Arshad Nadeem: From Mian Channu to Tokyo and one step from Olympic gold

Pakistan's Arshad Nadeem competes in the men's javelin throw qualification during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium in Tokyo on August 4, 2021. (AFP)
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Updated 07 August 2021

Arshad Nadeem: From Mian Channu to Tokyo and one step from Olympic gold

  • Arshad Nadeem went through to final of men's javelin this week with throw of 85.16 metres, will compete in final today
  • The poor boy from Khanewal beat all odds to become first Pakistani in history to qualify for final of any Olympics track and field event

LAHORE: When Pakistan’s Arshad Nadeem went through to the final of the men’s javelin this week with a throw of 85.16 meters, his family and coaches couldn’t help but think how far he had come: the poor boy from smalltown Khanewal had beat all odds to become the first Pakistani in history to qualify for the final of any track and field event at the Olympics.

Nadeem was born in Mian Channu, a small city in Khanewal District, one of nine children of daily wage laborer Liaqat Ali. From a young age, he showed great versatility as an athlete, dabbling in whatever sports were on offer at school, from cricket to football and badminton.

By the time he was in the seventh grade, Nadeem had his heart set on being a cricketer. But his father told Arab News in an interview that he realized that he neither had the financial resources nor the connections to support his son in achieving a successful career in cricket. Already, upon the insistence of his elder sons, Ali had been convinced not to send Nadeem to work like his other male children but to help him instead pursue his passion for athletics.

“We are very poor people, I could not afford to send my children to high schools,” Ali said. “After a few classes, I told them to find themselves some work so they could contribute to the family income.”

One of his sons became a driver, another a police constable and one a clerk. But Nadeem was given a chance to pursue his dreams: “On seeing Arshad’s enthusiasm for sports and pressure from his elder brothers to let him make his career in sports, I took him to Khanewal Athletic Federation where, after some basic trials, he was admitted,” his father said.

Soon after, the boy caught the eye of Rasheed Ahmad Saqi during an athletics competition when he was just 12 years old. Saqi had a history of developing sportspeople in the division and became Nadeem’s first coach and mentor.

Saqi told Arab News he could not be prouder of Nadeem’s throw at the Olympics this Wednesday, the third best of the day behind India’s Neeraj Chopra (86.65 meters) and world leader Germany’s Johannes Vetter (85.64 meters).

“God willing, he can throw up to 90 meters and bring glory for Pakistan,” Saqi said as he prayed for Nadeem to win at the javelin final tomorrow, Saturday.

He recalled how he saw a “spark” in 12-year-old Nadeem when he first arrived at the Federation, and “a restlessness to be the best.”

“Therefore, I took him under my supervision as a trainer,” the coach said. “I started taking him to inter-cities athletic competitions where he would leave the stamp of a true sportsman.”

“I decided to train him for javelin throw,” he added, saying Nadeem, at 6 feet 3 inches tall, had the right height and physique for the javelin throw.  

“Arshad’s family was so poor they could not even arrange shoes and sports kits for him, and the Federation had to arrange everything for him,” Saqi said.

The training and support paid off. 

In 2014, after Nadeem secured first place in a Punjab youth festival, Saqi decided “it was high time to induct him in any government department to raise and polish his talent more.”

“My job is to hunt talent, train athletes and introduce them to government sports departments to further their careers as athletes,” he added. “Therefore, I took him to WAPDA, Lahore, where another senior coach, Fayyaz Bukhari, took him under his supervision and trained him to reach the Tokyo Olympics.”

Bukhari is accompanying Nadeem in Tokyo. 

Before Tokyo, in May 2017, Nadeem won a bronze medal with a best throw of 76.33 meters at the Islamic Solidarity Games in Baku. In April 2018, he set a new personal best of 80.45 meters in the qualification round of the javelin throw event at the Commonwealth Games held on the Gold Coast, Australia. In August 2018, he won a bronze medal at the Asian Games in Jakarta, Indonesia, where he set a new personal best and national record of 80.75 meters.

As the only Pakistani athlete at the 2019 World Athletics Championships in Doha, Nadeem achieved a new personal best and national record of 81.52 meters. In November 2019, Nadeem set a national record when he recorded an 83.65 meters throw to win gold for WAPDA at the 33rd National Games in Peshawar. In December 2019, he won a gold medal with an 86.29 meters games record throw at the 13th South Asian Games in Nepal.

Now, all eyes are on the athlete’s performance at the javelin throw final.

On Friday, at Nadeem’s modest family home in Khanewal, his family and neighbors arranged a Qur’an recitation to pray for his success.

“We request the nation to pray for Arshad so that he may win the gold medal and make us all proud,” Nadeem’s elder brother Shahid Azeem said. 

