Mini-Gulf: In Pakistani desert district, one-fourth residents work in the Middle East

The exterior view of a travel agency located in Johi town in Sindh’s Kachho Desert, Pakistan, on October 6, 2020. (AN photo by Zulfiqar Kunbhar)
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Updated 17 October 2020

Mini-Gulf: In Pakistani desert district, one-fourth residents work in the Middle East

  • People from Johi district started moving to Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries in the 1970s after the Middle East oil job market boomed
  • Every household in the impoverished region has one or two family members living and working in Gulf countries, locals say

JOHI: One-fourth of the population of a remote desert district in southern Pakistan lives and works in Saudi Arabia or the United Arab Emirates, locals said, throwing a lifeline to the barren land and earning it the moniker Pakistan's "Mini-Gulf."
Like other areas surrounding the vast Kachho Desert, Johi in Dadu district too relies on rainwater for agriculture. But rains are rare and long spells of drought have often pushed local communities into hunger. Change, they say, came in the 1970s with a boom in the Middle East oil job market.
"Out of Johi subdistrict’s total estimated population of 300,000, there are around 60,000 to 80,000 people in the Gulf,” said Shahmeer Gadehi, who worked in the UAE for two decades and now manages a travel agency that specializes in sending people to the Middle East. "It is the local-expat population ratio that has made Kachho’s Johi region earn the 'Mini-Gulf' title by the public."




Sanaullah Lashari, who returned from Saudi Arabia after working for six years, poses next to a water treatment plant, located in Kachho Desert’s Wahi Pandhi area in Sindh, Pakistan, on October 7, 2020. (AN photo by Zulfiqar Kunbhar)

Every household in the region, Gadehi added, had one or two family members living and working in Gulf countries.
The travel agent’s business, located near Jeddah Bazaar in Johi, has quickly picked up since Saudi Arabia relaxed coronavirus-related travel restrictions last month, and he has already sent 400 workers to the Middle East since. Prior to the coronavirus outbreak, Gadehi said he would send 50-60 workers abroad a day.
Most laborers from Johi who travel with Gadehi’s company go to Saudi Arabia, currently home to over three million Pakistanis expats.
One of them, a driver called Altaf Gadehi, said he had secured a work visa and would be leaving for the Kingdom this week.
“At home, my earnings from driving are not enough to make ends meet," the 30-year-old, who supports his own family and siblings, said. "I have decided to try my luck at Saudi Arabia like many other people from the area."




A herdsman walks with camels near the Wahi Pandhi area of Sindh’s Kachho Desert, Pakistan, on October 7, 2020.  (AN photo by Zulfiqar Kunbhar)

Many, like Shaukat Ali Gedehi, also opt to move to the UAE.
“As visas are open now, many of my Johi friends have already reached Dubai again after a break," said Gedehi who worked in Dubai as a caretaker of racing camels before he lost his job to the coronavirus outbreak.
He said he was sure he would find a new job in Dubai with the help of his ‘Mini-Gulf’ community there.
"After reaching Dubai I will hunt for a job, taking the help of my Johi family and friends already present there," Gedehi said.
Indeed, helping the community back home is a common story for Johi locals.




A farmer poses at a tube well installed at an agricultural field near the Wahi Pandhi area of Sindh’s Kachho Desert, Pakistan, on October 7, 2020.  (AN photo by Zulfiqar Kunbhar)

Haji Beero, 70, traveled to Saudi Arabia via ship in the early 1970s on an Umrah pilgrimage visa, which he later converted into a work visa. He did odd jobs, and even worked as a watchman, but once he was settled, he and 60 others from Johi helped others from their hometown find work abroad.
“Lack of water and prolonged droughts brought joblessness … our agriculture sector was not flourishing. It brought extreme poverty," Beero said. "I used my reference to bring around 2,800 Johi locals to Saudi Arabia for jobs."
There are also those who have returned home after years of working in the Gulf, wanting to give back to their parched hometown.
Sanaullah Lashari spent six years working as a driver in Jeddah and is now back in Johi where he oversees a government-owned groundwater pump in Peer Baksh Lashari village that he says he repaired using his own savings and donations from other locals.
"Government is not doing any help in this regard, so we have to manage ourselves,” Lashari said, standing next to the pump wearing a traditional Saudi thobe. "When I returned from Saudi Arabia, I saw the plant was dysfunctional. I spent eighty thousand rupees from my remittance savings and collected money from other area people to make this pump run."


PM Khan performs Umrah, meets OIC Secretary General

Updated 09 May 2021

PM Khan performs Umrah, meets OIC Secretary General

  • Khan also visited and prayed at the Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah
  • Khan arrived in the Kingdom on Friday at the invitation of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan, who is on a three-day official tour of Saudi Arabia, performed the Umrah pilgrimage in Makkah on Sunday after which he met the Secretary General of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), according to the PM office.

