Sacrificial animals raised on organic diet ‘double’ Eid celebrations in Pakistan’s white desert

An Achro Thar herdsman poses with his goat at the Khipro animal market in Sanghar district, Pakistan, on July 20, 2021. (AN photo)
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Updated 20 July 2021

Sacrificial animals raised on organic diet ‘double’ Eid celebrations in Pakistan’s white desert

  • Cattle from Achro Thar are sought after for ‘extraordinary’ tasting meat that officials credit to pesticide-free food
  • With no river water, the livelihoods of 300,000 inhabitants of Achro Thar in Sindh province depend on livestock

KHIPRO, SINDH: In the days leading up to the Muslim feast of Eid Al-Adha, thousands of livestock markets spring up across Pakistan where Muslims purchase cattle to sacrifice on the occasion as a religious obligation and distribute among family, friends and the poor.
But there is something special about the livestock markets in Achro Thar, or the white desert, in the southern Sindh province: the wide variety of animals sold there are raised on a pesticide-free, organic diet which officials, buyers and sellers say makes their meat particularly delicious. 
“The Achro Thar region offers a wide variety of sacrificial animals which are fed organic food, making them uncommon in the country,” Ghulam Ali Jogi, a senior official of the Sindh Livestock Department, told Arab News.
“Unlike the rest of the country where animals are fed on fodder sprayed with chemicals and pesticides, desert livestock here graze upon herbal plants … their diet is purely organic. It improves their immunity and translates into tastier meat.”




A pair of Achro Thar goats spotted at the Khipro animal market in the Sanghar district, Pakistan, on July 20, 2021. (AN photo)

Maula Baksh Junejo, a white desert herder selling his cattle at a livestock market in Khipro in Sindh’s Sanghar district, said getting a sacrificial animal from Achro Thar “doubled” Eid celebrations for buyers because of the animals’ “extraordinary meat and delicious taste.”
Experienced buyers such as Sameer Aziz are also aware of the prized commodity on offer and often travel hundreds of miles to purchase cattle from the Khipro market.
“There’s no accounting for taste,” Aziz, who traveled from Karachi, told Arab News, adding: “Animal rates were much more affordable than the Karachi market.”
Eid Al-Adha falls on Wednesday in the South Asian nation this year. It is observed by Muslims to commemorate their belief that prophet Ibrahim was willing to sacrifice his son as an act of obedience to God, before God replaced his son with a ram to be sacrificed instead.




A view of the Khipro animal market in Sanghar district, Pakistan, on July 20, 2021. (AN photo)

Muslims who can afford it sacrifice cattle. But it can also be a camel, goat, sheep or ram, depending on the region.
The coronavirus has cast a shadow over Eid in the last year and a half, with fears of another spike in infections this Eid prompting authorities to warn people to minimize movement, wear masks at cattle markets and refrain from public gatherings to witness the slaughter of sacrificial animals.
Sales at the Khipro animal market have also suffered due to the coronavirus and were low compared to 2019 before the pandemic struck, an administrator at the market said.




A view of the Khipro animal market in Sanghar district, Pakistan, on July 20, 2021. (AN photo)

“The market hasn’t recovered fully to pre-coronavirus times,” Asad Ali Bughio, a manager at the Khipro animal market, told Arab News. “Last year, there was a lockdown which brought hardship for herdsmen and traders. Buyers were also hesitant to visit the market. This year’s situation is comparatively better mainly because COVID-19 vaccination is underway.”
But social media has helped raising awareness about the area and its cattle.

“Very few knew about Achro Thar livestock’s distinctive qualities, and the area has remained under-reported due to its difficult geography, but now it is coming into the limelight thanks to social media,” Jan Muhammad Rajar, an active social media user from Achro Thar, told Arab News.
“For instance, during droughts, we highlighted the livestock being deprived of vaccines on social media, after which authorities did vaccinations. In addition, following posts during droughts, traders from Karachi visited the area to purchase animals at low rates.”
“Generally, animal posts also draw the attention of tourists,” Rajar added, “compelling them to visit the desert.”




