Muslims bemoan Colombo’s refusal to allow meeting with Pakistani PM 

Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan meets with Sri Lankan Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa in Colombo, Sri Lanka, on Tuesday, February 23, 2021. (Photo Courtesy: Sri Lankan PM Mahinda Rajapaksa’s office)
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Updated 23 February 2021

Muslims bemoan Colombo’s refusal to allow meeting with Pakistani PM 

  • PM Khan, Sri Lankan counterpart witness signing of accords in the fields of tourism, investment, education and technology
  • Pakistani experts advice Khan not to interfere in internal conflicts in Sri Lanka, remain within framework of bilateral issues 

COLOMBO/ISLAMABAD: The leader of the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress said on Tuesday the government of the island nation had cited security reasons to reject a request by 15 Muslim parliamentarians to meet Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan during his two-day official visit to Colombo. 
Khan arrived in Colombo on Tuesday afternoon where he was received by prime minister Mahinda Rajapaksa at the Bandaranaike International Airport. 
Khan had extensive consultations with his Sri Lankan counterpart at Temple Trees, the Prime Minister’s official residence, soon after his arrival in Colombo. The one-on-one meeting between the two PMs was followed by delegation-level talks between the two sides. 
The two leaders witnessed the signing ceremony of “important MOUs on cooperation in the fields of tourism, investment, education, and technology,” the Pakistani PM’s office said in a statement. 

“The two leaders held wide-ranging discussions with a focus on reinforcing a broad-based and enduring partnership between Pakistan and Sri Lanka to advance the shared objectives of peace, stability and economic prosperity in South Asia,” the PM’s office said, adding that “security and defense cooperation” was also discussed. 
“The Prime Minister emphasized the importance of resolving disputes through dialogue and promoting the vision of peace, progress and prosperity in South Asia and beyond,” the statement added. 
Meanwhile, Rauf Hakeem, former minister and leader of the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress, told Arab News a group of 15 Muslim MPs from different political parties sent a written request through the Pakistan High Commission in Colombo to meet the visiting prime minister, “but unfortunately the government has turned down our request citing security reasons.”
He was speaking during a protest held by the Muslim community near the Shangri La Hotel, where Premier Khan will be staying overnight in the Sri Lankan capital. 
Muslims make up nearly 10 percent of Sri Lanka’s population of 22 million, which is predominantly Buddhist. The community’s representatives say they have been receiving complaints of discrimination from across the country, especially since Easter Sunday attacks 2019, when reportedly Daesh-inspired militants killed over 250 people in churches and hotels across the country in Easter Sunday attacks in 2019.
In recent years, Buddhist hard-liners, led by the Bodu Bala Sena (BBS) or “Buddhist Power Force,” have stoked hostility against Muslims. 
As Khan landed at the Bandaranaike International Airport, more than 1,000 men and women gathered near the Shangri La Hotel to protest their government’s refusal to let their leaders meet Khan. 
“We wanted to tell the great Muslim leader and sportive Khan about the travails of the Muslim community; about the denial of the basic Islamic rites of cremating the remains of the Covid-19 infected,” Hakeem said, speaking about what has become a rallying cry for the island’s Muslims: The Sri Lankan government’s refusal to let them bury their dead according to Islamic rituals. 
In April last year, Sri Lanka made it mandatory that people dying of the coronavirus be cremated, causing anxiety and protests among the Muslim community, which traditionally buries its dead. On February 9 this year, Rajapaksa told parliament his government would allow the burial of people who had coronavirus. However, a gazette notification to annul the previous order has yet to be issued. 
Former minister and leader of the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress, Rishath Bathiudeen, told Arab News on Tuesday that the Muslim community had been traumatized due to the cremation order. 
“More than 180 countries are burying such Covid-19 infected bodies and the requests to Lankan government from international organizations such as the Organization of Islamic Conference(OIC) and human rights bodies have fallen on deaf ears,” he said. 
Parliamentarian Mujibur Rahman said the community continued to suffer: “People are not afraid of death but they are afraid of cremation.” 