 

 

He is soon scheduled to address the Pakistani community at a ceremony regarding Roshan Digital Account in Jeddah.
Khan performed Umrah alongside his wife, Bushra Bibi, and was received by a number of officials of the General Presidency for the Affairs of the Two Holy Mosques and the special force for the security of the Grand Mosque in Makkah.

 

 

Khan arrived in the Kingdom on Friday alongside high ranking Pakistani officials at the invitation of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and the two leaders held wide ranging bilateral and delegation level talks on Saturday in Jeddah.
Earlier on Sunday, Khan left Madinah headed for Jeddah, after he visited the Prophet’s Mosque and performed prayers there.
He was seen off from Prince Mohammad bin Abdulaziz International Airport in Madinah by a number of senior, civilian and military officials.


Pakistan's Kamyab Jawan invests in youth, regardless of gender

Updated 09 May 2021

Pakistan's Kamyab Jawan invests in youth, regardless of gender

  • PM's aide says Kamyab Jawan aims to support youth, especially from marginalized communities, by creating employment opportunities
  • Pakistan has the world's youngest population, with 68 percent of its residents being below the age of 30

RAWALPINDI: In its most recent project, the government's program focused on empowering youth, has invested in a tailoring shop of a transwoman fashion designer — a move activists welcome as a great step toward social inclusion and equality.

Pakistan has the world's youngest population, with 68 percent of its residents being below the age of 30.

The government’s Kamyab Jawan program aims to invest in Pakistan’s youth by creating employment opportunities. It has so far supported 10,000 young businesses with Rs8.5 billion, according to the prime minister's special assistant on youth affairs, Usman Dar.

As he shared a video narrating Naz's struggle in the face of social ostracism against the trans community, Dar said in a tweet on Sunday that the government is especially "working for the empowerment of marginalised strata of society."

To run her business, Naz Boutique, the Lahore-based designer received Rs1 million from the program.

“I as a transgender person want to transform people’s mindsets,” Naz said in the video, “we can do more than just dance or be involved in negative communities.”

“When I saw that the prime minister has launched this scheme, I felt optimistic ... When programs like this come about, there are always only two columns, one for men, one for women, but this time the third gender was there, and I really appreciate the initiative."

Nayyab Ali, a transgender politician and activist, told Arab News the program is a "great step towards financial inclusion of vulnerable communities in Pakistan," as employment exclusion, which deprives people of opportunities in social and economic activities, is the worst form of inequality.

"Being a community representative, I appreciate this step, it should be extended at a larger scale," Ali said. "Socioeconomic issues are the leading cause that pushes the transgender community towards the extreme level of marginalization within society and creates barriers in their joining mainstream society."

"Pakistan must collectively work towards inclusion through participation, social acceptability, and policy reforms to ensure and enforce the rights of all individuals and Kamyab Jawan in righty working in this direction."


Pakistan’s largest COVID-19 vaccination center opens in Karachi

Updated 09 May 2021

Pakistan’s largest COVID-19 vaccination center opens in Karachi

  • The center has a capacity for between 25,000- 30,000 people
  • CanSino, AstraZeneca and Sinopharm vaccines will be administered at the center

KARACHI: Pakistan’s largest vaccination space opened on Sunday at the Karachi Expo Center in southern Sindh province, which holds the capacity to tend to between 25,000-30,000 people daily and will be open 24 hours a day.
Pakistan has announced that it will open vaccinations for all age groups after the Eid holidays.
Sindh Health Minister, Dr. Azra Pechuho, inaugurated the mass vaccination center and said that starting May 16th, all individuals above the age of 18 would be able to get vaccinated in the province.
Currently, only people above 40 years are eligible to get registered for the vaccination through a government portal.

Health workers at the inauguration of mega vaccination center at Karachi expo center on Sunday, May 9, 2021. (Photo courtesy: Sindh Health Department)

A hundred cubicles have been established in hall no.4 of the mega center, in line with standard operating procedures (SOP’s), and a workforce of around 500 medical professionals and volunteers will be offering their services at the center. 
The provincial health minister also said the center would be offering CanSino, AstraZeneca and Sinopharm vaccines.
Pakistan has so far received 10.19 million doses of different vaccines from China-- Sinopharm, Sinovac and CanSino-- while 1.23 million doses of British vaccine Astrazenca procured through the COVAX program were received on Saturday, according to official data.
Currently, Pakistan is battling a third wave of COVID-19, and on Sunday reported 3,785 new infections and 118 deaths.


