With new digital platform, investing in Pakistani art is now just a click away 

A polyptych piece by Javaid Iqbal Mughal - one of the many artists who exhibits online with Pakistan Art Forum - is seen at a recent pop-up event in Lahore, Pakistan, on July 5, 2021. (Photo Courtesy: PAF)
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Updated 20 July 2021

With new digital platform, investing in Pakistani art is now just a click away 

  • The Pakistan Art Forum, launched earlier this month, grew out of a Facebook page created in 2014
  • Founder Imtisal Zafar says platform was designed to promote emerging and established artists globally

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Art Forum (PAF), which its founder Imtisal Zafar calls the “largest digital platform of its kind in Pakistan,” was launched earlier this month to connect established and emerging Pakistani artists with potential buyers around the world.
PAF, initially a Facebook group, started off as a “passion project” for Zafar in 2014 and is now a website designed specially to promote Pakistani artists and help them go global, the Lahore-based founder and curator told Arab News.
“The forum is now the largest digital platform where every week there is tons of new artwork shared, making it valuable for artists who want to connect with potential clients,” Zafar said, adding that the “free market space” could be used to trade artwork between galleries, artists and clients. “The forum does not take any commission for that.”
Zafar said what distinguished the platform from other websites was its global outreach, making it possible for art aficionados around the world to get their hands on Pakistani art in a “reliable, transparent and trustworthy” manner.




Pieces by contemporary and modern Pakistani artists on display at Pakistan Art Forum's recent pop-up event in Lahore, Pakistan on July 5, 2021. (Photo Courtesy: PAF)

“Except for one minor art website, there never has been a Pakistani art website with a similar ethos like Artsy.net or Saatchi in Pakistan,” he said. “The aspiration of making this website global is to give Pakistani artists international exposure and give people from outside the country access to Pakistani art.”
He said the forum aimed to identify and highlight promising new artists, and offered a diverse price range to buyers, “with some pieces starting as low as Rs20,000 [$125].”
“One of our main goals at PAF since its inception has been to discover hidden and young talent that has a lot of promise and needs the right exposure, mentorship and guidance,” Zafar said. “We very religiously cover all thesis shows across the country at all art universities and colleges because that is the hotspot to discover upcoming talent.”




Pieces by contemporary and modern Pakistani artists on display at Pakistan Art Forum's Soiree collectors show in Lahore, Pakistan on March 22, 2021. (Photo Courtesy: PAF)

Zafar also said what set PAF apart from other commercial sellers in the country was that it did not only focus on pieces that highlighted Pakistani heritage, history and culture, as was the norm.
“The young generation of artists is pushing the envelope with their art,” he said, “getting inspired by their western idols and appropriating them in their own way to create unique and exciting works.”
Artist Ahmer Farooq, whose work is held in private collections in Denmark, India, Japan, Norway, Pakistan, UAE, UK and the US, told Arab News he had been displaying his work on the digital forum since it was launched as a Facebook page, acknowledging the lack of such platforms in Pakistan to promote local artists internationally.




A sculpture by artist Rajesh Ram on display at Pakistan Art Forum's Soiree collectors show in Lahore, Pakistan on March 22, 2021. (Photo Courtesy: PAF)

“PAF gets artists’ work the national and international exposure they deserve,” Farooq said. “Pakistan is full of talented artists who have yet not been discovered and the country’s art landscape remains raw and unpolluted.”
Another artist, Fawad Jafri, said the forum could help talented artists represent their country at a relatively young age.
“PAF is our new baby in the art circle, and we prefer our youngsters to represent Pakistan as early as possible, so that the coming generation may relate themselves to the art represented by PAF,” he said.
Art and culture writer Nayha Jehangir Khan told Arab News the platform was “free from the traditional and gallerist format.”




A sculpture by artist Irfan Abdullah on display at Pakistan Art Forum's Soiree collectors show in Lahore, Pakistan on March 22, 2021. (Photo Courtesy: PAF)

“This forum acts as the missing link to developing modern strategies of opening up unconventional art exhibition spaces and forming alliances between the art and fashion industry,” she said, adding that the platform was also making it possible for emerging and aspiring artists to be “noticed and celebrated” by a wider community of young art enthusiasts who would be the future collectors of Pakistan.


