'Golden hand': Meet the Pakistani artist who has spent a lifetime painting UAE royals

An undated photo of Liaquat Ali Khan, a Pakistani artist, seen posing in front of a portrait he made of UAE's founding father and then ruler, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan (Photo courtesy Liaquat Ali Khan)
Short Url
Updated 04 December 2020

'Golden hand': Meet the Pakistani artist who has spent a lifetime painting UAE royals

  • Liaquat Ali Khan went to the United Arab Emirates as a daily wage laborer but acquired the reputation of a skillful artist
  • He has now returned to Pakistan and set up an art academy in his hometown of Kohat

KOHAT: Four decades ago, a man traveled from Kohat in northwestern Pakistan to the United Arab Emirates in search of a better life. He was part of a group of daily wage laborers, all of them from poor families and looking for better prospects.

But one thing set Liaquat Ali Khan apart: his passion for art, which would go on to change the course of his life.

“I went to watch a Pashto film in Abu Dhabi,” Khan, now 70, told Arab News at his office in Kohat, recalling his time in the UAE in the early eighties. “On stepping out of the cinema, I saw a man who was struggling to paint a billboard. I walked up to him and volunteered to help.”

As Khan painted, another man, a bank executive, observed him for a while and then walked up to him and struck a conversation. The man wanted to know if the painter could draw portraits. He said yes. A few days later, the banker took Khan to see his boss, who commissioned a portrait of UAE’s founding father and then ruler, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, to be unveiled on UAE’s national day. 




Liaquat Ali Khan, a Pakistani artist, speaks to Arab News at his office in Kohat, Pakistan, on Dec. 1, 2020. (AN photo)

That moment marked a new beginning for Khan, who had a degree in fine arts from the University of Peshawar but never thought he could have a career as an artist. But his first portrait landed him a job with the Abu Dhabi Municipality where he went on to work for 29 years.

“I adorned my canvas with UAE royals and painted over a thousand portraits,” said Khan whose work has been displayed in public parks and along major thoroughfares in Abu Dhabi ahead of the UAE national day, celebrated each year on December 2.

Emirati officials also bestowed on him the title of “golden hand” as his reputation as an artist spread.




Liaquat Ali Khan, a Pakistani artist, writes an Urdu inscription at his office in Kohat, Pakistan on December 1, 2020. (AN Photo)

“Over a period of time, officials and locals began to recognize me through my work and started calling me the golden hand,“Khan said. “But it was a huge portrait of Sheikh Zayed that captured the attention of the royal family.”

In 1999, he was invited to meet the UAE ruler himself. 

“He was clearly interested in the world of art and knew a lot about it,” Khan said. 

Ten years after his meeting with Al Nahyan, Khan returned to Pakistan — not an ‘easy decision,’ he said — where he began teaching art at Kohat University. He also set up an art academy in his native town, where 17 students, both boys and girls, are currently studying.




Students of Liaquat Ali Khan, a Pakistani artist, seen practicing calligraphy at his art academy in Kohat, Pakistan, on December 1, 2020. (AN Photo)

“Creativity and art have brought me closer to nature and I am focused more on them than ever before,” said Omar Shahid, a second-year medical student who took up drawing as a hobby and joined the academy about a year ago.

Today, Khan says he is proud of his journey. The walls of his office in the art academy are decorated with photographs and shields. Some of the photos capture his interactions with high-profile Pakistani personalities such as former military ruler General Pervez Musharraf and ex-prime minister Benazir Bhutto.

The artist said he had also completed a 500-piece portrait of Pakistan’s founding father, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, and requested Musharraf to display it at Jinnah’s mausoleum. He smiled as he said he had no idea where that work had disappeared.

“He [Musharraf] agreed and instructed officials [to display the Jinnah portrait at his tomb],” Khan said. “But the painting has disappeared. It’s probably gathering dust in some government storage facility.”
 


Pakistan health workers hesitate over Sinopharm vaccine, poll says

Updated 05 March 2021

Pakistan health workers hesitate over Sinopharm vaccine, poll says

  • Some 81% of health workers said they were willing to be vaccinated, but 46% said they would prefer Pfizer or AstraZeneca
  • Some 58% of medical workers said a vaccine developed so quickly could not be guaranteed to be safe

