New Zealand to tour Pakistan for 1st time since 2003 

Pakistan's Babar Azam (3R) shakes hands with New Zealand's Lockie Ferguson (L) as he celebrates after victory in the 2019 Cricket World Cup in England, on June 26, 2019. (AFP/File)
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Updated 05 August 2021

New Zealand to tour Pakistan for 1st time since 2003 

  • International tours to Pakistan have been affected by concerns over player safety 
  • In 2002, New Zealand abandoned Pakistan test series after suicide bomb attack outside its Karachi hotel

ISLAMABAD: New Zealand will tour Pakistan for the first time in 18 years when it plays three one-day internationals and five Twenty20 matches beginning in September. 
New Zealand last toured Pakistan in 2003 for a five-match ODI series while the tourists last played a test match in Pakistan in 2002. 
International tours to Pakistan have been affected by concerns over player safety. In May 2002, New Zealand abandoned its test series in Pakistan after a suicide bomb attack outside their Karachi hotel. In 2009, the Sri Lanka national team’s bus was attacked near Qaddafi Stadium in Lahore. 
“With leading cricket playing countries resuming their tours to Pakistan in 2019 . . . the series against New Zealand will prove to be a catalyst in rejuvenating our talented youngsters while attracting new fans to the game that has the most passionate following in the country,” Pakistan Cricket Board chief executive Wasim Khan said in a statement on Thursday. 
With the T20 World Cup scheduled for the United Arab Emirates in October, Khan said New Zealand Cricket had accepted PCB’s request to play five T20s. 
“These (matches) will not only provide extra games to both the countries as part of their T20 World Cup preparations, but will also allow New Zealand players to spend extra days in Pakistan, familiarize with our culture and enjoy our hospitality,” Khan said. 
Rawalpindi will host the three ODIs on Sept. 17, 19 and 21 while Lahore will host all the five Twenty20s in between Sept. 25 and Oct. 3. 
New Zealand will arrive on Sept. 11 and after remaining in room isolation until Sept. 14 it will have two days of practice and an intra-squad match. 
“We’re very much looking forward to returning to Pakistan for the start of their home international season,” NZC Chief Executive David White said in the statement. “It’s great that, after such a difficult time for Pakistan, international cricket is again being played in the country.” 
The PCB has termed 2021-22 cricketing season as a “bumper” year with New Zealand tour followed by England’s two Twenty20s in Pakistan before the T20 World Cup. West Indies is expected to tour Pakistan in December while Australia will undertake a full tour to Pakistan in next February and March. 
The ODI series is part of ICC’s Super League with Pakistan having 40 points from nine games and New Zealand won all its three ODIs. The seven top-ranked teams from the Super League and the World Cup host India will progress directly for the World Cup in 2023. 


Saudi Arabia says always ready to mediate talks but timing up to India, Pakistan

Updated 20 September 2021

Saudi Arabia says always ready to mediate talks but timing up to India, Pakistan

  • The statement comes in an interview during Saudi foreign minister’s visit to New Delhi
  • Says wants Pakistan and India to “focus on path of dialogue,” settle concerns “permanently”

ISLAMABAD: Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan has said the kingdom was willing to mediate to set up talks between India and Pakistan, but the timing would be up to the arch-foes to decide.
The statement came during an interview to India’s The Hindu newspaper while the Saudi foreign minister was on a two-day visit to New Delhi.
India and Pakistan, nuclear-armed neighbors, both control parts of the disputed region of Kashmir but claim it in full. In 2019, India withdrew Indian-administered Kashmir’s autonomy in order to tighten its grip over the territory, sparking outrage in Pakistan, the downgrading of diplomatic ties and the suspension of bilateral trade.
Pakistan’s government has repeatedly said India would have to first reverse its 2019 steps for any normalization process to begin.
Responding to a question about whether Saudi Arabia was disappointed that talks had not restarted between Pakistan and India, Prince Farhan said: 
“We will always provide our good offices when we can, but it’s up to India and Pakistan to decide when the time is right.”
He said as Kashmir continued to remain a dispute between the two countries, “we would encourage [is] that there should be a focus on a path of dialogue and discussion among India and Pakistan to resolve these issues in a way that can settle these concerns permanently.”
India and Pakistan have fought two of their three wars over Kashmir. Pakistan accuses India of rights violations in Kashmir, and India says Pakistan supports militants in its part of the region. Both deny the charges.
In February this year, the militaries of India and Pakistan said in a rare joint statement that they had agreed to observe a cease-fire along the border in Kashmir, after exchanging fire hundreds of times in recent months.
In April, the United Arab Emirates’ envoy to Washington confirmed the Gulf state was mediating between India and Pakistan to help the rivals reach a “healthy and functional” relationship.