Shanghai Cooperation Organization leaders, including Pakistan’s Khan, warn against ‘abandoning’ Afghanistan

Updated 11 sec ago

Shanghai Cooperation Organization leaders, including Pakistan’s Khan, warn against ‘abandoning’ Afghanistan

  • PM addresses Pakistan-Tajikistan Business Forum ahead of Shanghai Cooperation Organization heads-of-state summit today
  • Afghanistan is observer at SCO, but not invited to summit because its new government is not recognized by the bloc

ISLAMABAD: Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan said on Thursday he would work with the president of Tajikistan to ensure there was peace in Afghanistan and an inclusive government was formed in the war-torn country, as leaders of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization Council met in Dushanbe and called on the world not to abandon Afghanistan.

World powers have told the Taliban the key to peace and development is an inclusive government acceptable to all people of Afghanistan, including women and minorities. But an all-male interim cabinet announced earlier this month saw key positions going to veteran players of the Taliban movement.

The Persian-speaking Tajiks of Afghanistan’s western and northern regions have long been opposed to the southern and eastern Pashtuns who make up the core of the Taliban.

The Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan states in Central Asia share a border with landlocked Afghanistan.

“We just wish and pray that finally after 40 years of conflict there will be peace in Afghanistan,” Khan said while addressing the Pakistan-Tajikistan Business Forum in Dushanbe, where he arrived yesterday, Thursday, to attend the 20th Shanghai Cooperation Organization Council of Heads of State (SCO-CHS) summit.

“It’s extremely important for our [Pakistan-Tajikistan] trade for there to be peace there [in Afghanistan] so there’s better connectivity.”

He added: “I will be meeting your president. Your president and myself will be trying everything to make sure that there is peace, especially between the two major communities, Pashtuns and Tajiks. We will be doing our best that they get together and there is an inclusive government.”

Chaudhry Fawad Hussain, the information minister, who is accompanying the PM to Dushanbe, said in a recorded video message:

“All regional leaders agree that if a stable government in Afghanistan is to be achieved then the country should not be abandoned. It should be rather engaged. Afghans should not be left alone at this critical juncture. Efforts should continue for an inclusive government there.”

“There is a consensus on these issues,” Hussain said.

This is PM Khan’s first visit to Tajikistan where the plenary session of the SCO summit will be held today, Friday. Afghanistan will be at the top of the agenda for the meet, with participating leaders likely to demand the formation of an inclusive government in Afghanistan, ask Taliban to prevent the country from becoming a militant safe haven, and discuss ways to tackle an impending humanitarian crisis there.

“While there is a realization among the SCO leaders that Afghanistan should not be abandoned, Taliban government is unlikely to win the region’s recognition during the summit,” Pakistan’s Dawn newspaper reported. “Afghanistan has an observer status at the SCO, but it has not been invited for the summit because the members of the bloc do not recognize its new government.”

Russian Special Presidential Envoy for SCO Affairs, Bakhtiyer Khakimov, said in an interview with TASS news agency: “At this stage, all member states have an understanding that there are no reasons for an invitation until there is a legitimate, generally recognized government in Afghanistan.”

PM Khan meets SCO leaders

After attending the business forum, Khan had a meeting and discussed Afghanistan and other bilateral and regional issues with President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev of Kazakhstan.

“The Prime Minister particularly emphasized the importance of connectivity and Pakistan’s pivotal position in providing the shortest access route to the sea,” a statement from the Pakistani foreign office said. “The Prime Minister also highlighted the significance of Trans-Afghan railway project connecting Termez-Mazar-e-Sharif-Kabul-Jalalabad-Peshawar.”

Khan also Ebrahim Raisi, the president of Iran, and with Alexander Lukashenko, President of the Republic of Belarus, on the sidelines of the SCO summit.

Raisi, according to a statement by the Iranian presidency, said: “We should try to help Afghanistan form a government that includes all groups based on the will of the people of the country. The key to solving Afghanistan’s problems is to form an inclusive government and prevent foreign interference in the country’s affairs.” 

Meanwhile, Lukashenko and Khan “exchanged views on the situation in Afghanistan,” the Pakistani foreign office said.

