With songs and sedation, experts aim to rescue Kaavan the Islamabad elephant

Amir Khalil, head of project development at FOUR PAWS International, sedates Kaavan, an elephant at the Marghazar Zoo in Islamabad on Sept. 4, 2020. (REUTERS)
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Updated 05 September 2020

With songs and sedation, experts aim to rescue Kaavan the Islamabad elephant

  • Dozens of animals including six lion cubs have died in Islamabad’s zoo in the past four years
  • A Pakistan court ruled in May that all animals at the animal sanctuary must be set free or transferred to a better environment

ISLAMABAD: The trick to calming an unhappy elephant? Sing him Frank Sinatra songs, according to one of the vets tasked with assessing whether Kaavan can be moved from poor conditions in a zoo in Pakistan’s capital to a sanctuary in Cambodia.
Amir Khalil, a vet who has worked in war zones to rescue animals, is now in Islamabad with welfare organization Four Paws to determine whether Kaavan is safe to travel after a Pakistan court ruled in May that all animals at Islamabad’s zoo must be set free or transferred to a better environment.
“When we arrived 10 days ago ... I started to train him and to sing to him and he accommodated me so we have a relationship,” he said, adding he chose Sinatra’s hit “My Way.”
Animal rights advocates have long raised concerns about conditions at Islamabad’s zoo, where dozens of animals including six lion cubs have died in the past four years.
The court decision came after a four-year global campaign, backed by American singer Cher. Plans are underway to move Kaavan, to Cambodia if possible. The 36-year-old elephant has spent most of his life in a small enclosure with meagre shelter, and the last eight years alone after his companion elephant died.
But even with Sinatra, it is no easy feat moving an elephant thousands of miles.

Four Paws experts fired darts with a sedative so they could give the sleepy animal a comprehensive checkup.
As Kaavan woke up to eat some apples, Four Paws elephant specialist Frank Goeritz analyzed his blood samples. Though it will be a few days before he files a formal report, Goeritz said despite Kaavan being obese, unhappy and having malformed nails that put him at risk of serious infection, the outlook was hopeful.
“Let’s wait until we have all the results, but so far I don’t see a big problem with him traveling ... he is facing a good life.”

Pakistan regulator denies issuing schedule for Feb. 8 national election

Updated 10 sec ago

Pakistan regulator denies issuing schedule for Feb. 8 national election

  • The statement by the Election Commission of Pakistan came after a ‘fake’ schedule circulated online 
  • ECP spokesperson voices concern over dissemination of ‘false’ information about polls by section of media 

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s election regulator on Sunday denied issuing a schedule for the upcoming national election, which are slated to be held on February 8, Pakistani state media reported. 

The statement by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) came in response to the emergence of an election schedule on social media, with an ECP spokesperson expressing concern over dissemination of “false” information about the polls by a section of local media. 

“The Election Commission of Pakistan has denounced the election schedule circulating on social media as fake,” the state-run Radio Pakistan broadcaster reported, citing an ECP spokesperson. 

“No official schedule has been issued so far.” 

The development comes days after Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Sikandar Sultan Raja said the schedule for the upcoming elections would be issued “in few days,” assuring the masses that February 8 would be the polling day. 

Elections in the South Asian country were originally expected to take place in November after Pakistan’s national and two provincial assemblies were dissolved in August before reaching the end of their tenure. 

However, the ECP decided to redraw hundreds of national and provincial constituencies based on a digital census carried out in April, before arranging the electoral contest. 

As Pakistan gears up for the elections, many analysts expect the polls to lead the South Asian country to some stability after more than a year of political turmoil, following the ouster of ex-prime minister Imran Khan in a parliamentary no-trust vote in April 2022. 

Last week, Caretaker Information Minister Murtaza Solangi also said the interim federal cabinet did not have any “second thoughts” about holding the polls on February 8. 

