Ready to mentor Saudi cricketers on the kingdom’s request — Shahid Afridi

Shahid Afridi during an exclusive interview with Arab News in Karachi on Sept 24 2020. (AN Photo)
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Updated 28 September 2020

Ready to mentor Saudi cricketers on the kingdom’s request — Shahid Afridi

  • Says cricket would be hugely popular in Saudi Arabia given that it is home to millions of Pakistani expats
  • Pakistani minister said this week Islamabad working on “practical steps” to promote cricket in Saudi Arabia 

KARACHI: Pakistani all-rounder and former skipper Shahid Khan Afridi has said he is ready to mentor Saudi cricketers if the kingdom seeks his help.
The comments come in the wake of a meeting between the ambassador of Saudi Arabia to Pakistan, Nawaf bin Said Al-Malki, and Pakistan’s Minister for Inter-Provincial Coordination, Dr. Fehmida Mirza, this month in which they discussed cooperation in the field of sports, with a focus on cricket.
“If I get a request [to train Saudi cricketers] I will definitely go as this is our own county and the people are our own,” Afridi said in an interview with Arab News at his home in Karachi this week.
The 40-year-old cricketer, fondly known as Boom Boom, captained the national team between 2009 and 2011, before retiring from international cricket in 2017. He is well-known for his philanthropic work across Pakistan and has formerly worked with UNICEF and a number of national organizations.
“I have been to Saudi Arabia previously,” he said, detailing his many trips to the Kingdom. “In my opinion there should be cricket [in Saudi Arabia]. There is our [Pakistani] community, which also likes to play cricket,” he said, referring to three million Pakistani expats who reside in the kingdom.
Pakistani minister Mirza said this week that Pakistan was working on “practical steps” to collaborate with Saudi Arabia to promote sports in the Kingdom, particularly cricket.
“I believe in sports diplomacy,” Mirza told Arab News in an interview on Monday. “The matter [of cooperation in cricket] has been taken with Ehsan Mani, chairman, Pakistan Cricket Board. We are working on practical steps to collaborate in promotion of sports, especially cricket.”
According to a statement issued by Mirza’s office, during her meeting with the Saudi ambassador last week, he said cricket was becoming popular in Saudi Arabia because of the Pakistan cricket team, which had a following in the country.
“We want to utilize Pakistan’s rich experience in the field of cricket and promote it in Saudi Arabia,” Al-Malki was quoted in the statement as saying.


Latest audio leak of ex-PM Khan sheds new light on Pakistani political intrigues

Updated 38 min 6 sec ago

Latest audio leak of ex-PM Khan sheds new light on Pakistani political intrigues

  • Leak puts spotlight again on diplomatic cipher at center of Khan’s allegations his ouster was part of regime change conspiracy
  • Khan was ousted in vote of no-confidence in April which he blamed, and continues to blame, on a US conspiracy 

ISLAMABAD: A latest audio leak from the Prime Minister’s Office on Wednesday has shed new light on Pakistan’s political intrigues, once again bringing into the spotlight a diplomatic cipher that is at the center of ex-premier Imran Khan’s allegations that his ouster earlier this year was part of a regime change conspiracy hatched abroad.

In April, the Khan government handed an official protest to the US embassy over what it called Washington’s interference in the country’s affairs, referring to a diplomatic note from a Pakistani diplomat based on his meetings with US officials that Khan has said was evidence of a foreign conspiracy to oust him from power.

Just weeks later, Khan was removed from office in a parliamentary vote of no-confidence, which he blamed, and continues to blame, on a conspiracy hatched by the United States with Khan’s rivals in Pakistan, including current Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif. Both deny the charge but Khan has held rallies across the country since, sticking to the theory of a foreign conspiracy and challenging the mandate of the Sharif government.

Last weekend, a slew of audio recordings of conversations between key government figures were leaked online from the PM’s Office, including discussions between PM Sharif and members of his cabinet. But a latest leak released today, Wednesday, features a conversation between Khan when he was PM and his then principal secretary Azam Khan. 