Achro Thar herdsmen arrive at Khipro animal market in Sanghar district, Pakistan, on July 20, 2021. (AN photo)

With no river water, the livelihoods of the nearly 300,000 inhabitants of Achro Thar are dependent on livestock. According to data from the Sindh Livestock Department, there are an estimated 2.4 million cattle in Achro Thar, which spreads across 32,000 square kilometers and is named after its distinctive white sands.
“Out of Achro Thar’s total livestock, goats are the highest number at 800,000 spread across Umerkot, Sanghar, Khairpur, Shaheed Benzairabad and Sukkur districts,” Jogi at the livestock department said. “The rest of the livestock comprises cows, sheep, camels, and buffaloes.”


Good news for Pakistan: Foreigners vaccinated with Chinese jabs can enter Saudi Arabia

Updated 04 August 2021

Good news for Pakistan: Foreigners vaccinated with Chinese jabs can enter Saudi Arabia

  • International travelers will still require a booster shot of one of four approved Western vaccines
  • Saudi authorities say there is no quarantine requirement for vaccinated people arriving in the country

ISLAMABAD: Foreign visitors who have taken two doses of China's Sinopharm or Sinovac vaccines will be allowed into Saudi Arabia, it announced on its e-visa portal, though these international travelers will still require a booster shot of one of four Western coronavirus vaccines approved by the kingdom.
This is good news for Pakistan where a majority of people have been vaccinated using Chinese jabs, and from where thousands travel to the kingdom each year for work and for the Umrah and Hajj pilgrimages. 
Saudi Arabia decided to reopen its tourism sector to international travelers from August 1 after specifying its vaccine preferences.
"All visitors arriving in the country with a valid tourism visa must provide evidence of a full course of one the four vaccines currently recognized: two doses of the Oxford/Astra Zeneca, Pfizer/BioNTech or Moderna vaccines or a single dose of the vaccine produced by Johnson and Johnson," the e-visa portal said, adding:
"Guests who have completed two doses of the Sinopharm or Sinovac vaccines will be accepted if they have received an additional dose of one of the four vaccines approved in the Kingdom." 
Foreign nationals who seek to travel to Saudi Arabia are still required to provide a negative PCR test taken no more than 72 hours before their departure to the kingdom along with a proper vaccination certificate.
"There is no quarantine requirement for vaccinated travelers to Saudi," the notification on the official website said.
The e-visa portal also announced travelers entering on a previously issued tourism visa "will be required to pay an additional fee of SAR 40 at the airport ... to cover insurance for any COVID-19 related medical expenses."


OIC commission to assess Indian rights violations in Kashmir this week

Updated 04 August 2021

OIC commission to assess Indian rights violations in Kashmir this week

  • As India didn’t allow its fact-finding visit, OIC decided to assess the situation on the Indian side of the border from Pakistan-administered Kashmir 
  • Rights commission’s visit coincides with the second anniversary of New Delhi’s decision abrogate Kashmir’s special autonomous status

ISLAMABAD: A delegation from the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) has arrived in Islamabad to monitor and assess the humanitarian and human rights situation in Indian-administered Kashmir, the Pakistani foreign office said on Wednesday.

The OIC's the Independent Permanent Human Rights Commission (IPHRC) has been urging India since September 2019 to allow its fact-finding mission to Kashmir, but New Delhi has not responded until now. The commission decided to make a visit to Pakistan-administered Kashmir and assess the situation from there.

Twelve members of the IPHRC started their six-day visit on Wednesday.
“A 12-member delegation of the Independent Permanent Human Rights Commission (IPHRC) of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) will be visiting Islamabad and Azad Jammu & Kashmir from 4-9 August 2021, as part of its mandate to monitor the deteriorating humanitarian and human rights situation in the Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK),” the foreign office said in a statement.
“During the visit, the IPHRC delegation will travel to Muzaffarabad and the Line of Control, and interact with Kashmiri leadership, refugees from IIOJK and victims of Indian atrocities.”
The Line of Control is the de facto border that divides Kashmiri territory between India and Pakistan, which both claim it in full and rule it in part. The nuclear-armed neighbors have fought two of their three wars over control of the region.
The rights commission’s visit coincides with the second anniversary of New Delhi’s decision to scrap Articles 370 and 35A of the Indian constitution that granted special autonomous status to the region, and divided the state into two federally administered units.
The move on Aug. 5, 2019 was followed by a crackdown on political activity, arrests of hundreds of political leaders and a series of administrative measures that raised concerns over attempts at engineering a demographic change in India’s only Muslim-majority region.
During the 47th session of the OIC’s Council of Foreign Ministers (CFM) in Niamey, Niger, in November last year, the group adopted a new resolution categorically rejecting “unilateral” and “illegal” actions taken by India in Kashmir since Aug. 5, 2019 and its “continued violation of human rights of the Kashmiri people.”
“The visit would be significant in drawing international attention toward the urgent need to address the egregious human rights situation in IIOJK and for a peaceful resolution in accordance with the UNSC resolutions and the wishes of the Kashmiri people,” the foreign office said.
With 57 member states and a collective population of approximately 1.68 billion people, the OIC is the world’s second largest intergovernmental body after the UN.