ISLAMABAD: Just over a half of Pakistan's health workers have received a COVID-19 shot since inoculations began last month, while a poll released on Friday suggested nearly half had concerns over China's Sinopharm, the only vaccine available so far.
Pakistan had distributed 504,400 Sinopharm vaccine doses to provincial authorities by Feb. 20, and 230,000 frontline health workers had received a shot by Friday, according to health minister Faisal Sultan.
In January, Sultan said 400,000 health workers had been registered to get the vaccine.
A poll of 555 medical workers conducted by Gallup Pakistan and a national physicians' association between Feb. 12 and Feb. 20 said 59% of health workers had not yet been offered a shot.
Sinopharm is one of four vaccines approved for use by Pakistan for health workers and is currently the only vaccine available in the country of 220 million.
Some 81% of health workers said they were willing to be vaccinated, but 46% said they would prefer Pfizer or AstraZeneca over the Sinopharm shot. Some 58% said a vaccine developed so quickly could not be guaranteed to be safe.
"Chinese is a brand not synonymous with medical innovation," Bilal Gilani, of Gallup Pakistan, told Reuters. "If Pfizer or AstraZeneca were offered, there would be a much higher uptake."
Pfizer is a US company while AstraZeneca is Anglo-Swedish.
Gilani said doctors did not trust government recommendations and instead looked to social media for information on the vaccine.
"No doctor is refusing to get the vaccine. Some of them are waiting for the Oxford one, AstraZeneca," Salman Kazmi, General Secretary of the Young Doctor's Association Pakistan, told Reuters from Lahore.
"But there are some myths and delays, that is probably why the speed of vaccination is not high."
While a preference for Western vaccines may be a stumbling block in the case of COVID shots, polio vaccination efforts in Pakistan have had to grapple with Islamist militant attacks and conspiracy theories the shots are a Western ploy to sterilise Muslims.


Pakistani opposition to boycott confidence vote for PM Khan

Updated 06 March 2021

Pakistani opposition to boycott confidence vote for PM Khan

  • The opposition demanded Khan step down after an embarrassing defeat of his key candidate in the Senate polls
  • The PM needs 172 votes in the 342-seat National Assembly to retain the confidence of the house on Saturday

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan's opposition announced Friday it will boycott a special session of the National Assembly this weekend called by the prime minister after a politically embarrassing defeat of Imran Khan’s key candidate in elections for the Senate.
Khan, who enjoys the backing of majority lawmakers in the lower house of parliament, convened the session for Saturday after his candidate lost the race for a seat in the 100-member upper chamber earlier this week.
The Senate elections on Wednesday saw the ruling Tehreek-e-Insaf party’s candidate, Finance Minister Hafeez Shaikh, lose against Yusuf Raza Gilani, a former prime minister and senior opposition leader.
Despite Shaik's loss, Khan's party emerged as the largest single party in the Senate but even with its allies from other parties, the opposition still has a slight, 53-47 majority over Khan in the upper chamber.
Following the balloting, the opposition demanded Khan step down but the ruling party rejected the demand and the prime minister called for the confidence vote.
Khan needs 172 votes in the 342-seat National Assembly to retain the confidence of the house on Saturday. If none of his supporters turn against him, he is expected to win as many as 180 votes in his favor, with help from allies from other parties. His own party has 157 lawmakers in the lower chamber.
On Friday, senior politician Fazlur Rehman, who heads the coalition of opposition parties called Pakistan Democratic Movement, announced that the opposition would boycott the session.
Shaikh's defeat was a setback for Khan who even criticized the country's Election Commission, claiming it had failed to ensure a free and fair vote for the Senate and saying that some 15 or 16 lawmakers from his party allegedly "sold" their vote to the opposition candidate.
Angered over Khan's criticism, the commission on Friday fired back, saying every political party and politician needs to "have the spirit to accept defeat" when it comes and not resort to mudslinging over election losses.


In a first, police in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa appoint transgender person to dispute resolution council

Updated 05 March 2021

In a first, police in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa appoint transgender person to dispute resolution council

  • Sobia Khan says she wants to help other transgender community members who are forced to live on social peripheries
  • Activists say more than 80 transgender people in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa have been killed in targeted attacks since 2015

PESHAWAR: A transgender person who was recently appointed by Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) Police to its dispute resolution council (DRC) in Peshawar said on Friday she would do her best to address the problems faced by her "ostracized community" in the province.

"I commend the police for allowing representation to a marginalized community. I will represent transgender people in relevant cases," Sobia Khan told Arab News while commenting on her inclusion in the council that was established in 2014 to institutionalize alternative dispute resolution mechanism in the province.

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa's transgender community has frequently faced sexual abuse, physical torture and killings, and the perpetrators of these crimes have often been unpunished.

Discussing Khan's appointment to the DRC, KP's Inspector General Police Dr. Sanaullah Abbasi told Arab News that his department was striving to protect marginalized people in the province.

"The system of alternative dispute resolution is based on active engagement among victims, offenders and the rest of the community in pursuit of reconciliation by adapting a balanced approach that caters to the needs of all three through a process that preserves everyone's safety and dignity," he said. 