Speaking to reporters after the leak, Khan did not deny the authenticity of the audio file, saying the diplomatic cipher itself should be released so the nation could see “magnitude of the conspiracy.”

The purported audio file starts midway through a conversation between Khan and Azam.

“Now we have to play with this [cipher],” Khan is heard saying. “Don’t take America’s name, just play with this.”

Azam then suggests that the PM call a meeting with Shah Mahmood Qureshi, then foreign minister, and the Foreign Secretary Suhail Mahmood to put on record the threat allegedly contained in the cipher. 

“Qureshi would read out the letter and whatever he reads out, we will turn it into a copy. I will do that in the minutes [of the meeting] that the Foreign Secretary has told this. Then the analysis will be done here [at the PM Office],” the former principal secretary said. 

“We will do analysis of minutes [of meeting] of our own choice, this way minutes would be on the records of the [PM] office. The analysis will be that [the cypher] was a threat.”

On Tuesday, PM Sharif called the audio leaks a ‘serious security lapse’ and said it would be thoroughly investigated.


‘She was trapped,’ says father of woman killed by husband with dumbbells in Islamabad

Updated 43 min 10 sec ago

‘She was trapped,’ says father of woman killed by husband with dumbbells in Islamabad

  • Sarah Inam, 37, was allegedly murdered by husband Shahnawaz Amir last Friday, she was laid to rest on Wednesday
  • Father says Inam met Amir only thrice before the marriage, had told her parents about nikkah on July 18 in Chakwal

ISLAMABAD: The father of Sarah Inam, a Pakistani-Canadian who was beaten to death by her husband last week, said on Wednesday before the funeral his daughter had been “trapped” into marriage by Shahnawaz Amir to fleece her out of money.

Inam, a 37-year-old economist who worked in Abu Dhabi, was murdered with dumbbells, according to police, by her husband at a suburban Islamabad home last week. Amir is currently under arrest and being investigated by police.

Inam’s parents and two brothers arrived from Canada and the United States respectively on Monday night to perform Inam’s last rites and pursue the legal case.

Inam got married to Amir of her own choice on July 18 in his hometown of Chakwal. Parents of the couple were not present at the event.

“She was trapped,” Rahim, who arrived from Canada on Monday night, told Arab News before Inam’s funeral prayers at Chak Shahzad in Islamabad. “She thought he [Shahnawaz] was a good man but he trapped her into the marriage to fleece money from her.”

“We will stay here [in Pakistan], pursue the case and not let these criminals go,” he said. “Shahnawaz was a predator from the start and we hope to get justice.”

Rahim said his daughter had met Amir only thrice before the marriage and had told the parents about the relationship and the marriage, which took place on July 18 at Amir’s hometown of Chakwal.

“She was grown up and we believed they would have a happy life,” he said. “Shahnawaz and her mother spoke to me on the phone before the marriage … His mother assured me she would treat Sarah as her own daughter.”

He added: “We never thought this was coming.”

The family, Rahim said, had planned to arrange a formal wedding reception for the couple in Islamabad in October.

The family had so far not been questioned by police but would present their version in the new few days, he added.

According to the first information report filed with police, Amir’s mother had called the police on September 23 and informed them that her son had murdered his wife “with a dumbbell.”

For the funeral, Inam’s body was brought to her home from a morgue in an ambulance just 15 minutes before the burial. Her body was taken inside the house where her parents and immediate family members were present.

Police and other security officials lined the street outside the house, guiding mourners to Inam’s house and the graveyard. Around fifty people, including her father and two brothers, attended the funeral and laid her to rest in a graveyard located some 100 meters from their residence.

The mother, standing to a side with other female relatives, appeared to be in a state of shock.

Nobody from Amir’s family attended the funeral.

Inam’s murder is reminiscent of last year’s headline-grabbing murder of Noor Mukadam, 27, which drew an outpouring of anger over femicides in the South Asian nation. 

