing with the coronavirus outbreak in the country. (Photo courtesy: British High Commission in Islamabad)

“Food is a fundamental need. For every human to reach his or her true potential, it is important for this basic right to be accessible, affordable and available. I want to thank the Commonwealth for recognizing our efforts and honoring us with this award,” he said.
Irfan, for his part, said that the award was a tribute to “the people of Pakistan, the work of volunteers in Pakistan, and “our strong tradition of helping each other.”
“We have more food than ever before yet more people than ever go hungry every day. We all have an individual responsibility to eliminate hunger – no one should go without a daily meal,” Irfan, Executive Director, Rizq, added.
With its head office in Lahore, Rizq’s “Hunger-Free Pakistan” initiative is facilitated by several notable organizations and charitable foundations.
According to details shared by the organization on its website, Rizq also distributes food rations and lunch boxes for needy school children and runs a campaign against food wastage.
Dr. Turner said it was an “honor to hear Her Majesty recognize Rizq’s remarkable work to tackle food insecurity.” 
“Moments like this are examples of the profoundly positive relations between the UK, Pakistan and Commonwealth,” she said, adding that the phone call also marked the National Volunteering Week in the UK – an annual event to celebrate the “power and contribution of volunteering.”
Launched in April 2018, to coincide with the UK hosting the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, in London, the Commonwealth Points of Light award recognizes outstanding individual volunteers for making a difference in their communities.