Memories of Hajj: Pakistani celebrities remember the pilgrimage before the pandemic 

Pakistani actor and singer Dua Malik (L), Pakistani film and television actor Feroze Khan, model and beautician Nadia Hussain and writer and poet Asma Nabeel (R).
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Updated 31 July 2020

Memories of Hajj: Pakistani celebrities remember the pilgrimage before the pandemic 

  • Thousands of Muslim celebrities go for Hajj each year before this year’s event was downsized due to COVID-19 
  • Pakistani models, actors and writers speak to Arab News about their Hajj experiences, express sadness and hope

KARACHI: As a socially distant Hajj began in Saudi Arabia this week, Pakistani celebrities recalled their experiences of performing the pilgrimage in recent years, before the coronavirus pandemic made large gatherings impossible.
Only a few thousand pilgrims who reside in Saudi Arabia are gathering this year on Mount Mercy on the plains of Arafat for Islam’s most important ritual.
“It was something I had never experienced in my life before,” said prominent film and television actor Feroze Khan, adding that he would still often feel overwhelmed by the memory of being able to perform Hajj last year.
“I have a firm belief that if a person reaches that holy place just in the obedience of his creator, then he or she must get some reward in return,” Khan said. “I had a feeling that an invisible dead layer was peeled off from my heart … to make it much lighter.”
Famous model and beautician Nadia Hussain, who went for Hajj three years ago, said she was relieved when she heard that a ‘limited’ Hajj would be held this year, rather than the event being canceled entirely.
Though Hussain and her family booked the luxurious executive Hajj package, on the day of the pilgrimage, they decided at Arafat to experience the “hardship”of the blistering sun among the crowds.
“So we [Husain and her husband] both came out of our air-conditioned tent and walked to Masjid Nimra to listen to the sermon,” the model said. “Though in Arabic, and very little that we could understand, the experience to be there in the heat with thousands of others was an exhilarating one, which I would always remember.”
Pakistani actor and singer Dua Malik, who went to Hajj with her husband in 2017, said Hajj taught her how to coexist with others: “You have a very little space left for yourself to adjust to ... while not disturbing others around you.”
That lesson, Malik says, led her to continue her education and become a professional psychotherapist.
Renowned writer and poet Asma Nabeel, a cancer survivor, went for Hajj soon after her recovery began.
“What we used to hear about the hardship of the pilgrimage proved to be true when I myself was there three years back,” Nabeel said, recalling how she nearly fainted due to dehydration while sitting in the scorching heat at Arafat with her mother and aunt.
“After the incident, I really was afraid whether I would be able to do the remaining rituals,” she said, “But suddenly the rain started pouring and the weather became cooler.”

Pakistan’s new shipping policy to reduce $5 bln freight bill through localization of vessels

Updated 2 min 24 sec ago

Pakistan’s new shipping policy to reduce $5 bln freight bill through localization of vessels

  • The policy offers tax incentives, low-cost financing to revive the country’s shipping industry
  • Private companies demand open competition for import of petroleum cargo instead of monopolizing it through state-owned corporation

KARACHI: Pakistan’s new shipping policy aims to reduce $5 billion freight bill that the country pays to foreign companies to transport import and export cargoes, officials announced on Friday. 

Federal Minister for Maritime Affairs Ali Haider Zaidi and Adviser to Prime Minister on Commerce and Investment Abdul Razak Dawood unveiled the amended shipping policy in Islamabad that offers incentives to the country’s own vessels by provided them “priority berthing at all Pakistani ports.” 

“This is business-friendly policy,” Zaidi said, adding that it would reduce the freight bill Pakistan paid annually. 

The country nationalized its industries in the 1970s, including the shipping industry by merging all companies with the Pakistan National Shipping Corporation (PNSC). Experts believe that the industry could not be revived after that policy decision. 

“This industry is vital since it operates during emergencies and high risk situation as well as peace time. As we rely on international shipping lines for our trade, we lose foreign exchange which can be saved if we develop our own local shipping industry,” said Zaidi. “It is the need of the hour to revive this industry since we lag way behind our regional competitors like Bangladesh.” 

Abdul Razak Dawood, Pakistan’s de facto commerce minister, hoped that local entrepreneurs would view this as an opportunity and benefit from it. 

“The State Bank of Pakistan will extend loans at three percent markup rate for buying vessels and registering them in the country,” Mahmood Maulvi, adviser to the Ministry of Maritime Affairs, told Arab News. “Refinance will be allowed for purchase of ships and vessels.” 

Under the policy, new shipping companies would be exempted from federal taxes until 2030. 

“No federal taxes (direct and indirect) shall be levied to the detriment of Pakistan Resident Ship Owning companies during the exemption period,” the policy document seen by Arab News read. 

However, the transportation of hydrocarbon cargoes will be the sole responsibility of PNSC. 

The shipping sector stakeholders termed the policy as a “good initiative” and called for its implementation in letter and spirit. 

“It is good that the government has realized that Pakistan pays $5 billion of freight bill to foreign shipping companies,” Aasim Siddiqui, chairman of All Pakistan Shipping Association (APSA) told Arab News. “Our association has been lobbying for the last three years for incentives to be given to private sector since we have the potential to create more employment opportunities by attracting the cargo that is transported by foreign vessels.” 

“But it is not enough to release a focused policy,” he continued. “We also need a robust legal framework for its implementation since an oversight of these incentives is also needed. Besides, it is very important to monitor the policy in consultation with the stakeholders.” 

He demanded that instead of monopolizing the import of petroleum products through the PNSC, the government should invite bids from the private sector. 

“Maybe private companies can give you better rates than the PNSC,” he added.