Pakistan's top leadership condemns Israeli 'apartheid' against Palestinians

Updated 09 May 2021

Pakistan's top leadership condemns Israeli 'apartheid' against Palestinians

  • ‘Violation of norms of humanity and law,’ says PM Khan
  • Israeli police opened fire on Palestinians protesting evictions from their homes in East Jerusalem

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan's Prime Minister and President on Sunday condemned Israeli attacks on Palestinian worshippers at Al-Aqsa Mosque-- with President Alvi terming the attacks an 'apartheid'-- in the wake of ongoing protests against forced evictions of Palestinians from their homes in East Jerusalem.
At least 90 Palestinians were injured by Israeli police on Saturday in a crackdown on protesters in the Old City of Jerusalem, as tens of thousands of Muslim worshippers prayed at nearby Al-Aqsa Mosque.  
A day earlier, over 200 protesters were injured when Israeli security forces fired tear gas, rubber bullets and stun grenades on Palestinians who opposed being forced out of their homes claimed by Jewish settlers.
"It is a shame that Israeli apartheid against Palestinians continues. Atrocious attack on peaceful praying Muslims is given the usual media spin of 'clashes,'" President Arif Alvi said on Twitter.
"My brothers don't lose hope," he added. "Time is near when International Politics will be based on morality & not on vested interests."

 

 

Prime Minister Imran Khan in a separate tweet also strongly condemned the Israeli forces attack and said it was in violation of “all norms of humanity & int [international] law.”
“We reiterate support for Palestinian ppl. Intl community must take immed action to protect Palestinians & their legitimate rights,” PM Khan tweeted.

 

 

Other top Pakistani leaders have also condemned the crackdown by Israeli ‘occupation forces.’
"Condemn in strongest terms the attack on innocent worshippers in Al-Aqsa Mosque, first Qibla of Islam, by Israeli Occupation Forces in the holy month of Ramzan. Such brutality is against very spirit of humanity & human rights law," Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said in a tweet, as he expressed Pakistan's "steadfast support" of the Palestinian cause.
Religious Affairs Minister Noor-ul-Haq Qadri said in a statement that Israeli shelling on unarmed Palestinians at Al-Aqsa Mosque is the "worst act of terrorism and inhumanity."
The Pakistani opposition echoed the government's condemnation.
Top opposition leader Shehbaz Sharif questioned the role of the willingness of the international community in stopping the "worst human rights abuses" that are taking place in Palestine.
"There is no one to put stop to Israel's desire for occupation of more Palestinian lands,” he said on Twitter.
Meanwhile, Pakistani and Saudi leadership reaffirmed full support for the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people.
In a joint statement issued on late Saturday, during Prime Minister Imran Khan’s visit to Saudi Arabia, the two countries expressed their "full support for all the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people, especially, their right to self-determination and establishment of their independent state with pre-1967 borders.”
They also recognized East Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine "in accordance with the Arab Peace Initiative and relevant UN resolutions.”


'You will be turned back:' No tourism allowed, warns Pakistani minister 

Updated 09 May 2021

'You will be turned back:' No tourism allowed, warns Pakistani minister 

  • Pakistan is battling a third wave of COVID-19
  • Earlier this month, Pakistan announced a new set of restrictions, including closure of all tourist resorts during Eid holidays

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s planning minister Asad Umar on Sunday warned people not to go to tourist areas within the country during the Eid holidays, and said anyone who tried ‘will be turned back.’
In a tweet, Umar, who also heads a federal body overseeing Pakistan's pandemic response, said:
“In NCOC meeting today, chief secretaries from federating units which have popular tourist destinations, requested to remind everyone that tourist areas are closed from 8th to 16th, so please do not come, or you will be turned back.”

 

 

In the middle of a third wave of COVID-19, Pakistan announced a new set of restrictions earlier this month which includes the closure of all tourist resorts from May 8 to 16.
Every year in the Eid holidays, Pakistanis from southern regions throng to the northern areas and hill stations of the country to enjoy the good weather.Meanwhile, President Arif Alvi urged Pakistanis to follow the standard operating procedures (SOP’s) set up by the government to control the virus spread and to stop the third wave of COVID-19 from getting worse.
“Don't let your guard down. Strictly follow SOP’s, in Ramadan/Eid & all Smart Lockdown Policies,” the President’s tweet read.

 

 

The South Asian country of over 220 million people reported 118 deaths and 3,785 new confirmed cases over the last 24 hours on Sunday. Since the start of the pandemic in February last year, Pakistan has reported 18,915 deaths from COVID-19 among 858,026 confirmed cases.
In neighboring India, a record number of daily cases have been reported in the last month as the healthcare infrastructure in some Indian cities has completely collapsed, according to reports.