In a first, Pakistan allocates Rs.1 billion to promote official policies on digital platforms

Pakistani pedestrians wait for transport as they stand in front of an advertisement for a cellular telephone in Rawalpindi on May 14, 2010. (AFP/File)
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Updated 30 July 2021

In a first, Pakistan allocates Rs.1 billion to promote official policies on digital platforms

  • Influencers and bloggers with a minimum following of 35,000 will be eligible to register themselves for government ads
  • Content creators will be paid after half of their subscribers view the promotional material posted on their website or channel

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan government has for the first time allocated Rs1 billion ($6.2 million) for promotional advertisements on digital media platforms, making its officials maintain the decision will benefit the country’s media industry.
Under the new advertisement policy approved by the federal cabinet on Tuesday, the government will earmark at least 2.5 percent of the total budget outlay of any development project for running an effective advertisement campaign to create awareness about its policies, projects and initiatives and highlight their potential contribution to the socio-economic welfare of the people.
The government has for the first time included digital media and cinema for “transparent, judicious and merit-based utilization” of its resources on public sector advertisement campaigns.
“Digital platforms have emerged as primary source of information for many people in Pakistan,” Imran Ghazali, who works with the government’s digital media wing, told Arab News on Thursday. “Therefore, we have decided to give them ads like the traditional print and electronic media.”
The advertisement policy, a copy of which is available with Arab News, requires news websites and portals to guarantee minimum viewership of promotional material within 48 hours of its publishing.
The official document also maintains that if the minimum viewership criterion is not met, the digital platforms will have to post additional material until the mandatory numbers are reached to get their payment.
“Only those websites or social media pages will be eligible for government ads which are approved and registered with the Press Information Department and adhere to Article 19 of the constitution,” Ghazali said.
Article 19 of Pakistan’s 1973 constitution guarantees free speech and media freedom, though it also subjects them to “reasonable restrictions imposed by law in the interest of the glory of Islam or the integrity, security or defense of Pakistan.”
Ghazali informed that social media influencers, bloggers and vloggers would be registered if they had a minimum following of 35,000 and were active for at least 18 months before their registration application.
“We are going to open the registration process soon,” he added. “This will help initiate a healthy competition among content creators who will ensure that people get quality and authentic information.”
He maintained that the government had formulated a transparent mechanism for registration and issuance of digital media ads.
“We believe in merit and judicious use of officials funds, therefore there is no question of any discrimination or favoritism,” he continued.
The policy says digital content creators will have to ensure viewership of half of their total number of subscribers within two weeks.
The government has also included cinema for advertisements in its policy, saying that “cinema media can reach a huge target audience each month and its advertising recalls are four times higher than ads placed on television.”
Currently, there are 148 cinema screens in Pakistan and 7,200 seats with 3.5 million customers annually and 65,000 shows per annum.
Pakistan’s federal body of journalists has welcomed the policy, though it has also urged the government to ensure transparency and merit while registering digital platforms and releasing ads.
“We hope the government will release ads for digital media without any discrimination and bias,” Shahzada Zulfiqar, president of the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ), told Arab News.

France detains uncle of missing Pakistani teen who refused arranged marriage

Updated 22 September 2021

France detains uncle of missing Pakistani teen who refused arranged marriage

  • Saman Abbas was last seen in late April in the vicinity of her family’s home in Italy
  • Italian authorities fear the 18-year-old woman may be dead

