Pakistan's first lady to open Sufism research center in Lahore

This undated file photo shows Bushra Imran, wife of Pakistan's prime minister Imran Khan, during her interview with Hum News. (Photo courtesy: Hum News)
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Updated 29 May 2021

Pakistan's first lady to open Sufism research center in Lahore

  • Center will be named after Sheikh Abu Al-Hasan Ash-Shadhili, an influential 13th-century Islamic scholar from Morocco
  • Prior to her marriage with Imran Khan, the first lady was known as a Sufi scholar, spiritual mentor and faith healer

ISLAMABAD: A new Sufism research center will be established in Lahore by Bushra Bibi, the wife of Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan, the prime minister's office said on Friday.

Sufism is a mystical form of Islam, a school of practice that emphasizes the inward search for God. Prior to her marriage with Khan, the first lady was known as a Sufi scholar, spiritual mentor and faith healer.

"It has been decided to set up Sufi science and research centers across Punjab on the special interest of First Lady Bushra Imran. In the first phase, Sheikh Abu Al-Hasan Ash-Shadhili Sufism Research Center will be launched in Lahore," the Prime Minister's Office said in a statement on Friday.

Ash-Shadhili was an influential 13th-century Islamic scholar from Morocco.

"The research center will conduct research on Islam, Sufism, religious thought, tolerance, and modern sciences," the statement said, adding that through collaboration with Pakistani and foreign universities, the center in the future will offer undergraduate and graduate programs in Islamic philosophy.

According to the press release, the center will offer scholarships to poor students as part of the first lady's "pro-poor and pro-education initiatives is underway to provide equal opportunities for development to disadvantaged sections of the society."


Head of Pakistan's newly formed reforms commission 'confident' of simplification of tax system

Updated 13 min 12 sec ago

Head of Pakistan's newly formed reforms commission 'confident' of simplification of tax system

  • Ashfaq Tola says the independent commission will address issues pertaining to complex tax system, budget
  • The reforms commission head says it'll be able to give first set of recommendations by the mid of April 2023

KARACHI: Ashfaq Yousuf Tola, chairman of recently formed Reforms and Resource Mobilization Commission (RRMC) of Pakistan, on Sunday said he was "confident" of playing a catalyst role in the simplification of the country’s complex taxation system and cut the informal, parallel economy to size.  

Pakistan has been grappling with a widening current account deficit, a balance-of-payment crisis and inflation hovering around historic highs in recent months. The South Asian nation has also witnessed an economic slowdown in the wake of recent floods that have damaged huge infrastructure and agriculture output.  

Pakistan’s Finance Minister Ishaq Dar last week constituted a powerful commission to review the existing revenue policies, identify issues and risks of existing tax system, review budget proposals and evaluate their consequences as well as review complexities of tax legislation.

An undated file photo of Ashfaq Yousuf Tola, Chairman of Reforms and Resource Mobilization Commission (RRMC). (Supplied)

Tola, who is currently serving as a technical advisor on the Board of International Federation of Accountants, would directly work under the finance minister and hold a full-time office at the Islamabad headquarters of the national tax agency, the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR).   

“This commission is completely independent and will play a key role in addressing complex taxation and other economic issues,” Tola told Arab News in an exclusive interview on Sunday.   

“The commission will have access to analyses, revenue policies and meet with the stakeholders. The commission will have its input in budget and budget evaluation.”  

The RRMC head, president of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Pakistan (ICAP), has an experience of over 30 years in financial and forensic auditing, tax advisory and corporate structuring.   

The 11-member commission headed by him comprises FBR chairman, experts on taxation and economy, and representatives of the business community. 

This is the second commission formed by Dar in the last eight years and is given both short- and long-term objectives, with a major focus on finalization of taxation measures for next fiscal years.  

“This commission is completely different from the previous one and it has no lifecycle,” Tola said. “This time strong players have been picked up for the commission who have the capability to deliver.”   

