Virus school closure turns aspiring financier into Islamabad’s favorite pet portraitist

A German Shepherd puppy is sitting still while Arbaz Malik is completing its portrait in Maqbool Market in F7 Islamabad on Aug. 5, 2020. (AN photo by Sib Kaifee)
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Updated 08 August 2020

Virus school closure turns aspiring financier into Islamabad’s favorite pet portraitist

  • In front of a veterinary clinic in Islamabad’s F7 sector, a 19-year-old artist set up a pet portrait studio
  • Malik began painting at a young age, but animals entered his canvas only last year, when his beloved cat went missing

ISLAMABAD: With a science certificate in his pocket, Arbaz Malik was ready for college when the coronavirus struck and shut the door of his dream school. Putting the 19-year-old’s education on hold, the pandemic has, however, opened to him a strikingly different career path: pet portraiture.

In front of a veterinary clinic at a small market in Islamabad’s F7 sector, Malik set up a tiny pop-up studio which draws attention with a rainbow sign “Paint Your Loving Pet” and furry customers waiting for their turn to be captured in paint.




Arbaz Malik, 19, setting up his pop-up studio in Maqbool Market in F7 Islamabad on Aug. 5, 2020. (AN/Sib Kaifee)

“I was very excited for school to begin, I am aiming to get a Bachelor of Business Management (BBM) degree,” he said. But as the pandemic made everything become uncertain, the current job as a pet portraitist gives him “a positive thing to look forward to every day.”

Malik’s engagement in the arts began at a young age, but until recently he was trying to master landscape and cityscape painting. Animals entered his canvas only last year, when his beloved cat Shpanty went missing.

Heartbroken, unable to find Shpanty, Malik eventually painted her portrait from a photograph. Seeing the result, his brother, Arsalan, advised him to think about turning talent into a career.




Arbaz Malik's cat Shpanty went missing in 2019. Her portrait, left, was Malik's first step into the pet portraiture business. (Photo courtesy: Arbaz Malik)

“My brother suggested that I come here to the same place we would bring our cat, and see if pet parents going in and out of the clinic might be interested in getting their pets painted,” Malik told Arab News while painting a German Shephard pup patiently sitting next to his easel.

“Three months ago, with the support of the clinic, I began my business.”

Dog, cat, bird, and even horse owners have since become Malik’s faithful and broad customer base. His paintings have already traveled across the world into homes in Canada and France with repeat customers commissioning him to paint pet portraits which they carry abroad as gifts for relatives and friends.

When his college reopens, Malik wants to attend classes full time, but says he will not give up art.

“I will always do both, even after my studies are complete,” he said, “I love painting too much.”

He also loves animals, which is what he and his customers have in common.

“Pets are so important, you love them, they are beautiful and innocent, and they really are your best friend,” Malik said, “They even help you fight off depression, because their support and love are unconditional.”


In memory of daughter, Pakistani man runs Dubai desert to raise awareness of ‘newborn screenings’

Updated 18 September 2020

In memory of daughter, Pakistani man runs Dubai desert to raise awareness of ‘newborn screenings’

  • Seven years ago, Akbar Naqvi lost his adopted daughter Zahra Beau Naqvi to an undetected metabolic disorder
  • Now he runs to raise awareness and funds for newborn screenings that test babies in their first days of life for disorders that can hinder normal development

DUBAI: A Pakistani man has run 200 kilometers through the Al-Qudra desert in Dubai last month to raise awareness about “newborn screenings,” the practice of testing babies in their first days of life for disorders that can hinder normal development.
Seven years ago, Akbar Naqvi lost his adopted daughter Zahra Beau Naqvi to an undetected metabolic disorder. Now the owner of a fintech company in Dubai runs to raise awareness, and funds, for newborn screenings so other parents and children don’t have to go through what his family did.
Last month, the 44-year-old ran 42 hours across Al-Qudra in what he described as “the ultimate test of human endurance.” He slept only two hours and only took very short breaks along the way. His run, on August 28-29, coincided with the beginning of Newborn Screening Awareness Month, internationally observed in September.

Akber Naqvi is taking a short rest during his 200-kilometer run across Al-Qudra desert in Dubai on Aug. 28, 2002. (Photo courtesy of Akber Naqvi via AN)

“I ran to raise awareness on the importance of newborn screenings,” Naqvi, who set up the ZB Foundation in Islamabad, told Arab News this week.
Newborn screening is a simple blood test taken from the heel of a child to check for autoimmune disorders.
Naqvi and his wife Danielle Wilson Naqvi realized within their daughter’s first month of life that “something was wrong with Zahra,” Naqvi said.
Doctors were initially unable to diagnose the problem but “we then got a test done and found out that Zahra suffered from a metabolic disorder called glutaric acidemia type 2, which went undiagnosed at birth due to lack of newborn screening,” Naqvi said.
“By the time we found out, it was too late.”
A month after Zahra’s passing, the Dubai-based couple received a call from Pakistan that another baby girl needed parents. They adopted her and soon Danielle also gave birth to twins — a boy and a girl.
But Zahra is continuously present in their memory, they said, inspiring them to help other children survive through the foundation set up in her name.
The ZB Foundation has an agreement with 40 hospitals across Pakistan and has to date conducted over 30,000 free screenings of newborn babies, Naqvi said. It is now coordinating with the government of Pakistan to make newborn screenings compulsory nationwide.
“In Pakistan this test is not mandatory,” Naqvi said, “so if the hospital had the capability, and which is every baby’s right, Zahra’s disorder would have been diagnosed in time.”