Nadeem’s mother burst into tears while talking to Arab News.

“I always wanted to see my son on TV,” she said. “I always wondered how other people’s kids come on TV. ‘When will my son come on TV and we will see him hoisting Pakistan’s flag,’ I always used to think this.”

“There has never been, nor will there ever be, anything quite so special as the love between a mother and a son,” she added, “and my son has made me so proud.”

Salt’s 88 trumps Babar’s 87 to set up T20 decider

Updated 30 September 2022

Salt’s 88 trumps Babar’s 87 to set up T20 decider

  • Salt’s ruthlessness was the reason why England won by eight wickets to even the series 3-3
  • Pakistan and England play seventh and last match on Sunday at the same Qaddafi Stadium

LAHORE: Phil Salt’s 88 trumped Babar Azam’s 87 for England to beat Pakistan in a Twenty20 on Friday and set up a series decider. 

Both openers carried their bats through the sixth match, and Salt’s extra ruthlessness was a big reason why England won by eight wickets to even the series 3-3. 

They play the seventh and last match on Sunday at the same Qaddafi Stadium. 

Salt smashed an unbeaten 88 off 41 balls, propelling a chasing England to 170-2 in just 14.3 overs. 

Babar anchored Pakistan to 169-6 with an unbeaten 87 off 59 balls. 

Salt’s brutal batting in the powerplay led England to 82-1, the most runs ever conceded by Pakistan in the first six overs. 

Alex Hales made 27 off 12 balls and added 55 runs with Salt. Then Dawid Malan and Ben Duckett combined with Salt to get England home with 33 balls to spare. 

In the absence of rested fast bowler Haris Rauf and an ill Naseem Shah, Pakistan’s pace bowlers struggled to halt Salt’s power-hitting. 

Salt scored only 59 runs in the previous five games, but hit 13 fours and three sixes in a brutal display as hundreds of home team fans left Qaddafi in disappointment midway through England’s run chase. 

It was a remarkable turnaround for the visitors after failing to chase down below-par totals in the last two games, losing by three runs at Karachi and by six runs at Lahore on Wednesday. 

Earlier, Pakistan’s top order struggled without the world’s top ranked T20 batter Mohammad Rizwan, who was rested after scoring four half-centuries in the previous five games. 

Rizwan’s replacement, wicketkeeper-batter Mohammad Haris scored 7 on debut before slicing an easy catch to short third man off Richard Gleeson, who replaced the rested Chris Woakes. 

Shan Masood continued to struggleat No. 3 as he was trapped lbw by David Willey for a duck, and Haider Ali couldn’t impress again by holing out in the deep on 18 off Sam Curran. 

Pakistan's Iftikhar Ahmed, left, celebrates with batting partner Babar Azam after hitting a boundary during the sixth twenty20 cricket match between Pakistan and England, in Lahore, Pakistan, on September 30, 2022. (AP)

Babar held the innings together with Iftikhar Ahmed (31) and Mohammad Nawaz (12) as Pakistan made 99 runs in the latter half of its innings. 

Salt and Hales combined for a rapid half-century stand off just 23 balls. Hales holed out while playing a slog sweep against legspinner Shadab Khan. 

Salt and Malan scored freely against fast bowlers Shahnawaz Dahani (0-33), Aamer Jamal (0-30) and Mohammad Wasim (0-29) before Malan was trapped by Shadab on 26. 

Duckett hit a breezy unbeaten 26 beside Salt to take England home. 

Pakistan sets up panel to probe ex-PM's audio leaks on cypher 'missing' from PM's office

Updated 59 min 19 sec ago

Pakistan sets up panel to probe ex-PM's audio leaks on cypher 'missing' from PM's office

  • The cypher in question forms the basis of Khan's allegations that his ouster was orchestrated by Washington
  • Cabinet accuses Khan’s government of stealing the cypher from PM’s office after 'fraud, forgery and fabrication'

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif's cabinet on Friday decided to constitute a special committee to probe purported audio leaks of ex-premier Imran Khan about a diplomatic cypher, which he has described as proof of a "foreign conspiracy" to oust him and which the government says has gone “missing” from the PM’s office. 

Khan, who was ousted from power in a parliamentary no-trust vote in April, has said that his removal from the office was orchestrated by the United States (US). Washington and Khan's opponents, who are now in the government, have repeatedly denied the accusations. 

The matter once again became a topic of public debate after the emergence of another purported audio clip online on Friday, involving Khan, his then principal secretary Azam Khan and two top aides, Shah Mahmood Qureshi and Asad Umar. 

Pakistan Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, right, chairs federal cabinet meeting in Islamabad on September 30, 2022. (PID)

Also on Friday, PM Sharif presided over a key meeting of his cabinet, at which the participants expressed concern over the audio leaks and said they “exposed the criminal conspiracy of the previous government and prime minister Imran Khan.” 