“The Prime Minister stressed that the international community must stand by the Afghan people, help avert a humanitarian crisis, and take steps to stabilize the economy. The Prime Minister reiterated Pakistan’s full support to efforts for stabilization of Afghanistan and hoped that the international community will play a positive role in this regard.”
 
Khan also renewed his invitation to President Lukashenko to visit Pakistan while Lukashenko invited Khan to visit Belarus at the earliest.

Pakistan-Tajikistan Business Forum

In June, PM Khan attended the Pakistan-Uzbekistan “Silk Route Reconnect” Business Forum and signed a significant transit agreement with Uzbekistan to allow Tashkent to utilize Pakistani seaports for much of its trade, bypassing Iran.

Uzbekistan is a landlocked country that heavily relies on Iran’s Bandar Abbas port for international business and commerce. Islamabad wants to tap the unlocked states through its deep-sea Gwadar port in southwestern Balochistan to boost its geo-economic position in the region.

Central Asia also offers Pakistan a $90 billion export market.

Khan also signed deals for the transportation of goods, cooperation between chambers of commerce of both countries, education, culture and tourism during the June trip.

The Pakistani foreign office said on Thursday the PM’s visit to Tajikistan this week was part of Pakistan’s deepened engagement with Central Asia and its focus on enhancing political ties, trade and investment, energy and connectivity, security and defense, and people-to-people contact.

On Thursday, Khan met and interacted with members of the business communities of both Pakistan and Tajikistan in Dushanbe.

“I believe we have some 67 companies here from Pakistan today, in different fields of textiles, minerals, pharmaceuticals,” the PM said at the business forum.

He praised Tajikistan for being a “very resourceful country.”

“You have cheap, clean hydroelectricity and in Pakistan, unfortunately, we have very expensive electricity,” Khan lamented.

“And so, we hope that CASA-1000 will be expedited so that we can also benefit from your clean and cheap energy,” the PM said, referring to a regional electricity generation project linking Central Asia and South Asia.

He said Pakistan, with its 220 million population, offered a “huge market” to Tajikistan and an opportunity to expand the existing “minuscule” trade volume of $80 million.

“We hope and I invite you [Tajikistan’s business community], our business community will invite you, and I assure you that we will facilitate you in every way,” he said. “I can assure you that we will be giving you all the incentives, the government will do everything to make it easier for you to do business.”


Pakistan tells UN refugee agency it will continue Afghan aid

Updated 16 September 2021

Pakistan tells UN refugee agency it will continue Afghan aid

  • A senior minister says the government has sent trucks carrying food for Afghans to help prevent a humanitarian crisis in the neighboring state
  • Pakistan has already communicated to the world community it cannot host more refugees due to its financial constraints

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s interior minister has assured the UN refugee agency that his country will continue to provide humanitarian assistance to Afghan people.
Sheikh Rashid Ahmed told visiting UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi on Thursday that no new Afghan refugees had entered Pakistan since the Taliban took control in neighboring Afghanistan last month.
According to a government statement, Ahmed said Pakistan has sent trucks carrying food for the Afghan people to help try to avoid a humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan. It said Grandi thanked Pakistan for hosting 3 million Afghan refugees in recent decades.
Since the Taliban toppled Afghanistan’s US-backed government Aug. 15, Pakistan has urged the world community to speed up efforts to avoid a humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan.
Pakistan says it cannot host any more Afghan refugees for several reasons, including financial constraints.


Pakistan, Tajikistan will ‘do our best’ to ensure inclusive government in Afghanistan — PM Khan

Updated 16 September 2021

Pakistan, Tajikistan will ‘do our best’ to ensure inclusive government in Afghanistan — PM Khan

  • Khan says peace in Afghanistan “extremely important” for Pakistan-Tajikistan trade, Central Asia offers Pakistan $90 billion export market
  • PM addresses Pakistan-Tajikistan Business Forum ahead of Shanghai Cooperation Organization heads-of-state summit

ISLAMABAD: Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan said on Thursday he would work with the president of Tajikistan to ensure there was peace in Afghanistan and an inclusive government was formed in the war-torn country, adding that this was key to enhance trade between Pakistan and the Central Asian state.

World powers have told the Taliban the key to peace and development is an inclusive government acceptable to all people of Afghanistan, including women and minorities. But an all-male interim cabinet announced earlier this month saw key positions going to core, veteran players of the Taliban movement.