England Cricket Board says withdrawing men and women’s teams from series in Pakistan

Updated 20 September 2021

England Cricket Board says withdrawing men and women’s teams from series in Pakistan

  • News comes just days after New Zealand Cricket abandoned series with Pakistan over “security alert”
  • PCB chairman Ramiz Raja says “disappointed” with England for pulling out of its commitment

ISLAMABAD: The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) said on Monday it had “reluctantly” decided to withdraw its men’s and women’s teams from coming to Pakistan for games in October, as the chairman of the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) expressed dismay over England “failing” a member of the cricket fraternity.
The news comes just days after New Zealand Cricket said it was abandoning its series with Pakistan “following a New Zealand government security alert.”
“The ECB has a longstanding commitment to tour Pakistan as part of the Men’s Future Tours Programme in 2022,” the Board said in a statement. “Earlier this year, we agreed to play two additional T20 World Cup warm-up games in Pakistan in October, adding a short women’s tour with double headers alongside the men’s games.
“The ECB Board convened this weekend to discuss these extra England Women’s and Men’s games in Pakistan and we can confirm that the Board has reluctantly decided to withdraw both teams from the October trip.”

 

 

The Board said the Men’s T20 squad had already coped with a long period of operating in restricted coronavirus environments.
“We know there are increasing concerns about traveling to the region ... We believe that touring under these conditions will not be ideal preparation for the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup, where performing well remains a top priority for 2021.”
PCB chairman Ramiz Raja said he was disappointed by England’s decision.
“Disappointed with England, pulling out of their commitment,” he said on Twitter, adding: “Survive we will inshallah. A wake up call for Pak team to become the best team in the world for teams to line up to play them without making excuses.”

 

British high commissioner to Pakistan, Christian Turner, wrote on Twitter he was sad about the cancelled tour but "still looking forward to the full England tour in autumn 2022."

 


Edtech platform Maqsad raises $2.1 million pre-seed, aims to educate 100mln Pakistanis

Updated 20 September 2021

Edtech platform Maqsad raises $2.1 million pre-seed, aims to educate 100mln Pakistanis

  • Pakistani startups have attracted over $228m investment in just first eight months of 2021
  • Local firms have been leveraging digitalization in their attempts to bring suppliers and customers closer

ISLAMABAD: Maqsad, a Pakistani edtech company striving to make high-quality education more accessible, has raised $2.1 million in a pre-seed funding round led by early-stage venture capital fund Indus Valley Capital, the startup announced on Monday. 
Pakistani startups have recently attracted major international funding, particularly since the COVID-19 outbreak, getting $228 million in investment just in the first eight months of 2021, compared to $77 million in 2020, according to Ignite, a Pakistani government-owned non-profit company. 
Maqsad said its mission was to level the playing field by offering Pakistani students the tools they needed to succeed in exams and beyond. It aims to build a mobile-only platform to offer after-school academic support to 100 million Pakistani students. 
Founded by childhood friends Taha Ahmed and Rooshan Aziz, Maqsad, which means purpose, aims to deliver localized academic content that is a mix of English and Urdu, supplemented by quizzes and other gamified features to provide a personalized learning experience, the startup sais.
“Struggles of students during the early days of the pandemic motivated us to run a pilot,” said Aziz, previously a banker at BNP Paribas in London. “With promising initial traction and user feedback, the potential to digitise the education sector became very clear.” 
“It’s about more than just getting students to pass their exams,” said Ahmed, the other co-founder who formerly worked as a strategy consultant for LEK Consulting in London. “We want to start a revolution in the way Pakistani students learn, moving beyond rote memorization to a place of real comprehension.”

The screenshot shows the website of the Edtech platform Maqsad. (Photo courtesy: maqsad.io)

A core pillar of Maqsad’s strategy, the startup said, will be to foster a high-growth environment that brings together Pakistan’s top talent to develop a world-class product. 
“We have been blown away by the talent we’ve seen so far and are very excited about the future of the ecosystem,” Ahmed said. 
Aatif Awan, the founder and managing partner of Indus Valley Capital, said the fund had been looking to invest in a startup transforming education in Pakistan since Indus Valley’s inception.
“Maqsad founders’ deep understanding of the problem, unique approach to solving it and passion for impact persuaded us quickly that this was the team to partner with.” 
The pre-seed round was completed in just three weeks via virtual meetings and was participated in by Alter Global, Fatima Gobi Ventures and several angel investors from Pakistan, the Middle East and Europe. 
Ali Mukhtar, the Fatima Gobi Ventures general partner, said: “Pakistan’s edtech opportunity is one of the largest in the world and we are excited to back Maqsad in delivering tech-powered education that levels access, quality and cost across Pakistan’s youth and creates lasting social change.” 
Maqsad will launch its mobile app later this year, the company says. 