ROME: The uncle of an 18-year-old woman who disappeared months ago from Italy after refusing an arranged marriage in Pakistan was detained Wednesday on the outskirts of Paris, according to Italian authorities who fear the teenager may be dead.
Saman Abbas was last seen in late April by neighbors in the vicinity of her family’s home in the farm town of Novellara, located near the city of Reggio Emilia. A few days later, a Milan airport video captured her parents, who had reportedly pressuring Abbas to marry a man she had never met, hurrying to catch a flight to Pakistan.
Italian Prosecutor Isabella Chiesi told reporters that Paris police, acting on a European warrant issued in connection with the woman's disappearance, detained the uncle in an apartment where he had been living with other people. Italian police said his social media use played a part in investigators tracking him down.
"I contend it's fundamental to have gotten the uncle, who, from all the investigations and checks, appears to be the mastermind of this crazy criminal plan,'' Italian news agency LaPresse quoted the prosecutor as saying at a news conference in Reggio Emilia. Chiesi didn't elaborate on the alleged plan entailed.
Chiesi expressed hope that the uncle's detention in France would lead to his transfer to Italy so he could be interrogated by Italian authorities.
Abbas told her boyfriend in Italy, who is also of Pakistani origin, that her parents wanted to marry her off to an older man in their homeland but she was refusing. After going to authorities, Abbas was allowed to stay at a shelter but later returned home, reportedly after her family sent her text messages begging her to come back, Italian news reports said.
The young woman's disappearance has gripped Italians for weeks. Police, aided by dogs, searched the farm fields of Novellara near the family’s home looking for Abbas’ body. Her younger brother told authorities that he had learned that the uncle had allegedly killed her sister, according to Italian media.
A surveillance camera caught three men are seen on a surveillance camera video carrying shovels, a pail and a sack near the family home in Italy about the time of her disappearance.
Italian authorities are also seeking the parents and a male cousin, while another cousin was detained in France earlier this year and then transferred to Italy. He is being held in jail for investigation of a suspected role in the case.

'Dispose of the case quickly,' Noor Mukadam's father pleads ahead of murder trial

Updated 22 September 2021

'Dispose of the case quickly,' Noor Mukadam's father pleads ahead of murder trial

  • Trial in the July 20 beheading of Noor Mukadam is scheduled to begin on Thursday
  • Family and friends of the victim held a vigil outside Islamabad Press Club on the eve of the trial

ISLAMABAD: Shaukat Mukadam, the father of Noor Mukadam who was murdered in a grisly July beheading in Islamabad, appealed to the Pakistani judiciary on Wednesday, a day before the murder trial commences, to quickly complete the case and punish his daughter's killer.

Mukadam, 27, was found beheaded at a residence in Islamabad’s upscale F-7/4 neighborhood on July 20 in a case that has sparked public outrage and grabbed media attention unlike any other recent crime against women. Police arrested the prime accused, Zahir Jaffer, from the crime scene on the day of the murder. His parents and three members of household staff are also under arrest for a range of charges, including abetment and hiding evidence.

Shaukat Mukadam, the father of Noor Mukadam, stands outside the Islamabad Press Club in Islamabad, Pakistan on September 22, 2021. (AN photo)

Mukadam's father, former ambassador to South Korea and Kazakhstan, spoke at a demonstration organized by the victim's family and friends outside the Islamabad Press Club in Pakistan's federal capital.

"I appeal to the chief justice of Pakistan and the chief justice of the Islamabad High Court and the additional sessions judge hearing the case to dispose of the case quickly and award exemplary punishment to the murderer," he said.

"My mission in life is for justice for Noor and for Pakistan’s women to feel safe in their homes, their offices and on the streets. May they never go through things like this, nor their parents."

Sara Mukadam who co-organized the vigil, recited a poem in tribute to her sister: "If I had known the last time we laughed together would be the last time, I would have never stopped laughing."

Family and friends of Noor Mukadam stand with her sister Sara Mukadam, second right, during a vigil in Islamabad, Pakistan on September 22, 2021. (AN photo)

"Thank you for giving women in Pakistan and around the world a voice against violence, your sacrifice will not be in vain."

Actor Osman Khalid Butt appealed for change in Pakistani society and accountability in countless cases of violence against women.

"We see injustice every day," he said. "It is so easy to become desensitized."

"Noor was a living breathing human being with hopes, aspirations, with dreams that were all brutally snuffed out. We must refuse to let Noor become just another number or yet another statistic in the ever-growing cases of intolerance and injustice towards women in our society."

A young protester holds a candle during a vigil for Noor Mukadam in Islamabad, Pakistan on September 22, 2021. (AN photo)

Christine Afridi, the family's friend who had known Mukadam since her birth, expressed hope that justice would be done, despite the prime suspect family's being a part of the country's elite.