Azan ton helps Pakistan beat India by eight wickets in Under-19 Asia Cup

Updated 11 December 2023

Azan ton helps Pakistan beat India by eight wickets in Under-19 Asia Cup

  • Azan Awais was star of the match as his unbeaten 105 ensured Pakistan remain in control 
  • The Pakistan pace attack delivered well, with Mohammad Zeeshan picking up four wickets 

DUBAI: Pakistan on Sunday defeated India by eight wickets in the fifth game of the ongoing Asian Cricket Council (ACC) Under-19 Asia Cup in Dubai, with Azan Awais guiding his side to victory with an unbeaten century. 

Pakistan won the toss and elected to field first. Pakistan U19 cruised to the 260-run target with much ease, doing so in 47 overs and eight wickets in the bag. Despite losing opening batter Shamyl Hussain cheaply in just the fifth over, Pakistan remained in control of the chase. 

A 110-run partnership between Shahzaib Khan and Azan Awais ensured that Pakistan dominated the Indian bowling after the first wicket fell. The partnership was broken in the 28th over when Shahzaib was caught off Murugan Abhishek’s bowling, after scoring a half-century (63). 

Azan was the star of the match as his superb century (105 not out) ensured that Pakistan remain in a commanding position throughout the chase. For his extraordinary batting display, he was awarded player of the match. 

“The post-win celebrations and cherishing the moment with fans,” the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) said on X, sharing scenes from the match’s venue. 

Pakistan captain Saad Baig, replacing Shahzaib at the crease, scored an unbeaten 68. Azan and Saad put up an undefeated partnership of 125 runs to see Pakistan through. 

Earlier in the game, Indian opening batter Adarsh Singh hit 62 runs to recoup the momentum for his side, following the loss of two wickets inside the first 12 overs. 

A 93-run stand between captain Uday Saharan (60) and Singh helped restore control in the innings. 

However, when Singh fell to left-arm spinner Arafat Minhas in the 32nd over, the innings once again faltered. Pressure mounted on the Indian batting as successive wickets fell. A quick half-century by Sachin Dhas took India to a respectable total as they finished at 259-9 in 50 overs. 

The Pakistan pace attack delivered well, with right-arm quick Mohammad Zeeshan picking up four wickets. His fellow fast bowlers Amir Hassan and Ubaid Shah returned with two each as well. 

Pakistan will now face Afghanistan on December 12 at the same venue. 

UN agency warns of Afghans dying in harsh winter without proper shelter after leaving Pakistan

Updated 11 December 2023

UN agency warns of Afghans dying in harsh winter without proper shelter after leaving Pakistan

  • Almost half a million Afghans have left Pakistan since early October, when Islamabad ordered illegal foreigners to leave 
  • The majority of them are from neighboring Afghanistan, though Islamabad insists policy doesn’t target specific nationality 

KABUL: The UN refugee agency has warned that Afghans could die in harsh winter conditions if they don’t get adequate shelter once they cross the border from Pakistan. 

Almost half a million Afghans have left Pakistan since early October, when the Islamabad government announced it would arrest and deport foreigners it said were in the country illegally. The overwhelming majority of them are from neighboring Afghanistan, though Islamabad insists the policy doesn’t target a specific nationality. 

The forced returns are piling pressure on Afghanistan and aid agencies, which are providing the bulk of essential services like health care. Freezing temperatures are setting in and conditions at the border remain dire. 

“Many Afghan returnees are vulnerable, including women and children, who could lose their lives in a harsh winter if left without adequate shelter,” the UN refugee agency said in a report published Friday. “People arriving at the border are exhausted and require urgent assistance as well as psychosocial support.” 

Families told the agency they were worried that colder winter temperatures in certain areas, particularly mountainous regions, may prevent them from returning home right away. 

“Many are arriving with illness, for example bronchitis, as a result of the cold weather and the difficult journey from Pakistan,” the agency said in a message to The Associated Press on Sunday. “They may not have all their belongings, including clothing, and therefore be unable to protect themselves from the elements.” 