The Persian-speaking Tajiks of Afghanistan’s western and northern regions have long been opposed to the southern and eastern Pashtuns who make up the core of the Taliban. 

The Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan states in Central Asia share a border with landlocked Afghanistan.

“We just wish and pray that finally after 40 years of conflict there will be peace in Afghanistan,” Khan said while addressing the Pakistan-Tajikistan Business Forum in Dushanbe, where he arrived today, Thursday, to attend the 20th Shanghai Cooperation Organization Council of Heads of State (SCO-CHS) summit. 

“It’s extremely important for our [Pakistan-Tajikistan] trade for there to be peace there [in Afghanistan] so there’s better connectivity.”

He added: “I will be meeting your president. Your president and myself will be trying everything to make sure that there is peace, especially between the two major communities, Pashtuns and Tajiks. We will be doing our best that they get together and there is an inclusive government.” 

This is PM Khan’s first visit to Tajikistan where he met and interacted with members of the business communities of both Pakistan and Tajikistan. 

“I believe we have some 67 companies here from Pakistan today, in different fields of textiles, minerals, pharmaceuticals,” the PM said at the forum. 

He praised Tajikistan for being a “very resourceful country.”

“You have cheap, clean hydroelectricity and in Pakistan, unfortunately, we have very expensive electricity,” Khan lamented. 

“And so, we hope that CASA-1000 will be expedited so that we can also benefit from your clean and cheap energy,” the PM said, referring to a regional electricity generation project linking Central Asia and South Asia.

He said Pakistan, with its 220 million population, offered a “huge market” to Tajikistan and an opportunity to expand the existing “miniscule” trade volume of $80 million. 

“We hope and I invite you [Tajikistan’s business community], our business community will invite you, and I assure you that we will facilitate you in every way,” he said. “I can assure you that we will be giving you all the incentives, the government will do everything to make it easier for you to do business.”

After attending the business forum, Khan had a meeting and discussed Afghanistan and other bilateral and regional issues with President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev of Kazakhstan.

“The Prime Minister particularly emphasized the importance of connectivity and Pakistan’s pivotal position in providing the shortest access route to the sea,” a statement from the Pakistani foreign office said. “The Prime Minister also highlighted the significance of Trans-Afghan railway project connecting Termez-Mazar-e-Sharif-Kabul-Jalalabad-Peshawar.”

In June, PM Khan attended the Pakistan-Uzbekistan “Silk Route Reconnect” Business Forum and signed a significant transit agreement with Uzbekistan to allow Tashkent to utilize Pakistani seaports for much of its trade, bypassing Iran. 

Uzbekistan is a landlocked country that heavily relies on Iran’s Bandar Abbas port for international business and commerce. Islamabad wants to tap the unlocked states through its deep-sea Gwadar port in southwestern Balochistan to boost its geo-economic position in the region. 

Central Asia also offers Pakistan a $90 billion export market.

Khan also signed deals for the transportation of goods, cooperation between chambers of commerce of both countries, education, culture and tourism during the June trip.

The Pakistani foreign office said on Thursday the PM’s visit to Tajikistan this week was part of Pakistan’s deepened engagement with Central Asia and its focus on enhancing political ties, trade and investment, energy and connectivity, security and defense, and people-to-people contact. 

SCO, an eight-member permanent inter-governmental trans-regional organization, was established in Shanghai in June 2001. Pakistan became an SCO observer in 2005 and a full member in June 2017. Other members include Russia, China, India, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic and Tajikistan. 

The organization has four observer states, Iran, Mongolia, Belarus and Afghanistan, and six dialogue partners, including Azerbaijan, Armenia, Cambodia, Nepal, Turkey and Sri Lanka.