In March this year, a Pakistani court sentenced to death Pakistani-American Zahir Jaffer, a childhood friend of Mukadam, for beheading her. Mukadam and Jaffer were widely believed to have been in a romantic relationship, which they had broken off a few months before her murder. 

Hundreds of women are killed in Pakistan every year, while thousands more suffer brutal violence. But few cases receive sustained media attention, and only a small fraction of perpetrators are ever punished or convicted by courts. 

But Mukadam’s shocking murder, involving members of the privileged elite of Pakistani society, triggered an explosive reaction from women’s rights activists reckoning with pervasive violence. 

It also increased pressure for a swift conclusion of the trial in a country known to have a sluggish justice system and where cases typically drag on for years.

Talking to media after the burial, Inam’s father called the killing a “pre-planned act of murder and extortion,” saying the suspect should be tried and convicted at the earliest: “Justice delayed is justice denied.”

“He [Shahnawaz] should be given the maximum punishment, should be hanged,” Rahim said. “Even in my wildest imagination could I have thought my daughter will face this … She was my sweetest child … I contacted her daily through texts or calls.”

Amir is expected to be presented before an Islamabad district court tomorrow, Thursday, after his three-day police remand expires. Inam’s parents will also be attending the hearing along with their legal team.

Inam’s uncle Ikram Rahim, a retired army colonel, said his niece was a “bright child and made her name through hard work.”

“She was a caring and loving girl, but unfortunately was lured by a beast into the marriage,” he told Arab News. “We will fight till the end to get justice.”
 


Pakistan’s Naseem Shah out of fifth England T20

Updated 28 September 2022

Pakistan’s Naseem Shah out of fifth England T20

  • Shah was taken to hospital with an infection and will miss the fifth Twenty20 international against England today
  • The 19-year-old’s availability for the rest of the seven-match series will be decided after assessing his medical reports

LAHORE: Pakistan’s highly rated teenage fast bowler Naseem Shah was taken to hospital with an infection and will miss the fifth Twenty20 international against England later Wednesday, said a cricket board spokesman.

The 19-year-old’s availability for the rest of the seven-match series will be decided after assessing his medical reports.

“Naseem was taken to hospital on Tuesday night with a viral infection and will not be available for Wednesday’s match,” a Pakistan Cricket Board spokesman said.

Naseem played the first match of the series and went for 41 runs in his four wicket-less overs.

The series is tied 2-2 after four matches in Karachi. The remaining three are in Lahore.

England are on their first tour of Pakistan for 17 years.


Pakistan's new finance minister vows to tame inflation, cut interest rates

Updated 41 min 40 sec ago

Pakistan's new finance minister vows to tame inflation, cut interest rates

  • Ishaq Dar most famous for strong-arming central bank to liberally inject foreign exchange into market to prop up rupee
  • Pakistan’s foreign reserves currently stand at a level that cover just over a month of imports, making intervention difficult

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s new finance minister, Ishaq Dar, will work to rein in inflation and cut interest rates, he said on Wednesday, calling the rupee currency undervalued and promising a strong response to resolve the South Asian nation’s worst economic crisis.

In his fourth time in the role, the chartered accountant must tackle a balance of payment crisis, foreign reserves that cover barely a month’s imports, historic lows in the rupee, inflation exceeding 27 percent and the aftermath of devastating floods.

“We will control inflation,” Dar told reporters, referring to the deep-rooted challenges ahead, in televised comments made after he was sworn in. “We will bring interest rates down.”

He had a warning for currency market speculators, saying that the Pakistani rupee was undervalued.

“Our currency right now is not at the place where it should be, it is undervalued,” said Dar, who is known to favor currency market intervention to keep the rupee stable.

“I hope the speculators will stop. I think they have already got it and we are seeing the rupee rising,” he added. “No one will be allowed to play with the Pakistani currency.”

A member of parliament’s upper house, Dar got the job after his predecessor, Miftah Ismail became the fifth to quit in less than four years, amid persistent economic turbulence.

The rupee has been gaining firmly ahead of his appointment and stocks responded positively before Wednesday’s swearing-in.