It said that among those returning to Afghanistan are families who have never lived in the country. They have been living in Pakistan for one or more generations and may not have homes or extended family to return to. 

Cash to pay rent is needed, while families with some existing social networks could stay with family or friends. Others may return to homes needing repair. The agency said it will provide tents to such households. 

“For those who have nowhere to go, with limited means, they may stay in camps, established near the border,” the refugee agency said. 

A Taliban committee said it is distributing food, water, SIM cards, clothing and cash at two key border crossings: Torkham and Spin Boldak. Families are also learning about Afghanistan, the Islamic system, temporary living arrangements, registration and relocation, the committee said Sunday. 

But extreme temperatures and limited access to clean water and sanitation have led to a surge in infectious diseases and malnutrition. 

UN Women said there are additional challenges for Afghan women and girls leaving Pakistan as they have to deal with Taliban restrictions that could affect their mobility and access to information and services if they don’t have a male relative. It expressed similar concerns after October’s deadly earthquakes in Afghanistan’s west. 

The agency said around 80 percent of Afghans returning through Torkham and Spin Boldak are women and children. 

In its latest report, also published Friday, it said many women have lived through “distressing experiences” in Pakistan including being the victims of illegal detention, witnessing their spouse or family members be arrested, or being separated from relatives and returning to Afghanistan alone. 

Women told UN agencies they were “compelled” to hand their possessions over in exchange for transportation, leave all their belongings behind or saw their income taken by Pakistani authorities. 

The crackdown is hugely controversial and has drawn condemnation from rights groups, the Taliban, aid agencies and the UN 

At this Karachi restaurant, foodies love to savor chapli kebabs hot off the skillet

Updated 11 December 2023

At this Karachi restaurant, foodies love to savor chapli kebabs hot off the skillet

  • Chapli kebabs are a Pashtun staple, prepared at restaurants and homes in Afghanistan, Pakistan
  • Chapli kebabs are mutton or beef patties that are fried in a generous amount of ghee or fat

KARACHI: Abdul Wahid drops a round mixture of minced meat, maize flour, and spices into a pot sizzling with hot ghee in front of him. A couple of minutes pass before his assistant flips the finished kebabs onto a plate while a waiter attends to eager customers lining up for their takeout orders at a busy restaurant in Karachi. 

This is the scene one observes almost every night during the winter season at A-One restaurant in Pakistan’s southern port city of Karachi. Located in the bustling city’s Shah Faisal Colony area, it offers chapli kebabs, a popular staple cooked at roadside stands, sit-down restaurants and homes particularly in northwestern Pakistan and Afghanistan. 

Chapli kebabs are meat patties fried with a generous helping of animal fat or oil. The kebabs are mostly made from beef and mutton and are a mix of white cumin, carom seeds, dried coriander, pomegranate seeds, salt, green chilies, and tomatoes. Though the restaurant serves several popular food items such as chicken karahi dish, biryani and fish, A-One in Karachi has gained renown for its chapli kebabs over the years. 

“It [A-One] is famous for chapli kebab, which is our primary specialty,” Wahid told Arab News, noting that over the years, additional cuisines were later introduced to the menu. 

A-One occupies a large space now but the restaurant used to be a small shop in the ‘80s when it started. 

“Our Mr. Hajji Gohar Rahman, he started with a small shop,” Gul Muhammad Khan, the restaurant’s manager, told Arab News. “First of all, [the biggest success factor] is Allah’s Grace, then his honesty, and then his hard work gave us an entire complex of Peshawari chapli kebabs.” 

The first chef of the restaurant, 95-year-old Saeed Khan, brought the popular original chapli kebab recipe from Pakistan’s northwestern Peshawar city, said Khan. 

“This is our original recipe; it’s Peshawari,” he added. 

