'No chance' of India-Pakistan series under Modi government, Shahid Afridi says

Pakistani cricket star Shahid Afridi talks to Arab News at his home in Karachi on Wednesday, Sept. 23, 2020. (AN photo)
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Updated 27 September 2020

'No chance' of India-Pakistan series under Modi government, Shahid Afridi says

  • Former Pakistani skipper says Pakistani players missing ‘big opportunity’ by not playing in Indian Premier League
  • “Love is love, I have always appreciated the love and respect I have gotten from the people of India,” Afridi says

KARACHI: Pakistani all-rounder and former skipper Shahid Khan Afridi has said there was ‘no chance’ of reviving cricketing ties with India as long as Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi was in power.
Strained relations between the two nations, who were one before the partition of British India split them into India and Pakistan in 1947, and a decades-long dispute over the Himalayan valley of Kashmir, has laid the foundations of one of the most intense sports rivalries in the world.
Ties have been especially strained over the last year when Modi’s government stripped the autonomy of Kashmir, which both nations rule in part but claim in full.
Pakistan and Indian have not played a bilateral Test series since 2008 when already brittle ties were shattered by the Mumbai attacks.
“The government of Pakistan is always ready but with the present regime [in India] there are no such chances of [resuming] cricket relations, of [Pakistan-India] series,” Afridi told Arab News in a wide-ranging interview at his home in Karachi this week. “With Modi in power, I don’t see it’s going to happen.”

Both India and Pakistan are crazy about cricket and emotions and adrenaline run high whenever the two sides play each other, usually in packed stadiums resounding with jingoistic slogans.
New Delhi and Islamabad have in the past used cricket matches to try to make progress on issues that have dogged relations since 1947, especially over the fate of the Kashmir region.
In 1987, then-Pakistan President general Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq visited India to watch a cricket match but the event was also used to defuse a crisis over troop build-ups on one of the world’s most militarised borders, and the Pakistani leader met Indian prime minister of the day, Rajiv Gandhi.
In 2005, Pakistan’s then-military ruler Pervez Musharraf visited India to watch a cricket match, but the trip also became a summit with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and the two leaders agreed to open up the Kashmir border.
Afridi agreed that sports could play an important role in improving relations between the two countries, especially since cricket was like a “religion” for the people of India and Pakistan: “So, I think that sports are a thing which can help improve ties.”
Commenting on the 2020 Indian Premier League, which was originally scheduled to begin in March in India but is being held in the United Arab Emirates due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Afridi said Pakistani players were missing a “big opportunity” by not being part of the tournament.
“I know that IPL is a very big brand in the world of cricket and it is an excellent opportunity for, whether it’s Babar Azam, or many other Pakistani players to go there [to India] and play under pressure and share dressing rooms,” the Pakistani cricketer said. “So in my opinion Pakistani players are missing a big opportunity.”
Asked if he stood by an earlier statement that he was more loved in India than in Pakistan, Afridi said: “If their love is true, no one can take it away, no matter whose government it is.”
“Love is love,” the cricketer said. “No doubt, the way I have enjoyed cricket in India; I have always appreciated the love and respect that I have gotten from the people of India. And now when I speak on social media, I get many messages from India and I reply to many people. I believe that my overall experience of India has been excellent.”




Pakistani cricket star Shahid Afridi talks to Arab News at his home in Karachi on Wednesday, Sept. 23, 2020. (AN photo) 

Speaking about the government of Prime Minister Imran Khan, Afridi said Khan had been an exemplary cricketer who led Pakistan to world cup victory in 1992, but as prime minister one should not expect him to change decades of problems in a few years.
“It’s the time to fulfill the promises he [Khan] had made before elections,” he said. “This is a great opportunity; army is with you, judiciary is there. All are on one page.”
Khan has a favorable “ground and pitch” to achieve success, Afridi said, adding that the PM needed a stronger team to help him win.
“Imran bhai will have to play [with a] strong team, [he] will have to take honest and clean people along with him,” he said. “The people who we see around Imran bhai should work for this country so a time may not come when Imran bhai is all alone.”