Khan said that transgender persons faced serious issues related to education, health and employment in government institutions. She added that many of them were also forced into prostitution.

In 2018, Pakistan's parliament tried to address such challenges by enacting Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act to recognize their legal equality and safeguard their rights.

The legislation prohibits any discrimination against them in education institutions, medical centers and public transportation facilities. It also makes it possible for them to apply for passports, driver's licenses and other official documents by using their gender identity.

Qamar Naseem, a program coordinator with Blue Veins that works for the protection of women and transgender people, told Arab News that the DRC could help people on social peripheries and reduce pressure on local courts since many contentious issues could be amicably resolved by its members.

He said that there were about 50,000 transgender people in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, adding that at least 83 of them had been killed since 2015 in targeted attacks.

"Transgender people are even disowned by their parents in our society and hated by a large majority of those around us," Naseem continued. "With some representation in the DRC, their grievances may be addressed."

Arzoo Khan, president the provincial transgender association, said the inclusion of one of her community members in the council was a good initiative, though she added that such representation should not be limited to a single district.

The inspector general police informed Arab News he had already issued directives to ensure transgender representation in DRCs across the province.

"Transgender people face problems in hospitals, schools and other places due to their gender identity," Naseem said. "The government should launch a campaign to sensitize members of our society to own such marginalized communities."


Pakistan health chief calls for caution as coronavirus surges again

Updated 05 March 2021

Pakistan health chief calls for caution as coronavirus surges again

  • National Command and Operation Center on Feb. 24 relaxed most of coronavirus-related restrictions
  • On Friday, Pakistan recorded the highest daily number of new COVID-19 cases in in over a month

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan's de facto health minister, Dr. Faisal Sultan on Friday called for caution as the country's coronavirus positivity and hospitalization rates had increased over the past week.

Pakistan recorded 1,579 new COVID-19 cases in the past 24 hours, the highest daily number of new COVID-19 cases in in over a month,  health ministry data showed on Friday. The total number of infections rose to 587,014, with 13,128 deaths.

"COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations in Pakistan are increasing once again," Dr. Sultan said in a tweet, adding that the positivity rate had risen from 3.31 percent to 4.16 percent within just one week.

 

 

"Save lives by following SOPs. Please avoid crowded places (esp indoor & if poorly ventilated), wear a mask and wash your hands frequently," he said in another tweet, urging healthcare workers and all Pakistanis above the age of 60 to register for coronavirus vaccination.

The increase in COVID-19 cases comes after the National Command and Operation Center, which oversees Pakistan’s coronavirus response, on Feb. 24 eased most of the restrictions, allowing commercial activities to resume with no time limits and offices and other workplaces to function at full strength, without the 50 percent work-from-home condition.

Regular five-day classes restarted at schools from March 1.

The NCOC also allowed Pakistan Super League pool matches with 50 percent spectators. On Thursday, however, the tournament was postponed after a number of players tested positive for the coronavirus.


Pakistan Ulema Council urges UN to stop Houthi attacks on Saudi Arabia

Updated 05 March 2021

Pakistan Ulema Council urges UN to stop Houthi attacks on Saudi Arabia

  • Saudi-led military coalition has been battling Houthi militants for six years
  • Pakistan has many times called for an immediate stop to Houthi attacks on the kingdom

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Ulema Council (PUC) on Friday called on the international community to take immediate action to stop attacks by Houthi militias on Saudi Arabia.

The Saudi-led military coalition has been battling the Iran-aligned militants for six years. The group has fired missiles and drones toward Saudi cities many times, most of which have been intercepted by authorities.

The call by the Pakistani religious body comes a day after Houthi forces fired a cross-border missile from Yemen at a Saudi Aramco facility in the Red Sea city of Jeddah.

"United Nations, Organization of Islamic Cooperation, and the Security Council should take immediate action against the constant attacks on Saudi cities and people of Saudi Arabia by Houthi rebels," said Tahir Ashrafi, the PUC chairman who is also the Pakistani prime minister's special assistant on religious harmony and the Middle East.

"Security, stability and peace of Saudi Arabia is dear to every Muslim," he told Arab News.

Ashrafi added that the entire Muslim community has been united against the "perpetrators involved in attacks on the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia" and international organizations should "play a proactive role against the attackers."

A resolution adopted by the PUC and read at Pakistani mosques during congregational prayers on Friday called on the international community to come up with a strategy to deal with "all those who participate in terrorist activities."

The Pakistani government has many times called for an immediate stop to Houthi attacks on the kingdom.

Earlier this week, the Pakistani foreign office said the attacks "not only violate the territorial integrity of the kingdom but also threaten the lives of innocent people."