Ruling party nominee becomes new PM of Pakistan's Azad Kashmir region

Updated 04 August 2021

Ruling party nominee becomes new PM of Pakistan's Azad Kashmir region

  • PTI leader Abdul Qayyum Niazi secured 33 votes in the 53-member legislative assembly
  • Niazi described as a ‘vibrant and genuine political worker’ by Pakistan’s information minister

ISLAMABAD: Abdul Qayyum Niazi, a politician belonging to the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party of Prime Minister Imran Khan, was on Wednesday elected as the premier of Pakistan's Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) region.
AJK is administered by Pakistan as a nominally self-governing entity and constitutes the western portion of the larger Kashmir region, which has been the subject of a dispute between India and Pakistan since 1947.
Over 3.2 million voters were registered to elect a 53-member assembly in the region for a five-year term. Out of 53 seats, 45 are general, while eight are reserved for women, technocrats and religious scholars.
Niazi secured 33 votes in the legislative assembly polls, Pakistan’s state-run media reported. His rival and a joint opposition candidate Chaudhry Latif Akbar only got 15 votes.
“He [Abdul Qayyum Niazi] is a vibrant and genuine political worker whose heart beats with the [party] workers,” Pakistan's information minister Chaudhry Fawad Hussain said in a Twitter post.
 

The PTI won the recent elections in the region which were held on July 25.
Kashmir is an internationally recognized disputed region between India and Pakistan. The two South Asian nuclear neighbors claim its territory in full but only control it in part.
Over the years, Kashmir has witnessed border skirmishes between the two countries along the Line of Control and violence has severely limited tourism in the area.


Pakistan military says it has fenced 90 percent of border with Afghanistan

Updated 04 August 2021

Pakistan military says it has fenced 90 percent of border with Afghanistan

  • The announcement comes at a time when the Taliban have stepped up military offensive in neighboring Afghanistan
  • Pakistani security officials say fencing has reduced over 80 percent illegal cross-border movement between the two countries

TORKHAM: The Pakistan military said on Tuesday it had fenced 90 percent of its border with Afghanistan to prevent cross-border movement that have caused security problems in the past, saying it was resolved to complete the project before winter sets in.
The military’s media wing, ISPR, took a group of journalists to the region at a time when the Taliban have stepped up their military offensive in Afghanistan ahead of a complete withdrawal of US forces from the war-battered country.
The Afghan administration in Kabul has frequently accused Pakistan of supporting the insurgent group, though Pakistani officials deny the allegation and say they will stand with an inclusive political government in the neighboring state in the aftermath of the US withdrawal.
“We have completed 90 percent of the fence on this difficult terrain,” Col. Rizwan Nazir, a Pakistani military official, said while briefing journalists at the Big Bang military post along the key Torkham border crossing.
“The remaining 10 percent of the fence at the western border, which was left due to heavy snowfall, will be completed this summer.” 

Col. Rizwan Nazir, a Pakistani military officer, briefs a group of journalists about border management at Torkham in Pakistan’s Khyber district on August 3, 2021. (AN Photo)

Pakistan started fencing 2,611 kilometers of its border with Afghanistan in 2017 when militants launched several attacks on its country’s military posts.
Nazir said the fence was erected in a diverse terrain that included lowlands, high peaks and glaciers.
“The border has also been covered by live feed of surveillance cameras,” he said, adding that the mechanism had already brought down about 80 percent of illegal cross-border movement.
“There was a total of 78 notified formal and informal crossings along the porous [Pak-Afghan] border before fencing began,” the officer. “It was a persistent threat and allowed unrestricted and unchecked movement. Now we have only five formal crossing points between the two countries due to the fence.”
The barrier which now meanders between the two countries consists of two sets of chain-linked fences separated by about two meters of distance which has been filled with concertina wire. The double fence is about 4 meters tall, and the military has installed surveillance cameras to check any movement along the border.

