‘French perfume and a cellphone’: Eid in the digital age for Pakistan’s Pashtun youth

Anabia Yusufzai and her cousins inspect Barkha items for their uncle’s fiancée in Mardan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, May 7, 2021. (AN photo)
Short Url
Updated 13 May 2021

‘French perfume and a cellphone’: Eid in the digital age for Pakistan’s Pashtun youth

  • The elaborate tradition of Eid gift giving has decreased in practice in southern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, but continues in most rural parts of the province
  • Taking Barkha to the girl’s family is an occasion in itself, with women and children dressing up and making a grand entry with singers and dancers

PESHAWAR: In Pakistan’s conservative Pashtun societies, where arranged marriages and engagements are the norm, commitments of love involve elaborate family traditions that come alive for Eid — though the tides are ever so slightly changing.
A few days before Eid Al-Fitr, doting groups of women family members from the newly engaged boy’s side traditionally decorate baskets and fill them with gifts for the to-be bride and her family. The tradition is carried out in some form or the other across Pakistan, though in more urban towns, it carries far less of its traditional flavor. 
“Barkha is a beautiful tradition practiced in most Pashtun inhabited areas but is especially kept alive by the Yousafzai tribe in Swabi, Mardan, Buner, and Swat districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa,” Meraj Humayun Khanm a Khyber Pakhtunkhwa-based educationist, social worker and politician, told Arab News.

A little girl looks at artificial jewelry at an Eid stall in Peshawar, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, May 6, 2021. (AN photo)

“Women, usually sisters, cousins, and aunties of the engaged boy carry three new unstitched suits — one for each day of Eid — shoes, cosmetics, henna, four to six sets of bangles and jewelry in one traditional basket called shkare,” Humayun said. 
The baskets include a day’s meal for the family, including country chicken cooked in cow ghee and bread, as well as a variety of homemade confections. 
But even in these deeply conservative towns, where segregation between betrothed couples is common until they marry, things are changing in the age of digital love.
“I am sending her a French perfume and a cellphone, hoping her parents will allow her to get in touch with me,” Naqeeb Khan, a real estate dealer in Peshawar, told Arab News.
Khan is engaged to a girl from his ancestral village in Mardan who he has never seen.
“My younger sister has promised to get me her photos when they take Barkha on Eid day,” he said.
In southern, more “modern” districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the tradition of Barkha has decreased in practice but it is still very much alive in most rural parts of the province as well as in the tribal districts.

Girls try bangles for their brother’s fiancée at an Eid stall in Peshawar, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, May 6, 2021. (AN photo)

Anwar Zeb was engaged at the end of last year in his native Buner. 
“I prefer letting my fiancée choose her own stuff so I send over money to let her do her own shopping,” Zeb told Arab News.
“My mother is 60 years old and even now, every year my uncles send over her Barkha consisting of the new suits and traditional edibles,” he said.

Another key role of the boy’s family after an engagement — especially the aunties — used to be finding coy ways of somehow connecting the newly engaged couple.
“The aunts would try various rudimentary techniques, making it possible for the two to occasionally meet and understand each other before their wedding,” Pashto history professor Noorul Amin told Arab News.
But modern technology has relieved the aunties of that hectic job, as most couples now use their mobile phones and the Internet to get to know each other before they marry.
The parents too, are changing their minds.
“Allowing a monitored connection between the children is not an issue in my sight,” Naqeeb Khan’s to be mother-in-law told Arab News through an intermediary.
“I think it will help them in understanding each other better and increase their chances of living a happier life ahead,” she said.

Taking Barkha to the girl’s family is an occasion in itself. Women and children dress up in their finest clothes, making a grand entry with singers and dancers.
Traditionally, the women play music with a dhol or drum. They sing songs on the way and inside the girl’s house, sit and chat with the bride, apply henna to her hands, show off her gifts, and have a meal together.

But as with all things, time has changed much. 
Anabia Yusufzai from the village of Katlang in Mardan was in a hurry as she downloaded songs onto a flash drive and collected a bluetooth device on her way out, as she left for the home of her uncle’s fiancée with the to-be bride’s Barkha.
“I don’t like the idea of carrying around drums and singing women,” she said. “It’s a lot easier just using a gadget.”

Karachi qualifies for PSL playoffs and knocks out Lahore

Updated 19 June 2021

Karachi qualifies for PSL playoffs and knocks out Lahore

  • Karachi beat Quetta Gladiators by 14 runs in its do-or-die last league game in Abu Dhabi on Saturday
  • Karachi finished on 10 points alongside Lahore, but its better net run-rate knocked out Qalandars from the playoffs

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates: Defending champion Karachi Kings squeaked into the Pakistan Super League playoffs after beating Quetta Gladiators by 14 runs in its do-or-die last league game on Saturday.

Karachi finished on 10 points alongside Lahore Qalandars, but its better net run-rate knocked out the 2020 finalist from the playoffs.

Quetta finished on the bottom of the table with only two wins from 10 games.