WRECKED ECONOMY

The senior politician belonging to the ruling party of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif flew to Islamabad on Monday night after ending five years in self-exile in London.

In 2017, he had been facing corruption charges he says were politically motivated, but last week an anti-graft court suspended warrants for his arrest, enabling his return.

On Wednesday, the court extended the suspensions.

“I told the court that my passport was revoked,” Dar said after appearing in court.

“I wasn’t able to travel for the last four years,” he added, describing the legal action against him as political victimization by the previous government of Prime Minister Imran Khan.

Khan’s party denies this.

Analysts say Dar’s key mandate is to halt inflation that mainly stems from his predecessor’s unpopular decisions to stick to preconditions set by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), including rolling back subsidies made by Khan’s government.

Sharif’s coalition government says it inherited a wrecked economy after Khan’s ouster in a vote of no-confidence in April, a charge the former premier denies.

As the new government took over, the IMF’s $6 billion bailout package agreed in 2019 was in the doldrums because of the lack of an agreed policy framework.

Last month the IMF board approved the program’s seventh and eighth reviews, allowing the release of more than $1.1 billion.

The tranche, said former finance minister Ismail, was likely to be boosted after Pakistan sought help to remedy economic losses of an estimated $30 billion caused by the unprecedented floods.

The disaster could cut GDP growth below 3 percent, down from 5 percent estimated for fiscal 2022-23, the government has said. 


UN says disease outbreaks remain ‘growing concern’ in flood-hit Pakistan

Updated 28 September 2022

UN says disease outbreaks remain ‘growing concern’ in flood-hit Pakistan

  • Deaths from infections, malaria, dengue have caused more than 300 deaths since July in worst-hit province of Sindh
  • Flood-ravaged regions have become infested with diseases including malaria, dengue fever, diarrhea and skin problems

ISLAMABAD: The United Nations has said outbreaks of mosquito-borne and water-borne diseases in flooded Pakistan were a “growing concern,” as deaths from infections, malaria and dengue fever have caused more than 300 deaths since July in the worst-hit province of Sindh, according to health officials.

The death toll from the deluge itself has reached 1,663, including 614 children and 333 women, a figure that does not include deaths from fast-spreading diseases, according to data from the National Disaster Management Authority.

“Outbreaks of vector-borne and water-borne diseases are a growing concern in Sindh and Balochistan provinces, where many districts remain inundated by floodwaters,” Stephane Dujarric, a spokesperson for UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, said on Tuesday.

He said floods had damaged nearly 1,500 health facilities across the country, including more than 300 refrigerators and solar power systems, which was disrupting vaccine cold chains.

“Assessments are continuing, but an estimated 7.9 million people remain displaced by the catastrophic floods.  Nearly 600,000 people are living in relief camps, and more than 7,000 schools across Pakistan are being used as temporary relief camps,” the spokesperson said, adding that the UN and its humanitarian partners were continuing to scale up response and had reached more than 1.6 million people impacted by the floods.

“Nearly 600,000 people are living in relief camps, and more than 7,000 schools across Pakistan are being used as temporary relief camps … More than two million houses have been damaged by the heavy rains and floods. More than 25,000 schools and 13,000 km of roads have also reportedly been damaged.”

Record monsoon rains in south and southwest Pakistan and glacial melt in northern areas triggered the flooding that has affected nearly 33 million people in the South Asian nation of 220 million, sweeping away homes, crops, bridges, roads and livestock and causing an estimated $30 billion of damage.

Hundreds of thousands of displaced people are in dire need of food, shelter, clean drinking water, toilets and medicines. Many have been sleeping in the open by the side of elevated highways.

The economic losses from the flooding will slash the country’s GDP growth to around 3 percent from the estimated target of 5 percent set out in the budget when it had narrowly escaped defaulting on its debt in a balance of payment crisis.

Pakistan was already reeling from economic blows when the floods hit, with its foreign reserves falling as low as one month’s worth of imports and its current account deficit widening.