But international affairs expert Zafar Jaspal warned against Pakistan looking at the Colombo trip as anything more than a bilateral visit or making it about the Muslim Unmah. 
“Khan is there to represent Pakistan and not the Muslim Ummah. There is a majority of Sinhali people in Sri Lanka and being the Buddist they have problems with Muslims for quite some time now,” he said. “Pakistan has always supported Sinhali leadership in Sri Lanka. It is in our best interest that we should not enter into the internal conflict of Sri Lanka and try to remain within the framework of the bilateral issues.” 
Former foreign secretary Riaz Khokhar concurred: “Pakistan and Sri Lanka have very historic and good relations. We played a very pivotal role in their victory against Tamil insurgency. Now we should not put our friends in trouble by indulging in any other issue than bilateral relations.”

Pakistan says its Expo Dubai pavilion received over 100,000 visitors since October 1

Updated 11 sec ago

Pakistan says its Expo Dubai pavilion received over 100,000 visitors since October 1

  • Deputy ruler of Dubai visited the Pakistan pavilion at Expo 2020 this week
  • Pakistan’s pavilion was officially inaugurated by President Arif Alvi on October 9

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s pavilion at the Expo 2020 Dubai has received over 100,000 visitors since its opening on October 1, the country’s official Twitter handle for the event said on Thursday.

The Expo is the first world fair to be held in the Middle East, and Dubai, the region’s tourism, trade and business hub, is hoping to boost its economy by attracting 25 million business and tourist visits to the exhibition, which has been built from scratch on 4.3 sq km of desert at a cost of around $6.8 billion.

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.

“We, at The Pakistan Pavilion, Expo2020 proudly announce the 100k visitor’s milestone as of October 18,2021,” Pakistan Expo 2020 said in a tweet, urging people to “come join us in reaching another milestone and let’s complete this journey together.”

Earlier this week the Deputy Ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum, toured the Pakistan pavilion which was officially inaugurated by President Dr. Arif Alvi on October 9.

Built from scratch on 4.3 square km of desert, the Expo is divided into three sub-theme districts: Opportunity, Mobility, and Sustainability.

The Pakistani pavilion, themed “The Hidden Treasure,” is located in the Opportunity area.

Pakistan can beat India in T20 World Cup opener in Dubai, experts say 

Updated 6 min 16 sec ago

Pakistan can beat India in T20 World Cup opener in Dubai, experts say 

  • Javed Miandad says Pakistani players must learn how to perform under pressure 
  • Pakistan will face off India at Dubai International Stadium on October 24 

ISLAMABAD: Pakistani cricket experts said on Wednesday India and Pakistan were equally capable of benefiting from the conditions in the United Arab Emirates and the team that handled pressure well was likely to win the Twenty20 World Cup opener at the Dubai International Stadium on Sunday. 

The Men in Green are familiar with UAE pitches after playing several matches in the Gulf state since 2009, when the Sri Lankan cricket team was attacked by militants in Lahore. 

As international cricket went on a decline in Pakistan, the country’s cricket board hosted multiple series in the UAE and even launched its biggest Pakistan Super League tournament in the Gulf state. 

Pakistan’s cricket squad ranks number three in T20 cricket and has previously grabbed the world title in the shortest format of the game. It has also won the last ten T20s in the UAE, which makes its players, including skipper Babar Azam, confident of success. 

However, former cricketers and independent experts say the Pakistani side will need to be aggressively in order to win the game. 

“While you are playing, you get opportunities and a stronger team benefit from them,” Javed Miandad, a former Pakistani cricketing legend, told Arab News. 

“Pakistan has a good team that can perform well, but our players will have to learn to take pressure without losing their nerves. In such matches, especially during crunch moments, you have to take your team to the end.” 

He recalled his own historic six in the Sharjah Cricket Stadium in 1986 that earned his side victory over India on the last ball of the match. 

Miandad maintained that UAE pitches could “equally support India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka,” adding that the final outcome would be determined by how these teams were going to utilize the available conditions. 

Salman Butt, former left-handed opener and skipper, agreed with Miandad. 

“It’s the same for all Asian teams,” he said. “We are all accustomed to these conditions. Pakistan may have played more cricket than other nations in the UAE, but several international cricketers have recently played the IPL [Indian Premier League] here and will come prepared.” 

Sports journalist Aalia Rasheed said it was premature to say anything about the outcome of the match since “we do not have the exact idea of what kind of pitches the Pakistani team is likely to get.” 

“Keeping in view the general UAE conditions, however, Pakistan and India can both benefit,” she continued. “These pitches are not offering turn. They are slow pitches where a grafter would be more successful. We cannot ignore the importance of power hitters, but a timer and a player who plays more on the ground and creates gaps can build an innings.” 