Danish Aziz’s whirlwind knock of 45 runs off 13 balls lifted Karachi to 176-7. The left-hander smacked 33 runs in Jack Wildermuth’s penultimate over of the innings from four consecutive sixes and two boundaries.

Quetta, which made five changes in its last league game, ended up at 162-7. Captain Sarfaraz Ahmed was unbeaten on 51 off 33 balls.

Quetta debutant left-arm spinner Arish Ali Khan grabbed 4-28 as Karachi slipped to 121-5 in the 17th over. But Aziz’s masterful knock turned the tide in Karachi’s favor.

Wildermuth was brought into the attack in place of fast bowler Naseem Shah, who pulled a calf muscle just before he was about to bowl the penultimate over, and limped off the field.

Fast bowler Mohammad Ilyas (3-39) ran through the Quetta top order and Arshad Iqbal chipped in with 2-39.

Fast bowler Mohammad Amir twice came close to his first wicket in five PSL games, but first Wildermuth successfully overturned an lbw decision through television referral and Amir dropped a sitter off his own bowling off the next delivery to end up with 0-21.

PSL leader Islamabad United was playing Multan Sultans in the late game.

Babar Azam becomes PSL's all-time top scorer during tournament's Abu Dhabi leg

Updated 19 June 2021

Babar Azam becomes PSL's all-time top scorer during tournament's Abu Dhabi leg

  • As the PSL's top scorer with 2,000 runs, Azam is followed by Peshawar Zalmi's Kamran Akmal with 1,763 runs
  • Azam on Saturday also became the first player to score 500 runs in a single edition of PSL

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan captain Babar Azam became the first player to cross the 2,000-run mark in the Pakistan Super League (PSL) during a Karachi Kings vs Quetta Gladiators faceoff in Abu Dhabi on Saturday.
During the same match, Azam also became the first player to score 500 runs in a single edition of PSL, as he scored 23 off 25 against Quetta Gladiators, taking his PSL6 tally to 501.
"#King #BabarAzam the 1st batsman in the history of #HBLPSL to score 2000 runs," Karachi Kings celebrated its batsman in a tweet.



The sixth edition of Pakistan’s flagship cricket super league tournament resumed at the Sheikh Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi on June 9. It was postponed in March after a string of positive coronavirus cases among players and officials.
As the PSL's top scorer, Azam is followed by Peshawar Zalmi's Kamran Akmal who has scored 1,763 runs.
Born in Lahore, the 26-year-old right-hand, top-order batsman was 12 when he already played serious tape-ball cricket. At age 15, he was declared Pakistan's best Under-15 batsman and made his List A debut.  
By 16, he was a first-class cricketer for Zarai Taraqiati Bank Limited (ZTBL) cricket team. By the time he received his first ODI cap, he already had six centuries and more than 2,000 List A runs at an average of 47.88 to his name.
In September 2018, Azam passed 2,000 runs in ODI cricket, reaching the milestone in just 45 innings. Only one player has ever gotten there quicker and that is South African great Hashim Amla. Amla took just 40 innings.
In the 2019 ICC Cricket World Cup, Azam made history, scoring 474 runs at 67.61 to break Javed Miandad’s 1992 record for the most runs by a Pakistan batsman in a Cricket World Cup campaign.
In April, he ended Virat Kohli’s long reign at the top of the MRF Tyres ICC Men’s ODI Player Rankings, becoming only the fourth batsman from his country to attain number one position in the rankings.

Pakistani doctors say running out of vaccines, warn of fourth coronavirus wave

Updated 19 June 2021

Pakistani doctors say running out of vaccines, warn of fourth coronavirus wave

  • Pakistan Medical Association calls for strict implementation of health guidelines as more contagious COVID-19 variants are present in the country
  • Pakistan's health chief says 6.5 million vaccine doses expected to arrive this month, pressure on vaccine distribution to ease next week

LAHORE: Vaccination centers are running out of COVID-19 shots, Pakistan Medical Association (PMA) secretary general Dr. Qaisar Sajjad said on Saturday, a day after the PMA warned of a looming fourth wave of the pandemic.

In a press release issued on Friday evening, the PMA said that as the government is reopening all sectors over a steady decline in coronavirus cases, without strict implementation of health guidelines, Pakistan "can face fourth wave" of the pandemic, as the highly contagious virus variants first reported in the UK, South Africa, Brazil and India are already present in the country.

It advised all to get vaccinated as soon as possible, as vaccination is "the most protective shield against COVID-19," and requested the government to ensure uninterrupted supplies of vaccine doses.

“Vaccination centers are running short of vaccines and the people are being asked to go back," Dr. Sajjad told Arab News. "The situation is really very bad in terms of vaccine supply. The doctors have stopped vaccination drive and we are receiving complaints from all over the country, especially from various districts of Punjab, that there is no vaccine available."

He added that the call to strictly follow coronavirus restrictions was also related to the presence of the Delta variant of COVID-19, first identified in India, which is more contagious and resistant to vaccines compared with other forms of COVID-19.