“The whole matter should be carefully scrutinized and those responsible should be held accountable as per law,” the cabinet said in a statement after the meeting. 

The statement said a copy of the diplomatic cypher, based on a meeting between then Pakistani Ambassador to the US Asad Majeed and State Department official Donald Lu, was "missing" from the record of the PM's office. 

“A copy of the cypher sent to the former prime minister was duly received at the PM House, but it is missing from the official record,” it said. 

“The theft of the diplomatic cypher from the record is a serious matter.”  

The special committee of the federal cabinet will include representatives from the government's coalition partners as well as ministers of foreign affairs, interior and law, according to the statement. 

It said the cypher was given “self-serving meanings” for political mileage that hurt the national interest, and it was “stolen after fraud, forgery and fabrication.” 

“This is severe violation of the constitutional oath, relevant laws and regulations, especially the Official Secrets Act,” it said. 

“This is an unforgivable crime against the state as political interests were given preference over the key interests of the state.” 

In the second cypher-related leak on Friday, Khan, his then principal secretary Azam Khan, and two members of his party, Shah Mahmood Qureshi and Asad Umar, could purportedly be heard strategizing the "foreign conspiracy." 

The clip making the rounds on social media features a conversation between Khan and other aforementioned individuals about the cypher that the former premier has labelled as evidence of his “foreign conspiracy” claims. 

A similar audio clip of a purported conversation between Khan and his principal secretary had surfaced earlier this week too. 

US extends debt relief to Pakistan after floods

Updated 30 September 2022

US extends debt relief to Pakistan after floods

  • Pakistan faces plethora of economic woes, including balance-of-payment crisis, widening current account deficit
  • Devastating floods meanwhile engulfed large swathes of country in August, causing damage estimated at $30 billion

ISLAMABAD: Washington on Friday rolled over an agreement to suspend service payments on $132 million of Pakistan's debt, the US embassy in Islamabad said, as the South Asian nation faces an economic crisis exacerbated by devastating floods. 

Pakistan's economy is facing a balance of payments crisis, a widening current account deficit, a slide in its currency to historic lows, and inflation crossing 27%. 

Devastating floods meanwhile engulfed large swathes of the country in late August, killing more than 1,500 people and causing damage estimated at $30 billion, fanning fears that Pakistan would not meet its debt obligations. 

The US ambassador to Pakistan Donald Blome signed the agreement to extend the loan relief under the G20 debt service suspension initiative, the embassy said in a statement, adding: "Our priority is to redirect critical resources in Pakistan." 

US ambassador to Pakistan Donald Blome signs agreement to extend the loan relief under the G20 debt service suspension initiative on September 30, 2022. (Photo courtesy: @USEmbIslamabad/Twitter)

The rollover is related to the Paris club agreement in April 2020 to support 73 lower income countries during COVID, under which the United States provided relief on $128 million in debt to Pakistan. 

The agreement to suspend payments on that debt, plus an additional $4 million, has now been rolled over again. 

Pakistan's outgoing finance minister Miftah Ismail said last week that Islamabad was seeking debt relief from bilateral creditors in the wake of flooding, but emphasised the government was not seeking any relief from commercial banks or Eurobond creditors. 

The country's bonds had slumped to just half their face value, after the Financial Times said a United Nations development agency was urging the cash-strapped country to restructure its debt. 

Ismail said the $1 billion bond would be paid on time and in full due later this year. 

In meeting with Saudi envoy, Pakistan president urges for steps to increase bilateral trade

Updated 30 September 2022

In meeting with Saudi envoy, Pakistan president urges for steps to increase bilateral trade

  • President Arif Alvi expresses gratitude for the Kingdom's support after deadly floods in Pakistan
  • The president also appreciates Saudi Arabia's role in OIC, highlighting Palestine and Kashmir issues

ISLAMABAD: Saudi Arabia's Ambassador Nawaf bin Said Al-Malki on Friday met with Pakistan's President Arif Alvi, the presidency said, with the latter calling for effective steps to increase bilateral trade between the two brotherly countries. 

Pakistan and Saudi Arabia enjoy cordial relations, with over 2.5 million Pakistanis living in the Kingdom who are one of the biggest sources of remittances to the South Asian nation.  

Both countries enjoy strong political, cultural and defence ties with each other, while the Kingdom has often helped Pakistan with economic aid in difficult times.  

"The current bilateral trade volume of $4.6 billion between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia needs to be further increased," President Alvi was quoted as saying in a statement issued from his office. 

"The current trade volume does not fully reflect the depth of the relationship between the two brotherly countries," he told the Saudi ambassador. 