She acknowledged that Pakistan had some good batsmen like Babar, Rizwan, Hafeez and Malik, but maintained that it was all about handling pressure during the game. 

“They have a huge experience of playing in the UAE,” she said of the Pakistani players. “Yet, the magnitude of the World Cup is so big that it is not about the conditions but mental pressure. Whichever team manages to absorb that pressure on a given day will win.” 

Kamran Akmal, a test cricketer, said Pakistan had an advantage on other teams. 

“The pitches and general conditions should certainly benefit Pakistan,” he said. “Our team has played a great deal of international cricket in the UAE, though we will have to see how it begins to play from the first match.” 

Akmal said spinners, such as Shadab Khan, were likely to take wickets for Pakistan. 

“Pakistan certainly has an edge over others,” he continued. “Several Pakistan players have launched their professional career from the UEA. I believe that better planning and an aggressive game can help Pakistan win.” 

Pakistani ministries start implementing 2 percent employment quota for people with disabilities 

Updated 15 min 37 sec ago

Pakistani ministries start implementing 2 percent employment quota for people with disabilities 

ISLAMABAD: Pakistani government departments have started implementing a 2 percent job quota for people with disabilities at all federal ministries, a senior official at the human rights ministry said on Wednesday.

Human Rights Watch estimates that the number of people living with various intellectual and physical disabilities in Pakistan, a country of 220 million, varies from 3.3 million to 27 million. 

Pakistani law requires that 2 percent of people employed by an establishment be “disabled persons.” A Supreme Court ruling last year obliged the federal and provincial governments to take steps to realize equal participation of people with disabilities in accordance with the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which Pakistan ratified in 2011.

“On the instructions of Prime Minister Imran Khan, establishment division has formally instructed all ministries, divisions, attach departments and commissions working under federal government to strictly implement 2 percent quota of disabled persons in jobs,” Human Rights Ministry director general Muhammad Arshad told Arab News on Wednesday.

“Work has been started to implement this by providing jobs to disabled persons in all federal government departments in Pakistan,” he said. “For this purpose, the government has also established a new council, Council for the Rights of Disabled Persons, which is working on it and following it with all federal ministries.”

Until now, the 2 percent job quota has been widely unimplemented, with only a small number of persons with disabilities employed by different government departments.

“The government passed a legislation in December 2020 which required every office and government building to have accessibility options for special people, but even that law has not been fully implemented,” rights activist Muhammad Atif Sheikh told Arab News.

He added that a major issue was the lack of data on how many Pakistanis lived with disabilities as such questions were not included in the census process in Pakistan.

“Data is the biggest challenge,” he said. “The latest census conducted in Pakistan in 2017 showed there were only 0.09 percent disabled people in the country since the authorities did not ask questions related to the issue.”

Saqlain Shah, a visually impaired graduate, has been applying for government jobs since 2018, but says that until now has not received any response.

“We get response from private organizations, but it is very hard to find a job opening at government departments, he said. “Officials only respond when we apply for low-income jobs but they mostly remain silent when we apply for higher positions.”

Pakistan can be kings again despite India’s IPL riches, says Nazar 

Updated 21 October 2021

Pakistan can be kings again despite India’s IPL riches, says Nazar 

  • Starting in 2008, a year after the inaugural T20 World Cup, the IPL ushered in a new era of white-ball cricket 
  • Pakistan once had a far better head-to-head record against India who played catch up with their arch-rivals from 2000 onwards 

DUBAI: Former Pakistan all-rounder Mudassar Nazar insists his country will once again be the kings of Asian cricket despite India’s rise as world beaters on the back of the riches of the IPL. 
Pakistan were kings of the sub-continent from the mid-1980s to 1990s with their on-field brilliance under Imran Khan, who led them to the 1992 World Cup, before India turned the tables. 
“I don’t think Pakistan has changed. It is India who have changed,” Nazar told AFP ahead of the eagerly-awaited India-Pakistan clash at the Twenty20 World Cup in Dubai on Sunday. 
“With the advent of the IPL they have used the money really, really well. If you look at the domestic competition in India, look at all the associations, how well they are organizing their cricket. 
He added: “Everybody has got their own stadium, their own academies, school cricket, state cricket. Cricket is thriving in India. 
“But the people who have been consistently doing well have been England and Australia...India is in the forefront and among the three best sides in the world.” 
Starting in 2008, a year after the inaugural T20 World Cup, the IPL ushered in a new era of white-ball cricket that witnessed the game break new ground in viewership and fan base.