Asked how the commission would work, Tola said it would form different sub-groups to come up with assessments of their relevant fields.  

“For instance, economists would be tasked to evaluate the size of parallel economy and the chartered accountants would be asked to draw global comparison and identify snags and [present] recommendation on how to rectify them,” he explained. 

Pakistan has complex taxation measures in place, which experts say are highly "oppressive" in nature.  

“Pakistan’s tax system is complicated, fragmented, oppressive, narrow and anti-growth. It has one of the highest rates for the corporate sector,” Dr Ikramul Haq, a Lahore-based taxation expert, told Arab News.   

“It is highly oppressive for salaried persons and citizens with fixed income living under hyperinflation. It levies and collects main taxes at import stage, making exports uncompetitive and increasing the already heavy cost of doing business.” 

The Tola-led commission is assigned a daunting task to come up with recommendations to reform the ages-old taxation system and broaden the tax net.  

Pakistan has less than 3.5 million income tax filers, with a majority declaring its income below the taxable limit or reporting losses. The number of individuals registered for sales tax is less than 350,000 and actual payers are less than 85,000, the rest claim refunds, according to official data.   

Haq suggested dismantling the fragmented tax structure by giving power to the federation to levy and collect tax from all sources, including from the ones whose income is based on agriculture.  

Provinces should have exclusive jurisdiction over harmonized sales tax on goods and services and all these should be collected through a national tax agency, he added. 

The RRMC is given an April 2023 deadline to submit its first report, which Tola is confident to meet.   

To a question about the timing of the RRMC formation amid an uncertain and fluid political and economic situation, Tola said the formation of the commission was a "good initiative" and must be kept apolitical.   

“This is a good thing formed and if it is kept apolitical that would be good for the country,” he said.   

He, however, conceded that there was no guarantee of the commission’s future in case the government changes.  

Pakistan has been hit by political instability for years now, which has aggravated since the ouster of former prime minister Imran Khan in April. 

The instable political situation has been taking a toll on the country's frail economy, already suffering from devastating impacts of the floods. 


For Pakistani beauty and fragrance brands, the newest craze is Middle Eastern scented wood chips

Updated 05 December 2022

For Pakistani beauty and fragrance brands, the newest craze is Middle Eastern scented wood chips

  • Popularly known as 'bakhoor' in the Arab world, the agarwood chips are said to have several medical and psychological benefits
  • Local businesses say the incense chips are in high demand in Pakistan, though many customers also find them quite expensive

KARACHI: Beauty and fragrance brands across Pakistan have been importing a product which has long dominated the Middle East culture and is widely used in traditional Arab households and markets. 

'Bakhoor,' or agarwood chips, are used to spread lingering fragrance at homes, shops and offices. Pakistani businesses have been bringing these scented bricks from Arab countries before offering their different varieties to customers. 

A salon in Karachi, for instance, provides hair bakhoor scalp treatment which, it says, is quite popular in the Arab World. 

"Bakhoor is in high demand in Pakistan," Adeel Shafiq Alam, chief executive officer of an Arabian fragrance shop, Souk Galleria, told Arab News. 

Alam's organization has been doing good business in Karachi and Lahore since 2020 and boasts international outlets in places like Dubai and the United States. 

"We import bakhoor from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates," Alam added. "Bakhoor farming is not common in Pakistan. Even if we start it today, it will take another 25 years for us to benefit from it. A large number of people in Pakistan are still not very familiar with bakhoor." 

A Saudi man holds a handful of Bakhoor or Agarwood at his shop in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia on October 10, 2007. (AFP/File)

Alam, whose business offers several types of bakhoor products, said people used to ask him all sorts of questions about the scented bricks when Souk Galleria started advertising bakhoor in Pakistan two years ago. 

"Many of them want to buy bakhoor but are usually deterred by high prices," he continued. "Most of them find it difficult to afford good quality bakhoor, which can cost around Rs1,000 per gram." 