"Being someone’s son is not a reason to get away with murder," Afridi said. "Remember he murdered someone’s daughter."

Jaffer, who is a US national and belongs to an upper-class family, was initially on police remand but was moved to Adiala Jail in the city of Rawalpindi on judicial remand in early August.

According to a detailed charge sheet filed by police investigators and seen by Arab News, Jaffer was in touch with his parents before and after the crime. The charge sheet says the Jaffers had "abetted in the murder" and tried to cover it up.

PM Khan meets Pakistan squad to boost morale ahead of T20 World Cup in UAE, Oman

Updated 22 September 2021

PM Khan meets Pakistan squad to boost morale ahead of T20 World Cup in UAE, Oman

  • Meeting was held after the country's efforts to revive international cricket suffered setbacks due to cancelation of series by New Zealand, England
  • Pakistan cricket team is now preparing for the Twenty20 World Cup that is scheduled to begin in the UAE and Oman next month

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan met the country's top cricketers on Wednesday to boost their morale ahead of the upcoming Twenty20 World Cup in the United Arab Emirates and Oman.

The meeting was held as the country's efforts to revive international cricket suffered two consecutive setbacks with New Zealand abandoning its Pakistan tour following a security threat last week, and England canceling its next month matches citing the same reason.

As Pakistan could not host major international cricket teams after militants targeted a caravan of Sri Lankan players in the eastern city of Lahore in 2009, the country's squad is now preparing for the T20 World Cup which is scheduled to start in the Gulf countries on October 17.

“You should enter the stadium with self-confidence and with a passion to win,” Khan told the players, as quoted in a statement issued by his office. “The team must strengthen itself psychologically to take pressure and instead of getting worried by tough situations in the game.”

“You should learn to play more aggressively,” he said. “Any team that plays defensively finds it difficult to win.”

The prime minister, who led his own team to win the 1992 ICC Cricket World Cup in Australia, said the whole nation wanted the Pakistan cricket squad to succeed.

“There is no dearth of talent in you,” he told the players. “The whole world recognizes your talent."

Afghanistan wants to host Pakistan for cricket series

Updated 22 September 2021

Afghanistan wants to host Pakistan for cricket series

  • Afghanistan are in Group 2 of the Super 12 stages of the Twenty20 World Cup due to start from October 17 in the United Arab Emirates
  • There have been calls for a boycott of the men’s team of the country after the Taliban’s takeover last month

KARACHI: Newly appointed Afghanistan cricket chairman Azizullah Fazli said Wednesday he would visit neighboring Pakistan later this week to invite the side for a one-day series.
The war-torn nation has steadily risen in international cricket over the past few years, with stars such as the world’s top spinner Rashid Khan, but there have been calls for a boycott of the men’s team after the hard-line Taliban’s takeover last month.
The change of government has called into question the future of Afghanistan’s participation in Test matches, as under International Cricket Council regulations, nations must also have an active women’s team.
The Taliban are yet to announce a policy on women playing sport, but a senior official has said it would be “not necessary.”
Avoiding commenting on the latest developments, Fazli said he planned to visit other regional cricketing powers.
“I am taking a tour of Pakistan from September 25 and then will go to India, Bangladesh and the United Arab Emirates to meet officials of cricket boards,” he told AFP over the phone from Kabul.
Fazli said he would meet new Pakistan Cricket Board chairman Ramiz Raja, “and offer to host Pakistan for the series which we were due to play in Sri Lanka in September.”
The three-match one-day series between Pakistan and Afghanistan was canceled over logistical problems and a COVID-19 outbreak in Sri Lanka. It was part of a one-day league which is a qualification process for the 2023 World Cup.
“We are seeking to improve Afghanistan cricket so that will come with cooperation from other countries,” Fazli added.
Raja confirmed Fazli would visit Pakistan.
Fazli, in his second term as chairman after serving the board from September 2018 to July 2019, said he was committed to improving facilities in Afghanistan.
Afghanistan are in Group 2 of the Super 12 stages of the Twenty20 World Cup due to start from October 17 in the United Arab Emirates.
Australia has threatened to cancel a Test match with Afghanistan in Brisbane in November unless the Taliban allow women to play cricket.
The new rulers on Tuesday sacked Hamid Shinwari as Afghanistan Cricket Board chief executive, replacing him with Naseeb Zadran Khan, linked to the Haqqani network, which is responsible for some of the worst attacks in the country’s history.