Pakistani troops patrol a fence along the Pak-Afghan border near Torkham in Khyber district on August 3, 2021. (AN Photo)

Afghanistan has never recognized the porous border that cuts through the Pashtun heartland, diluting the political influence and power of its country’s largest ethnic group that lives on its both sides.
“In 2007, a total of 72 percent area bordering Afghanistan was controlled by miscreants,” Nazir said. “After that, the country’s security forces launched 17 major operations to clear the area and re-establish the state’s writ.”
He said the government was in the process of installing an integrated transit trade management system at the border which would be firmly in place in 2023.
“There are five crossing points along the border, but Torkham is the busiest and most historic,” Nazir added. “About 65 percent of trade between two countries take place from this border crossing.”

 Journalists attend a media briefing during their visit to a hilltop Big Bang military post near the Torkham border crossing in Khyber district on August 3, 2021 (AN Photo)

Asked about the recent closure of the border due to the pandemic, he said it did not have much of an impact on the movement of cargo vehicles between the two countries.
“The transit trade is proceeding but with standard COVID-19 precautions,” he continued, adding that only the entry of visitors had been closed due to the rising number of coronavirus cases in Afghanistan.

Pakistani and Afghan troops seen on their respective sides of the Torkham border between Pakistan and Afghanistan on August 3, 2021. (AN Photo)

 


Islamabad court to decide Thursday on bail for parents of Noor Mukadam murder suspect 

Updated 04 August 2021

Islamabad court to decide Thursday on bail for parents of Noor Mukadam murder suspect 

  • Ex-diplomat’s daughter was found beheaded in Islamabad on July 20, police have charged US national Zahir Jaffer for murder
  • Jaffer’s parents were arrested for ‘hiding evidence and being complicit,’ they have publicly condemned their son

ISLAMABAD: A district and sessions court in Islamabad on Wednesday reserved until tomorrow, Thursday, its decision on a bail plea by the parents of Zahir Zakir Jaffer, the key suspect in the murder of Noor Mukadam, the 27-year-old daughter of a former Pakistani diplomat. 
Mukadam was found beheaded at a residence in Islamabad’s upscale F-7/4 sector on July 20. US national Jaffer was arrested on the day of the murder and remained in police custody on physical remand until Monday, when he was sent on 14-day judicial remand to Adiala Jail in Islamabad’s twin city of Rawalpindi. He will next be presented again before a judicial magistrate on August 16.
Jaffer’s parents — Zakir Jaffer and Asmat Adamjee — and two members of their household staff were arrested by Islamabad police on July 24 for “hiding evidence and being complicit in the crime.” The parents, sent to jail on judicial remand till August 9, have moved a bail petition against their detention.
“Today was the hearing for the bail of Zahir’s parents. Each parent was represented by a separate lawyer. Arguments were heard at length. The decision will be announced tomorrow morning,” Mukadam’s legal team said on an official Twitter account used to share case updates.

During Wednesday’s hearing today, the parents’ counsel, Raja Rizwan Abbasi, said the Jaffers had “publicly condemned the murder.”
“We stand with the affected party, we don’t stand with our son,” local media quoted the counsel as telling the court.
He said the parents had not known what was happening in their house when Mukadam was there.

This undated file photo shows Zahir Zakir Jaffer (left) posing for a picture with his parents in UK. (Photo courtesy: Social media)

Within two weeks since Monday, police are bound by law to file a charge sheet (challan) in the court asking for Jaffer’s trial to commence.
The gruesome murder has sent shockwaves across the country, stirring outrage over femicides and demands for justice. Many activists and social media users have also raised concerns that Jaffer might get a lenient sentence because of his wealthy background and US nationality.
In a July 27 Twitter post, the US Embassy in Islamabad clarified that US citizens in a foreign country were subject to local laws and while the embassy could check on their well-being and provide a list of lawyers if they were arrested abroad, it couldn’t provide legal advice, participate in court proceedings or effect their release.
On Sunday night, during a live a live Q&A session with the nation, Prime Minister Imran Khan assured the public: “If someone thinks he is a dual national and has US citizenship and will escape, let me tell you all that no one will be spared.”