Speaking about punishing culprits in the recent case of a woman who was gang-raped on a major highway this month in front of her children, Afridi said: “Don’t hang them publicly. Hang them [while] hiding [from people] but do hang them and set an example, and do it immediately.”

 

 

 

The 40-year-old cricketer is also well-known for his philanthropic work across Pakistan and has formerly worked with UNICEF and a number of national organizations. He told Arab News his parents were his “inspiration” for starting charity work and setting up the Shahid Afridi Foundation, which aims to provide education, health care, access to water and sports rehabilitation in Pakistan’s underprivileged communities.
Afridi has established hospitals in his hometown of Tirah in Khyber district as well as Kohat. His foundation has distributed ration among 40,000 families across Pakistan and offers free education to deserving students in 14 schools across Pakistan. It also gives scholarships to 10 students from the tribal areas each year.
Afridi has launched 200 water projects in the tribal districts and the parched Tharparkar region in Sindh and also helped repatriate over 250 Pakistanis who were stranded in the Middle East due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“We will have to educate these children,” he said, referring to Pakistan’s tribal areas. “I hope [cricket] academies will reach these areas.”


Pakistani rupee hits new all-time low against greenback

Updated 11 sec ago

Pakistani rupee hits new all-time low against greenback

  • US dollar closed at Rs176.20 on Monday despite clearance of Saudi deposits
  • Pakistani currency has lost 15.7 percent of its value since May this year

KARACHI: Pakistan’s national currency continued to lose its value against the US dollar and hit a new all-time low as the greenback closed at Rs176.20 on Monday. 
The rupee has lost its value by 15.7 percent, or more than Rs24, since May this year, when the dollar was trading at around Rs152. 
While analysts believe the rupee is weakening against the greenback due to a high demand for imports and an expectation of higher import bills for November 2021, currency dealers say the reasons for rupee’s depreciation were not clear, despite a decline in oil prices and the clearance of a Saudi financial package.
Pakistan and Saudi Arabia on Monday formally signed an agreement under which the Saudi Fund for Development (SFD) will deposit $3 billion in the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP). 
In October, SFD announced a financial package of $4.2 billion to help the South Asian nation as it struggled with depleting foreign reserves. The package includes suppling $1.2 billion worth of oil to Pakistan on credit. 
“The demand of dollar for imports is exerting pressure on Pakistani rupee besides it is expected that November import bill will be higher as well,” said Samiullah Tariq, research director at the Pakistan Kuwait Investment Company (PKIC). 
Tariq said the flow of Saudi dollars into Pakistan would improve market sentiment despite an expected high demand for dollar for imports. 
“The Saudi deposits will improve the sentiment of the market,” he said. “The deposit will increase the import coverage of the country for three months.” 
But Zafar Paracha, general secretary of the Exchange Companies Association of Pakistan (ECAP), said analysts were unable to comprehend why the dollar was appreciating in the interbank market, despite the clearance of the Saudi deposit facility and around 10 percent decline in oil prices. 
On Monday, the rupee appreciated in the open market and the US dollar traded at Rs177.80 for selling and Rs177.30 for buying. The greenback traded at Rs179 for selling and Rs178 for buying the previous day.  
“There is more supply of dollar than the demand in the open market,” Paracha said, explaining the rupee’s appreciation. 
Pakistan’s equity market jubilated over the clearance of the Saudi deposit facility, with the benchmark KSE 100 index gaining 1215.89 points on Monday. 
“Stocks closed record higher after reports that federal cabinet approved terms of $4.2 billion Saudi package,” Ahsan Mehanti, chief executive of Arif Habib Corporation said. “Strong economic outlook ahead of release of IMF tranche and surging exports, remittances and global crude oil prices played a catalyst role in the bullish close.” 