The incense chips, which have been used in the Middle East for centuries, are said to have several medical and psychological benefits. Some say they change people's mood and relieve them of stress and anxiety. 

"The future of bakhoor is bright in Pakistan since many people from this country visit Arab states, especially for Hajj and Umrah, and see how Arabs use these scented chips," Shiekh Faisal Ghani, chairman of Saeed Ghani, a popular Pakistani brand for herbal and skincare products, told Arab News. 

Ghani's business offers bakhoor fragrances that include Oud Wood, Oud Combodi, Oud Kindi and Oud Amber. 

"Ninety-nine percent of bakhoor is imported from Gulf countries, such as Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Oman," he added. 

Karachi's Scalpxury, a beauty salon, says it is the only place in the country offering bakhoor hair treatment. 

"Hair bakhoor are different from normal bakhoor sold in Pakistan. The fragrance and texture are slightly different and they give longevity to one’s hair," said Shehla Khan, the salon owner. 

"Conventionally and commercially, hair bakhoor are not available in the market. I get them from the Arab region." 

Khan said her business was different since it was not retailing or selling bakhoor, but using them to offer a popular variety of hair treatment. 


England's Livingstone out of Pakistan tour with knee injury

Updated 05 December 2022

England's Livingstone out of Pakistan tour with knee injury

  • The 29-year-old all-rounder made his Test debut Thursday in the ongoing first Test in Rawalpindi
  • Livingstone jarred his knee while fielding on day two and did not bowl in Pakistan's first innings 

RAWALPINDI: All-rounder Liam Livingstone has been ruled out of the rest of England's tour of Pakistan with a knee injury, the team's management said Monday. 

The 29-year-old made his Test debut Thursday in the ongoing first Test in Rawalpindi, scoring nine and seven not out in England's two innings. 

But he jarred his knee while fielding on day two and did not bowl in Pakistan's first innings. 

Livingstone also missed the Twenty20 series against Pakistan a few months ago after suffering an ankle injury. 

England have yet to decide if a replacement will be called up. 

Pakistan were chasing 343 Monday on the fifth and final day of the first Test. 

England are on their first Test tour of Pakistan since 2005, having declined to visit in the interim years on security grounds. 

The second Test is in Multan from December 9-13, and the third in Karachi from December 17-21. 


Second phase of Pakistan T20 Women's Cricket Tournament to kick off from Monday

Updated 04 December 2022

Second phase of Pakistan T20 Women's Cricket Tournament to kick off from Monday

  • Tournament matches will be played at two Lahore venues, final to take place on December 9
  • PCB says tournament winners will bag Rs1 million, runners-up team to receive Rs0.5 million