For one Pakistani artist, a lifetime spent creating medallion portraits of Saudi leaders

Updated 22 September 2021

For one Pakistani artist, a lifetime spent creating medallion portraits of Saudi leaders

  • Khalil Najmi, a medallion portrait artist from Karachi, has created several images of Saudi kings and the crown prince
  • Najmi says it was King Faisal’s charismatic personality that inspired him to nurture his passion for art

KARACHI: It was February 1974. A Pakistani teenager Khalil Najmi was glued to his black and white television set in Karachi when he saw King Faisal bin Abdul Aziz at the Islamic Summit in Lahore and decided to sketch his portrait.
The young Pakistani was mesmerized by the charismatic Saudi leader and felt the urge to know more about the kingdom and its royal family. His interest in the Arab country increased in subsequent years, making him work on the medallion portraits of its leaders including King Salman bin Abdul Aziz and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
“My father was in Merchant Navy and brought me a portrait of King Faisal,” he told Arab News. “I was deeply moved by the inscription under the image that labeled him as the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques since that is not how kings usually describe their role.”
Najmi had an artistic bent since the beginning and used to engrave images on chalks and erasers during school days. He said that King Faisal’s appearance in Lahore was a “turning point” in his life since it made him realize that he wanted to make portraits of high-profile leaders.
As he continued with his creative endeavors, he started carving out images from wood and other objects.

Pakistani artist Khalil Najmi is creating wooden image of the famous philanthropist Abdul Sattar Edhi at his residence in Karachi, Pakistan, on September 21, 2021. (AN Photo)

“When I began carving portraits of heads of states in 2012, I made the image of King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz on wood,” he said. “In 2016, I completed the portraits of King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.”

Portraits of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (left), King Abdul Aziz bin Abdul Rehman Al Saud (center) and King Salman bin Abdul Aziz (right) can be seen at the residence of Khalil Najmi in Karachi, Pakistan, on September 21, 2021. (AN Photo)

The Pakistani artist maintained he was not creating “simple pieces of art,” adding that the nature of his job required “years of dedication, concentration and hard work.”
“I began my work on the current set of portraits in 2016 and completed nine of them which include three sets in three different mediums. The medallion portraits are for those who cannot see but want to imagine what their leaders look like.”

Medallion portraits of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (left), King Abdul Aziz bin Abdul Rehman Al Saud (center) and King Salman bin Abdul Aziz (right) are displayed at the residence of Khalil Najmi in Karachi, Pakistan, on September 21, 2021. (AN Photo)

Elaborating his point further, he said he had once met a visually impaired man in Karachi who expressed his desire to see Pakistan’s founding father Muhammad Ali Jinnah.
“I put his hands on my medallion portrait of Jinnah and he gently ran his fingers on it as if he was trying to create the image in his mind,” he said. “After a while, this man started crying uncontrollably and repeatedly thanked me for helping him feel how Jinnah must have looked like.”
Najmi’s work includes portraits of Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed, Sheikh Mohammad bin Rashid and Sultan Qaboos bin Said of Oman. He is currently working on the portrait of Sheikh Mohammad bin Zayed of the United Arab Emirates.
“One of my hand-carved portraits of Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa of was acquired by the office of Pakistan’s army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa and was presented to the Middle Eastern leader in January this year,” he said.
Asked about his ultimate dream as an acclaimed artist, he said he wanted to present the portraits of Saudi leaders to Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman.
“I have produced these portraits with great love for the Saudi royal family,” he said. “I hope he can graciously grant me the honor to personally present them to him as a souvenir.”

Pakistani artist Khalil Najmi poses for a picture at his residence in Karachi, Pakistan, on September 21, 2021. (AN Photo)