Pakistan mob sets fire to police station over alleged Quran desecration 

Updated 29 November 2021

Pakistan mob sets fire to police station over alleged Quran desecration 

  • Crowd of up to 5,000 people surrounded police station in Charsadda town on Sunday night
  • On Monday morning, 2,000 people remained outside police station burning uniforms of officers

PESHAWAR: Thousands of people mobbed a Pakistani police station, setting fire to it and nearby checkposts after demanding that officers hand over a man accused of burning the Quran, police said Monday.
The crowd of up to 5,000 people surrounded the police station in Charsadda town in northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province on Sunday night, also setting fire to more than 30 cars.
On Monday morning, around 2,000 people remained outside the police station burning uniforms of officers.
"The mob stormed the police station asking to hand over the man to them so they could burn him alive like he burnt the Holy Quran," district police chief, Asif Bahadur told AFP.
The identity and religion of the accused has not been disclosed by police, Bahadur said.
"The motive behind burning the copy of the Holy Quran is still unknown but we are investigating."
Blasphemy is a hugely sensitive issue in Muslim-majority Pakistan, where even unproven allegations can stir mobs and violence.
Rights groups say the legislation is often hijacked for personal vendettas, with minorities largely the target.
A Christian couple was lynched then burnt in a kiln in Punjab in 2014 after being falsely accused of desecrating the Quran. A former Punjab governor Salman Taseer was gunned down by his bodyguard, Mumtaz Qadri, in Islamabad in 2011 over his call for reforms of the blasphemy law.
Asia Bibi, a Pakistani Christian woman and a labourer from central Punjab province, was convicted of blasphemy in 2010 and was on death row until her acquittal in 2018, which prompted days of violent demonstrations by hardliners. She and her family later fled the country for Canada.
The country has frequently been paralysed in recent years by anti-blasphemy protests waged by the Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan party, often linked to the publishing of cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammed (peace be upon him) by a French satirical magazine. 


Islamabad, Saudi Arabia sign agreement on $3 billion deposit in Pakistani central bank

Updated 29 November 2021

Islamabad, Saudi Arabia sign agreement on $3 billion deposit in Pakistani central bank

  • State Bank of Pakistan says funds will help support country’s foreign currency reserves
  • In October, Saudi Fund for Development announced financial package of $4.2 billion for Pakistan

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, represented by the Saudi Fund for Development (SFD), on Monday formally signed an agreement under which SFD will deposit $3 billion in the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP). 
In October, SFD announced a financial package of $4.2 billion to help the South Asian nation as it struggled with depleting foreign reserves. The amount includes suppling $1.2 billion worth of oil to Pakistan on credit. 
A deposit agreement was signed in Karachi by SFD Chief Executive Officer Sultan Bin AbdulRahman Al-Marshad and SBP Governor Dr. Reza Baqir, the SBP said in a statement on Monday.


“The deposit amount under the agreement shall become part of SBP’s Foreign Exchange Reserves. It will help support Pakistan’s foreign currency reserves and contribute toward resolving the adverse effects of the COVID-19 pandemic,” the statement said. 
Pakistan and Saudi Arabia enjoy deep-rooted strategic ties. Around 2.5 million Pakistani expats are living in the kingdom, and are the biggest single source of foreign remittances to the South Asian nation. 
Saudi Arabia also supported Pakistan in 2019 with $3 billion deposits and a $1.2 billion deferred oil payments facility. 
“The deposit agreement reflects the strong and special relationship and will augment economic ties between the two brotherly countries,” the SBP said.


At Pakistan Pavilion at Expo Dubai, a night to promote tolerance, inclusivity

Updated 29 November 2021

At Pakistan Pavilion at Expo Dubai, a night to promote tolerance, inclusivity

  • Acclaimed motivational speaker Muniba Mazari shares Jubilee Stage with singer and actor Meesha Shafi
  • Speakers urge people to cherish individuals who are differently-abled, unique in their own way

DUBAI: The Pakistan Pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai on Sunday organized an evening of music and inspiration where speakers and musicians highlighted and celebrated tolerance, inclusivity and equality.
Exhibitors from almost 200 countries, including Pakistan, are participating, with many countries and companies looking to the expo — the first major global event open to visitors since the coronavirus pandemic — to boost trade and investment.
The Pakistan pavilion was officially inaugurated by President Dr. Arif Alvi on October 9. The Expo itself commenced on October 1 and will last till March 31, 2022. 
On Sunday, acclaimed motivational speaker Muniba Mazari shared the Jubilee Stage, one of the main event platforms at the exhibition, with singer and actor Meesha Shafi at an evening themed ‘Pakistan — Connected through Diversity.’ 
Speaking to the audience, Mazari said the world celebrated sameness and labelled those who were ‘different,’ which needed to change. 
“What about the people who don’t look alike? Those who look different, unique and want to see the world as they want to see it, people who think out of the box, those people are labelled crippled, handicapped, disabled,” she said. “Tonight, let us change this narrative and replace these negative labels with positive words like courageous and resilient.” 