Pakistani money management app aims to target Saudi Arabia, UAE to expand international footprint

Updated 16 September 2021

Pakistani money management app aims to target Saudi Arabia, UAE to expand international footprint

  • Hysab Kytab has established a network of over 15 banks and financial services providers in the Middle East and North Africa region
  • Pakistan has witnessed a massive surge of 53 percent in digital payments since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, survey says

KARACHI: A Karachi-based company, which launched a personal finance management mobile app in 2019, has decided to penetrate Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, along with other markets in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, to expand its international footprint, said the company officials on Thursday.
Hysab Kytab is a fully customizable mobile app that offers a platform to manage the user’s financial activities and budgeting.
The app has over 640,000 users who have clocked in more than 12 million transactions.
About 78 percent of them are from Pakistan.
“For the current year, our first target is the MENA region for going global,” Muhammad Yasir Ilyas, global head of Hysab Kytab, told Arab News. “So far, we have developed a good network of 15-plus channel partners including banks in the region. We are also engaging with banks in Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Qatar, Nigeria and other African countries.”
Ilyas continued that his company was also talking to leading global banking solutions providers, such as Temenos and IBM, since it wanted to partner with them before spreading its tentacles in other markets.
“Our target is to make this Pakistani born product a global reality,” he said, adding that the app also provided research data on consumer spending behavior.
Digital financial solutions have been gaining traction in Pakistan -- traditionally a cash-based economy -- since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic.
According to a survey conducted by Visa, the use of digital payments, including contactless cards and mobile wallets, increased by 53 percent since the beginning of the contagion.
“Pakistani consumers are increasingly stepping away from cash and putting their trust in digital payments in both in-store and online environments during the pandemic,” Visa said in a statement issued Wednesday.
The financial services company said consumer feedback reinforced the belief that there is no reversal of this trend, with 20 percent of people saying they were less likely to use cash on delivery and 35 percent mentioning the likelihood of using contactless payment methods in the future.
While e-commerce and contactless payments have increased in popularity, the trend of paying by cash on delivery has declined by 28 percent, according to the Visa survey.
Global trend also shows that 12 out 50 startups from Forbes Fintech 50 belong to the personal finance management category.
According to the magazine, together these 12 startups have secured a total funding of $3.6 billion.


Afghanistan’s Kam Air tells Pakistan aviation authority it wants to resume Islamabad flights

Updated 16 September 2021

Afghanistan’s Kam Air tells Pakistan aviation authority it wants to resume Islamabad flights

  • Afghanistan’s aviation ministry recently told Pakistan the new administration in Kabul wanted smooth flow of passengers between the two countries
  • Iran has already resumed its commercial flights to Kabul after briefly suspending them in the wake of the Taliban takeover last month

KARACHI: An Afghanistan-based private airline, which previously operated three weekly flights to Pakistan, has decided to resume its Islamabad operations, said a Pakistani aviation official on Thursday.
Kam Air’s decision comes just a few days after Afghanistan’s aviation ministry wrote a letter to the Pakistan Civil Aviation Authority (PCAA), saying that the new administration in Kabul wanted to keep a smooth flow of passengers between the two countries.
It added that the two Afghan airlines — Ariana and Kam Air — wanted to commence their scheduled flights to Pakistan under their memoranda of understanding signed with the Pakistani authorities.
“Afghanistan’s Kam Air, which flew three times a week between Kabul and Islamabad, has told us it wants to resume its flights,” a PCAA spokesperson told Arab News.
“We had also received a similar request from Afghanistan’s national flag carrier, Ariana Afghan Airlines, before the Taliban takeover and will grant permission to its management once the PCAA requirements are fulfilled,” he continued.
The Afghan aviation ministry’s letter to Pakistan also maintained the Kabul airport was “damaged” by US forces before last month’s pullout, adding the facility had been made operational with the technical support of “our Qatari brothers.”
Kam Air did not respond to an email request for a comment regarding when it planned to resume its operations.
At present, the Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) is operating chartered flights between the capitals of the two countries and charging $1,300 per passenger.
The one-way fare, which is much higher than what the airlines previously charged, was confirmed by a PIA spokesperson.
PIA officials briefly suspended the special evacuation flights to Kabul on August 25 due to safety concerns since the airport’s technical crew had gone missing after the Taliban captured the Afghan capital on August 15.
The airport largely remained dysfunctional after the pullout of international forces. However, Qatar Airways was the first international airline to land in Kabul last week. This was followed by a PIA chartered flight carrying foreign journalists to Kabul on Monday.
Iran also resumed commercial flights to neighboring Afghanistan on Wednesday. The Iranian civil aviation agency had announced an interruption of flight operation to Afghanistan on August 16, only a day after the fall of Kabul, for security reasons.