Mid-Eastern eateries add to Eid spreads in Islamabad

Abu Amir, a Syrian Shawarma maker is busy cutting fresh slices of meat for parcels at his food kiosk in F-10 area of Islamabad on May 20, 2020. (AN photo)
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Updated 26 May 2020

Mid-Eastern eateries add to Eid spreads in Islamabad

  • Owners say home delivery orders in the capital increased by more than 20 percent in Ramadan
  • All checks in place to ensure anti-virus measures are being followed, restaurants say

ISLAMABAD: Despite countrywide lockdowns closing the doors to some of Islamabad's most sought-after restaurants, Arab cuisine has remained a staple during Ramadan and as Eid meals for the capital’s food lovers, restaurant owners said.

Employees at Arz Lebanon restaurant in Islamabad enter the restaurant after going through disinfectant spray and temperature scanning on May 20, 2020. (AN photo)

Many Middle Eastern eateries have been staying afloat by delivering food to people’s doorsteps as government-imposed restrictions stop people from gathering in enclosed spaces like restaurants.
With a dedicated delivery service, Arz Lebanon, a medium-sized joint in Islamabad’s upscale Jinnah Super Market has been busy catering to a growing roster of home delivery orders with an exclusive Iftar menu which includes over 12 different dishes.

Staff of Arz Lebanon restaurant in Islamabad is preparing food parcels for home delivery on May 20, 2020. (AN photo)

“We have made Ramadan package this year with a small menu of 12 Arab dishes,” Sheikh Abdul Rauf, the chief chef of Arz Lebanon told Arab News.
“Our famous dishes include mix Arab barbeque, hummus, fatosh, tabbouleh, cheese manakish and harbora,” he added, hinting at the popular cravings of Islamabad’s food lovers.

Staff of Arz Lebanon restaurant in Islamabad are taking order for takeaway delivery on May 20, 2020. (AN photo)

He said a lot of regular customers, both Arabs and Pakistanis, had been calling and requesting meals from Arz Lebanon during Ramadan and on Eid.
The restaurant is among a list of eateries that remained closed for almost a month and a half of lockdowns. Quite a few still remain closed including popular attractions like Serai Bistro situated in the capital’s diplomatic enclave – serving Lebanese, Mediterranean and Middle Eastern food – as well as the ever popular Iranian food joint, Omar Khayyam.

An employee of Arz Lebanon restaurant in Islamabad delivers a takeaway order to a customer on May 20, 2020. The restaurant does not allow customers inside the dining space. (AN photo)

“Before COVID-19, the staff at my restaurant was 45 [people]. Now I am working with only seven employees to maintain social distancing,” Rauf said, and added that disinfectant spray was used on the entire staff before commencing work and their body temperatures checked through a thermal scanner several times in a single day.
“We are serving only takeaways and home delivery orders. I am getting around 70 delivery orders daily which is 20 percent more than usual days,” Rauf said.
“Most of my Arab customers order home delivery these days. We have three vans for this purpose,” he added.

Abu Amir, a Syrian Shawarma maker is busy cutting fresh slices of meat for parcels at his food kiosk in F-10 area of Islamabad on May 20, 2020. (AN photo)

Another big attraction for the residents of the city is the Syrian ‘Shawarma Guy’ located in the F-10 Markaz area-- with shawarmas prepared in authentic Arab style by Abu Amir aka Adnan who came to Pakistan in 2011 after fleeing the complex civil war in his homeland.
“My major dish is shawarma and sheesh taouq while in Ramadan I also started serving basbousa, kunafa and baklava,” Amir told Arab News.

A man at Arz Lebanon restaurant in Islamabad grills kebabs for food parcels on May 20, 2020. (AN photo)

Amir said the pandemic had adversely affected his business but that home delivery had exponentially increased during Ramadan.
“I used to sell around 450 shawarmas daily before the pandemic but now the number has reduced. On the other hand, requests for home deliveries increased from around 30 orders earlier to approximately 100 nowadays,” he said.
Another home delivery option in the same area is Al-Beirut Kitchen which provides only home delivery services for Lebanese and Arab food. 
“We are providing home delivery only and that also by ensuring all precautions. Our customers are very loyal as we are delivering for the past two decades in Islamabad,” Ahmad Shabbir, the restaurant manager told Arab News. 
“Business got better in the second half of Ramadan after re-opening of markets,” he added.

Use of contraceptives to bring down Pakistan's population growth rate to 1.1% – official

Updated 08 July 2020

Use of contraceptives to bring down Pakistan's population growth rate to 1.1% – official

  • More than five million babies are born in the country every year
  • Pakistan also plans to reduce maternal mortality rate from 170 to less than 70 per 100,000 live births by 2030

KARACHI: Pakistan plans to encourage the use of contraceptives to bring down its current population growth rate from 2.4 percent to 1.1 percent by 2030, a senior official told Arab News on Tuesday.
The country has developed a National Action Plan (NAP) to implement the recommendations of the Council of Common Interests (CCI) approved in 2018 to address the challenge of population growth.
“The plan consists of various components, such as population fund, legislation, curriculum and trainings, and talking to ulema [or religious scholars],” Dr. Shahid Hanif, Director General of the Population Program Wing (PPW), said.
It also seeks to increase the present contraceptive prevalence rate (CPR) of 34 percent to 50 percent by 2025 and 60 percent by 2030 to lower the existing average population growth rate of 2.4 percent to 1.5 percent by 2025 and to 1.1 percent by 2030. Officials say they hope to achieve these targets by reducing the present fertility rate of 3.6 births per woman to 2.8 births by 2025 and 2.2 births per woman by 2030.
At the current rate, the annual population grows by an average of more than five million newborn babies per year. After the growth rate is brought down to 1.1 percent, however, the average addition would be down to 2.3 million on an annual basis, keeping in view the country’s current population of 211.17 million.
The country’s federal and provincial administrations are taking steps to ensure universal access to family planning and reproductive health care services. The federal government wants to create a five-year non-lapsable special fund to reduce the population growth rate with an annual allocation of Rs 10 billion. The fund will be set up exclusively from federal resources without any cut from the provincial funds, according to the latest Economic Survey of Pakistan.
“Provinces have been given funding for more lady health workers and commodities [contraceptives] since the federal government will provide a matching grant to them,” Hanif said
One of the functions of the Population Program Wing is to ensure contraceptive commodity security, supply chain management and warehousing of contraceptives for provincial and regional population welfare departments.
A Contraceptives Commodity Security Working Group (CCSWG) has also been established to ensure the availability of birth control commodities, their timely procurement, pooled distribution, stock assessment and data availability etc
“With a manageable population, we will be able to utilize our resources more effectively for the welfare of people and our national economy. This is important since about two-third of Pakistan’s population is below the age of 20. These people need education, health and other facilities. If these individuals don’t get basic necessities, the country may witness huge social disruption in the future,” Hanif added.
However, he categorically ruled out that the country was considering “one child” policy, saying “it was never discussed nor thought about.”
The reduction of maternal mortality rate from 170 to less than 70 per 100,000 live births by 2030 is also among the objectives of the plan.