Punjab Health Minister Dr. Yasmeen Rashid has also confirmed the shortage of COVID-19 shots in her province.

"Arrival of Chinese vaccine was due on June 10, but due to some technical issues it was delayed and would arrive on June 20," she told Arab News. "We are running short of AstraZeneca vaccine and people have been asked to come after a week."

The federal government has meanwhile said that it expects 6.5 million vaccine doses to arrive in Pakistan this month.

"Any pressure in the system & local/distribution issues will be eased by Mon/Tue, inshallah," Pakistan's health chief, Dr. Faisal Sultan, said in a series of tweets on Saturday.



At the current vaccination pace, however, reaching herd immunity in the country may take years.

"COVID-19 is a phenomenon that will persist until 80 percent of population is vaccinated," Dr. Javed Akram, vice chancellor of the University of Health Sciences in Lahore, told Arab News.

"The whole process will take two, three years or maybe more than that."

FM Qureshi meets Kuwaiti counterpart, welcomes relaxation of visa restrictions for Pakistanis

Updated 19 June 2021

FM Qureshi meets Kuwaiti counterpart, welcomes relaxation of visa restrictions for Pakistanis

  • Kuwait suspended visas for Pakistanis in 2011, announced resumption of family and business visas last month
  • Qureshi met Kuwait's FM at the Antalya Diplomacy Forum, attended by top political leaders, diplomats, opinion makers and academics

ISLAMABAD: Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi welcomed Kuwait's relaxation of travel restrictions for Pakistanis during a meeting with his Kuwaiti counterpart on Saturday.

Kuwait suspended visas for nationals of Iran, Iraq, Syria, Pakistan and Afghanistan in 2011 over what it said were difficult security conditions in the five countries. Last month, Pakistani Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed announced, after meeting the Kuwaiti prime minister, that business and family visas for Pakistani nationals would be “immediately” resumed.

Qureshi met Kuwaiti Foreign Minister Sheikh Ahmad Nasser Al-Mohammad Al-Sabah on the sidelines of the Antalya Diplomacy Forum in Turkey. The forum, attended by top political leaders, diplomats, opinion makers and academics, is being held from June 18-20 in an Antalya resort on the coast of the Mediterranean.

"Pakistan welcomes ease of visa restrictions for our nationals. Pakistan and Kuwait share excellent bilateral relations & we look forward to deepening cooperation at all levels through our ongoing leadership level exchanges," Qureshi said in a tweet.



Pakistan began visa resumption talks with Kuwait in 2020, after which 208 nurses, doctors and medical technicians traveled to Kuwait on Oct. 22, 2020, according to data from the Ministry of Overseas Pakistanis.

Three more groups have gone since. On Thursday a fifth batch of Pakistani medical professionals arrived in Kuwait, taking the total number of health care workers who have traveled to the state since October last year to 938.

Pakistan says committed to implement GSP Plus conventions for preferential trade with EU

Updated 19 June 2021

Pakistan says committed to implement GSP Plus conventions for preferential trade with EU

  • The European Parliament urged its member states earlier this year to review Pakistan's trade status due to the rising number of blasphemy cases
  • Pakistan's foreign office said in a statement FM Qureshi also raised 'Islamophobia, racism and populism' with a senior European official on Friday

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan's Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi reiterated his country's commitment to a preferential trade arrangement with European nations while promising effective implementation of several international conventions during his meeting with a senior European Union official on the sidelines of the Antalya Diplomacy Forum in Turkey on Friday.
According to an official statement released by the foreign office in Islamabad, Qureshi discussed "the entire spectrum of Pakistan-EU relations," including the Generalized Scheme of Preferences (GSP) Plus arrangement, during his interaction with EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell Fontelles.
"Emphasizing the importance of bilateral trade, the Foreign Minister highlighted that GSP Plus had been a mutually beneficial undertaking and played an important role in the growth of trade between the two sides," said the statement. "He reiterated Pakistan's firm commitment towards the GSP Plus preferential trade regime and effective implementation of the twenty-seven related international conventions."
The European Parliament adopted a resolution in April, urging its member nations to review Pakistan's GSP Plus status due to the rising number of blasphemy cases in the country.
The GSP Plus is a special trade arrangement offered to developing economies by European nations in return for their commitment to implement 27 international conventions on human rights, environmental protection and governance.
Fontelles said in a Twitter post he had a "good discussion" with the Pakistani foreign minister, adding that he had raised human rights concerns, including the blasphemy law, during the conversation.

The foreign office also said in its statement that Qureshi discussed "rising Islamophobia, racism and populism" with the EU official, saying the entire international community "must show a common resolve against xenophobia, intolerance and incitement to violence on the basis of religion or belief."
He also highlighted Pakistan's contributions to the Afghan peace process and emphasized that the conflict should only be settled through an Afghan-led and -owned political process.
"The two leaders agreed to continue to maintain high level engagement to further strengthen Pakistan-EU relations," the statement added.