The IPL emerged as the world’s richest T20 league with its brand value estimated at $6.7 billion in 2019 by the Duff and Phelps financial consultancy.

At the same time, Pakistan was becoming a no-go zone for international cricket following the 2009 terror attack on the visiting Sri Lanka team.
“The BCCI have been very clever in how they used the IPL money. Indian cricket was powerful before that but since then it has seen a lot of consistency,” said Nazar. 
“They have got all the areas covered. You talk about fast bowling, you talk about spinners, fielding, the physical side, it’s a powerhouse. They seem to be getting top class batsmen every season. At the moment they are looking very formidable.”

But Nazar remains hopeful that the Pakistan Super League (PSL) — the nation’s premier T20 tournament — and new management will revive the game.

“It is also a matter of cycles. One decade we could be better than the rest of the world and then somebody else catches up,” said Nazar, who played 76 Tests between 1976 and 1989 with a batting average of over 38. 
He also sees a bright future under new PCB chairman Ramiz Raja.
“Things have started to improve with the PSL, but it will take time. It took time for India to revive.” 
“There is no club cricket and there is hardly any state cricket, so that’s a stumbling block. 
“But now with the new management coming in, Ramiz is a former cricketer and I think he will shape things better, put us on the right path and in the next couple of years probably we will be as strong as we used to be.” 
Pakistan once had a far better head-to-head record against India who played catch up with their arch-rivals from 2000 onwards. 
Nazar, who had been part of that strong Pakistan set-up, said the national team will someday turn a corner and notch up their first win against India in a World Cup. 
“When we were playing we always had the edge and toward the end of my career we won most games against India than we lost,” said the 65-year-old Nazar. 
“It needs somebody to come up with some brilliance. Somebody has a damn good game. Somebody has a decent century and bowls a decent spell and all of a sudden the tables will turn.” 

Boycott calls add to India-Pakistan cricket tensions ahead of World Cup clash in Dubai

Updated 20 October 2021

Boycott calls add to India-Pakistan cricket tensions ahead of World Cup clash in Dubai

  • India has largely refused to play bilateral games against Pakistan since 2008, after deadly attacks in Mumbai which it blamed on Pakistan
  • Indian atheletes say ‘sports and politics should not be mixed’ and the World Cup match between the two countries should go on

Dubai: Cricket tensions between India and Pakistan have been heightened by boycott calls in India ahead of their T20 World Cup clash on Sunday.
A series of killings in the disputed Kashmir region has set off the anger, even though the Indian board has insisted the national team cannot withdraw from the game.
Decades of bitter rivalry between the neighbors often clouds their cricket encounters. India has largely refused to play bilateral games against Pakistan since 2008, after deadly attacks in Mumbai which India blamed on Pakistan.
Now they only play each other in international events. The last meeting was at the 50-over World Cup two years ago but even that was at the center of boycott calls.
The killings of 11 migrant workers and minority Hindus and Sikhs in Indian-administered Kashmir have led to the latest demands made in India, which frequently accuses Pakistan of backing Kashmir militant groups. The hashtag #BlacklistPakistan was trending on Twitter Wednesday.
Rajeev Shukla, the Board of Control for Cricket in India vice president, said earlier that the country had a contractual obligation to take part.
“We strongly condemns the killings. However, under the International Cricket Council’s commitments, you can’t refuse to play any one (game),” Shukla told Indian media.
A cabinet minister, Giriraj Singh, had also urged the government to consider intervening to stop the match.
“I think if relations are not good, then this should be reconsidered,” Singh said when questioned about the match. Other politicians have also joined the calls.
However, India’s badminton great Prakash Padukone said, “sports and politics should not be mixed and according to me it (the India-Pakistan match) should go on.”
India was also urged to boycott the 2019 World Cup game against Pakistan because of a Kashmir suicide bomber attack in February of that year in which more than 40 troops were killed.
Pakistan denied any role in the assault but the two countries came to the brink of war. India won the game which went ahead in June 2019.
India and Pakistan last played a bilateral series in 2013 during a brief thaw in their rivalry.
The two countries have fought two wars over Kashmir — divided between the two nations — since their independence in 1947.