The Pakistan president appreciated the Kingdom’s support in providing an air bridge for relief assistance to flood affectees in Pakistan. 

Saudi Arabia has so far dispatched at least 10 flights and 100 emergency relief trucks, carrying hundreds of tons of food items to flood-ravaged districts in Pakistan.  

The deadly floods have killed more than 1,600 people, affected 33 million and caused the South Asian country an estimated $30 billion in losses. 

President Alvi also appreciated Saudi Arabia's role in the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), highlighting the issues of Palestine and Kashmir as well as matters relating to Afghanistan.

Pakistani currency gains 4.8% on appointment of new finance minister, hopes of IMF relief

Updated 30 September 2022

Pakistani currency gains 4.8% on appointment of new finance minister, hopes of IMF relief

  • Finance ministry says economic outlook is uncertain and growth will likely remain below target
  • As weekly inflation soars, government predicts inflows will remain elevated in current fiscal year

KARACHI: Pakistan’s national currency posted gains for the sixth consecutive day on Friday, currency dealers and analysts said, following the return of Ishaq Dar as the new finance minister and amid hopes that the International Monetary Fund (IMF) would ease off some harsh conditions. 

The 72-year-old financial wizard took oath as a federal minister on Wednesday, five years after he was ousted from the role in a corruption case. A member of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif’s ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) party, Dar has already been the finance minister four times. 

Pakistan's currency market has shown some signs of stability after the change of command at the finance ministry, with the Pakistani rupee gaining 0.52 percent of its value against the US dollar on Friday. The greenback closed at Rs228.45 at the end of week. 

The Pakistani currency has appreciated 4.84 percent during the last six trading sessions and 4.7 percent since September 23, when the dollar was trading at Rs239.65, after the market sentiment changed following Dar's takeover of the finance portfolio. 

“The perception of Ishaq Dar as strict controller of exchange rate has changed the market sentiment. Exporters and individuals who were withholding dollars have come out to sell which has strengthened rupee,” Tahir Abbas, head of research at the Karachi-based Arif Habib Limited brokerage firm, told Arab News. 

“The expectation of around $3.5 billion additional inflows from the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank, and the hopes that IMF will ease off some of the targets set in the program as the country is facing flood disaster have strengthened the rupee.” 

Dar takes the driving seat of Pakistan’s economy at a time when the South Asian country is grappling with a balance-of-payment crisis, depleting foreign exchange reserves, high inflation and a weakened currency. 

On Friday, the finance ministry reiterated the country’s economic growth would remain below 3 percent from a 5 percent budgetary target for 2022-23, amid an uncertain outlook. 

“The economic outlook for Pakistan in the current fiscal year has become uncertain and will likely remain below the target,” the ministry said in its monthly economic report. "Macroeconomic imbalances may ease with the expected slowdown in the economic growth." 

Pakistani currency dealers suggest few steps to control the exchange rate and curb speculations in the currency market. 

“Dar has a reputation of strengthening rupee and improving economy and he seems confident to achieve his goals,” Malik Bostan, president of Forex Association of Pakistan who spoke to the new finance minter after he took over the office, told Arab News. 

“We have pinpointed few factors that were responsible for the rupee's depreciation, including organized maneuvering of exchange rate in the interbank market which is now being probed. He is upbeat for the economic turnaround.” 

The change at finance ministry comes at a time when the South Asian nation is reeling from the impacts of historic floods that have submerged a third of the country and inflicted around $30 billion in economic losses. 

The finance ministry conceded that the outlook of the country’s agriculture sector was not clear after the floods damaged winter crops, including cotton and rice. 

“The agricultural outlook is still not clear as the output of both important and other Kharif crops has suffered significantly due to recent floods and unprecedented heavy monsoon rains,” it said in the monthly economic report, adding that floodwater in agricultural areas might also affect the Rabi crops. 

While the full extent of damages is still being estimated, Islamabad is expecting a debt relief from the Paris Club and G-20 nations that will help strengthen the national currency. 

Apart from the currency's stability, the incoming finance minister has vowed to tame inflation that hit a 47-year high of 27.3 percent in August. 

However, the finance ministry has warned that the inflation will not ease off even after the fall in commodity prices in the global market. 

“Even if international commodity prices would mean-revert in the near future, domestic inflation may still suffer from delayed adjustments and second-round effects,” the ministry said in its report.  

"Also, the depreciation of the PKR continues to exert upward pressure on domestic prices." 

Pakistan’s weekly inflation once again increased by 0.94 percent during the week ending on September 29, after recording a decline of 8.11 percent the previous week, mainly due to the spike in the prices of food items, according to official data released on Friday. 

Pakistan’s stock market also closed bullish on Friday, with key stock index gaining 0.28 percent to close at 41,128.67 points.