Top court says government failed to make Urdu official language, urges Pakistanis learn Arabic

Updated 20 September 2021

Top court says government failed to make Urdu official language, urges Pakistanis learn Arabic

  • Supreme Court in 2015 ordered the government to adopt Urdu as its official language
  • In June, Prime Minister Imran Khan ordered all official events and proceedings be held in Urdu

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court of Pakistan said on Monday the federal government had failed to make Urdu the official language, as a three-member bench headed by acting chief justice Umar Ata Bandial presided over the hearing in a contempt of court case.

While dozens of languages are spoken in Pakistan, Urdu is its lingua franca, even though it is the first language of less than 10 percent Pakistanis. English remains Pakistan’s co-official language.

In 2015, the top court ordered that the government adopt Urdu as its official language.

“Without mother tongue and national language, we will lose our identity,” Justice Bandial was quoted by the Express Tribune newspaper as saying as he heard a case filed by lawyer Kokab Iqbal against Urdu not being used in Pakistan as the official language.

“In my opinion, we should also learn Persian and Arabic, just like our ancestors.”

“Article 251 of the Constitution mentions the mother language along with the regional languages,” the acting chief justice said as he also sought a reply from the Punjab government for failing to introduce Punjabi as an official language in the province.

The apex court sent notices to the federal and Punjab governments and adjourned the hearing for a month.

In June, Prime Minister Imran Khan ordered that all official events and proceedings be held in Urdu.

“Henceforth, all the programs events/ceremonies arranged for the prime minister shall be conducted in the national [Urdu] language,” a notification issued in English by the prime minister’s office said. “Further necessary action to implement the above directions of the prime minister shall be taken by all concerned accordingly.”

Passed in 1973, the Pakistani constitution specifies that the government must make Urdu the national language within 15 years. The law is yet to be implemented, as English has remained the choice for official communication.


New Zealand says hoping to ‘work through’ concerns to ensure playing Pakistan cricket series

Updated 20 September 2021

New Zealand says hoping to ‘work through’ concerns to ensure playing Pakistan cricket series

  • New Zealand Cricket said on Friday it was abandoning series with Pakistan following a government “security alert”
  • Pakistan’s cricket board has said New Zealand had set “dangerous precedent,” would cost Pakistan millions of dollars

ISLAMABAD: New Zealand Cricket (NZC) Chief Executive David White said on Monday he hoped Pakistan and New Zealand would be able to “work through” concerns in the coming days that had led the Black Caps to abandon their tour of Pakistan last week and ensure that they could play the tournament again.
New Zealand Cricket said on Friday it was abandoning its series with Pakistan “following a New Zealand government security alert.”
The series was to comprise three ODIs and five Twenty20s starting with a first ODI at Rawalpindi on Friday. Pindi Cricket Stadium in Rawalpindi was to also host the other two ODIs on September 19 and 21 while Lahore’s Qaddafi Stadium was to host all five T20s.
“We’ve got a very close working relationship with Pakistan Cricket,” White was quoted as saying by New Zealand sports website Stuff. “We’d like to think that over the next few days, weeks and months that we’ll work through this to ensure that we play the content that we’ve missed out on and we continue our close working relationship.”
He added: “As we know they’re [Pakistan] a very passionate cricketing nation and they’re obviously disappointed. We understand their disappointment.”
A day earlier, Stuff reported that a Black Cap had received a death threat prior to departing on the cricket team’s tour to Pakistan but security officials had determined it was a hoax.
The player, who Stuff did not name, was one of the 34-strong New Zealand group that fled Pakistan on a charter flight to Dubai on Saturday night. 
Meanwhile, Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) chief executive Wasim Khan said on Sunday New Zealand’s abrupt pullout from the Pakistan series had set a “dangerous precedent” that would cost the host side millions of dollars.
“This is going to cost us millions of dollars. This has severely affected us from the cricket credibility perspective and has set us back,” he said. “I think it sets a very dangerous precedent, when countries are unilaterally making decisions that potentially can have long-term consequences for countries.”