ISLAMABAD: The second phase of the Pakistan T20 Women's Cricket Tournament is scheduled to kick off from December 5, the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) announced on Sunday.
The first phase of the tournament concluded earlier this week on Friday.
The second phase, which will begin from Monday, will be held at two venues in Lahore: The Lahore Gymkhana and the LCCA Ground, the PCB confirmed.
"Four teams namely Blasters, Challengers, Dynamites and Strikers will feature in the event where Pakistan's elite cricketers will take part," the country's cricket board said in a statement.
The second phase will be played on a single-league basis, where two matches will be held everyday on 5, 6 and 7 December.
The final of the tournament will take place at Lahore's Gaddafi Stadium on December 9 which will also be live-streamed for viewers on the PCB's YouTube channel.
“The tournament provides a great opportunity for players to kick-start their preparations for the ICC Women's T20 World Cup in South Africa later next year and hone their skills in the format," it added.
The contest will feature a blend of Pakistani cricketers who have represented their country internationally along with the emerging talent in the game.
In order to incentivize domestic performers, the best player of every match will continue to receive Rs20,000 as they were getting in the first phase of the tournament. The player of the tournament will bag Rs50,000. The winning team will receive Rs1 million, while the runner-up will get Rs0.5 million.
Blasters squad:
Fatima Sana (Captain), Aima Saleem, Anam Amin, Ayesha Bilal, Ayesha Naseem, Bismah Maroof, Fareeha Mehmood, Gul Rukh, Huraina Sajjad, Maham Manzoor, Mahnoor Aftab, Masooma Zehra, Shawal Zulfiqar, Sidra Amin and Amber Kainaat
Team management – Mauhtashim Rashid (head coach), Shahid Mehmood (assistant coach), Mahlika Mansoor (manager)
Challengers squad:
Omaima Sohail (Captain), Aiman Anwar, Aliya Riaz, Anoosha Nasir, Ayesha Zafar, Dua Majid, Ghulam Fatima, Hamna Bilal, Javeria Wadood, Khadija Chishti, Lubna Behram, Najiha Alvi, Noreen Yaqoob, Rameen Shamim and Rida Aslam
Team management – Azam Khan (head coach), Nazim Khan (assistant coach), Asiya Khan (manager)
Dynamites squad:
Umm-e-Hani (Captain), Aleena Shah, Gull-e-Uswa, Gull Feroza, Kainat Imtiaz, Nahida Khan, Nida Dar, Sadaf Shamas, Sadia Iqbal, Saima Malik, Saira Jabeen, Sidra Nawaz, Tuba Hassan, Waheeda Akhtar and Yusra Amir
Team management – Taufiq Umar (head coach), Jawad Hamid (assistant coach), Hina Azam (manager)
Strikers squad:
Muneeba Ali (Captain), Aroob Shah, Ayesha Irfan, Eymaan Fatima, Fatima Khan, Iram Javed, Javeria Rauf, Kaynat Hafeez, Maham Tariq, Nashra Sundhu, Natalia Parvaiz, Neha Sharmeen, Saba Nazir, Soha Fatima and Zunera Shah
Team management – Waqar Orakzai (head coach), Rehmat Gull (assistant coach), Aisha Jalil (manager)


Pakistan's Grammy-winning artist goes looking for childhood home in Saudi Arabia

Updated 04 December 2022

Pakistan's Grammy-winning artist goes looking for childhood home in Saudi Arabia

  • Arooj Aftab was born to Pakistani parents in the kingdom where she spent the first few years of her life
  • The Pakistani singer gained recognition through fusion music before winning the biggest prize in April

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan's first Grammy-winning music artist Arooj Aftab shared her quest to find her childhood home in Saudi Arabia with her fans on Instagram along with interesting pictures and videos of the place.
The Brooklyn-based vocalist, who bagged the most prestigious international music award for her song "Mohabbat" in April, was born to Pakistani parents in the kingdom where she spent the first few years of her life.
Aftab pursued a degree in music production and engineering in Boston before settling down in New York where she became part of the city's "new music" scene.
"Searching for my childhood home in Riyadh with no address, just a couple of landmarks from memory - a park, a mosque, a hill and a hotel," she wrote on Instagram last week along with a bunch of photographs and videos documenting her experience.
"I think I found it," she continued. "Almost 30 years later, the once sweet neighborhood full of villas and elegant apartments, home to well offish and upcoming young immigrant families - is now just a few abandoned villas, empty squares of demolished house, sleepy old apartment buildings, and construction sites as the city is packing in affordable apartment housing into the area. The vibe of this place is unmistakable though. These are the streets. These are definitely the streets."

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Arooj Aftab (@aroojaftab)

Aftab shared the image of the back gate of her villa, showed the streets surrounding her childhood residence along with an abandoned building structure which she said looked like the place where she once lived.
"This space between memory and sadness, between the past and the excitement to return to it, between seeing change and the relief it brings …. this space is perfect," she added.
The Pakistani singer, who has gained international recognition through fusion music, got over 8,850 likes on the post which clearly captivated her Instagram fanbase.
Apart from becoming the first and only Grammy winner for her country, Aftab also debuted at the prestigious Coachella music festival this year.