Muniba Mazari, an acclaimed motivational speaker, speaks on inclusivity and equality at an event organized by the Pakistan Pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, on November 28, 2021. (AN Photo courtesy Pakistan Pavilion)

Mazari, who is wheelchair bound since an accident crushed her backbone 13 years ago, said while recuperating in hospital for over two months, she made life-changing decisions to give back to society, started painting and adopted her son, Neil, who is now 10. 
“I decided to accept myself as I was and move on and move forward in life,” said Mazari, who delivers motivational talks around the country and beyond, and showcases her paintings globally. She was Pakistan’s first UN goodwill ambassador and named in Forbes 30 under 30, BBC’s Top 100 Women and many other global lists.
“Tonight, I am going to dedicate all these titles to all those people in the world who are unique and who are differently-abled,” she said. 
The event was also attended by young upcoming singer Maria Unera, who rocked the stage with her powerful voice while paying tribute to her mother whom she lost to cancer. 
Meesha Shafi delivered a surprise performance with Mazari and Unera as a closing to the event.
“Pakistan has a lot of reasons to be proud of at the Expo because the pavilion is very impressive,” Shafi said. “It was not just a show but there was an intention behind it and I was really glad to be part of it.” 

Singer and actor Meesha Shafi performs at an event organized by Pakistan Pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, on November 28, 2021. (AN Photo courtesy Pakistan Pavilion)

 


‘Impossible’ to stop Omicron variant from entering Pakistan – planning minister

Updated 29 November 2021

‘Impossible’ to stop Omicron variant from entering Pakistan – planning minister

  • Pakistan to increase testing in high risk areas, launch booster shot program for high-risk segments of population
  • Detection of Omicron has triggered global alarm as governments world over scrambled to impose new travel curbs

ISLAMABAD: Planning Minister Asad Umar, who also heads the national pandemic response body, the NCOC, said on Monday it was “impossible” for Pakistan to block the Omicron coronavirus variant from entering the country and the only protection against it was to increase vaccinations.
The detection of Omicron has triggered global alarm as governments around the world scrambled to impose new travel curbs and financial markets sold-off, fearing the variant could resist vaccinations and upend a nascent economic reopening after a two-year global pandemic.
In its statement, the WHO said it was working with technical experts to understand the potential impact of the variant on existing countermeasures against COVID-19, including vaccines.
Addressing a press conference alongside Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Health, Dr Faisal Sultan, Umar stressed the need for citizens to get vaccinated, saying the government would take new measures to protect against the Omicron variant. These include increased testing in high risk areas, and the launch of a booster shot program for high-risk segments of the population such as the elderly and the immunocompromised.
On Saturday, Pakistan banned travel from six South African countries and Hong Kong following the emergence of the new coronavirus variant.
“We can take measures to delay the entry into Pakistan of this variant, we can reduce its numbers, but it will spread all around the world,” Umar said. “As we saw before, once a new variant comes, the world is so interconnected, there is so much travel, that it is impossible to stop it. So what is the solution, what is in our hands? The answer is vaccination.”
“This is a very dangerous variant but vaccination will still be effective against it,” the minister said. "So it is my appeal to Pakistanis, particularly those who've gotten one dose, to get the second dose.”
"This variant will come to Pakistan, and we have the next 2-3 weeks to reduce its threat,” Umar added.
The Omicron variant spread around the world last week, with new cases found in the Netherlands, Denmark and Australia even as more countries imposed travel restrictions to try to seal themselves off.
WHO has said it was not yet clear whether Omicron, first detected in Southern Africa, is more transmissible than other variants, or if it causes more severe disease.