Abdul Wahid, the current chef, said what separates A-One’s chapli kebabs from the ones offered at other eateries, is that they are made from high-quality meat. 

“We use the meat of the leg only,” Wahid told Arab News. “We use high-quality, hygienic meat, which is why the quality that we started with hasn’t changed.” 

Despite being a dish traditionally associated with Pakistan’s ethnic Pashtun community, people of various ethnicities savor chapli kebabs at the restaurant, praising its authentic taste.

“People from every community eat,” Gul Muhammad Khan, the manager, told Arab News. 

“Their friends bring them here specifically to introduce them to a new taste, and those who eat, really enjoy it.” 

Zahid Jamal, a frequent customer, selected the venue to celebrate his daughter Safiya’s birthday this weekend. 

“Today is my daughter Safiya’s birthday, so we thought about going out for dinner,” Jamal told Arab News. “We decided to go to A-One as its chapli kebabs are very famous. So, we came here and enjoyed our meal. It was very good.” 

Another regular customer, Aimen Azam, said she regularly sends an uncooked blend of kebabs to her brother in Dubai. 

“Last month, I sent some uncooked chapli kebabs to my brother in Dubai,” Azam told Arab News. “I sent him about 6kg in uncooked form last month, and he had it with his friends there.” 

Hundreds of Pakistani doctors, paramedics in Karachi march for ceasefire in Gaza

Updated 11 December 2023

Hundreds of Pakistani doctors, paramedics in Karachi march for ceasefire in Gaza

  • Hundreds of lawyers, paramedics march from Karachi’s National Stadium signal to Liaquat National Hospital
  • March attended by members of Pakistani medical associations, interim Sindh health minister, Jamaat-e-Islami leaders

KARACHI: Hundreds of Pakistani doctors and paramedics marched in the southern port city of Karachi on Sunday to protest against Israel’s war in Gaza, demanding an immediate ceasefire amid the deteriorating human rights situation in Palestine.

The march took place in Pakistan’s commercial hub as the humanitarian crisis in Gaza amid increasing Israeli hostilities in Gaza. On Sunday afternoon, the Gaza health ministry said almost 18,000 Palestinians had now been killed by the Israeli military since Oct. 7.

Pakistani journalists, rights activists and celebrities have been consistently calling for an end to Israeli bombardment in Gaza and demanding an immediate ceasefire. On Sunday evening, a large number of doctors and paramedics took out a “White Coat March” from Karachi’s National Stadium signal to Liaquat National Hospital, calling for an end to Israel’s “war crimes.”

The event, which was organized by the Karachi Medical Forum, was attended by Interim Sindh Health Minister Saad Khalid Niaz, leaders of the Jamaat-e-Islami religious party, Pakistan Medical Association (PMA), the Pakistan Islamic Medical Association (PIMA), and members of the Palestine Foundation in the country.

“Today in Karachi, thousands of doctors marched, demanding immediate end to human rights violations, bombing of civilian areas— particularly hospitals,” PIMA wrote on social media platform X.

Hundreds of doctors can be seen in several video clips on social media platforms, marching as they held up placards that read: “Where are human rights? Where is the Geneva Convention?”

Several other placards read: “Doctors, unite for Gaza.”

In a statement, the JI said its Karachi leader Hafiz Naeem ur Rehman appreciated Pakistani doctors for highlighting Israeli war crimes in Gaza.

“He [Rehman] said that by all means, Israel is an illegitimate, terrorist state whereas Hamas is fighting for the liberation of her homeland,” the statement added.

On Sunday, Pakistan’s Caretaker Prime Minister Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar said Israel’s “purposeful” targeting of Palestinians in Gaza violated all standards of human rights and was a breach of international law.

His statement came as the world marked International Human Rights Day. Pakistan does not recognize the state of Israel and calls for an independent Palestinian state based on “internationally agreed parameters” and the pre-1967 borders with Al-Quds Al-Sharif as its capital.