Pakistani displaying world’s ‘largest’ Quran at Dubai Expo hopes Saudi Arabia will acquire project

Pakistani artist Rassam Shahid places the text of the Quran, crafted in aluminum and gold plated, at the Central Institute of Arts and Craft in Pakistan at Arts Council of Pakistan Karachi on September 11, 2021 (AN Photo)
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Updated 15 September 2021

Pakistani displaying world’s ‘largest’ Quran at Dubai Expo hopes Saudi Arabia will acquire project

  • Shahid Rassam has created what he says is largest copy of the holy book with script made in aluminum and plated in gold
  • Rassam teaches at renowned institutes around the world, has produced commissioned portraits of famous global personalities

KARACHI: For the last five years, Shahid Rassam has worked on his “dream project,” preparing a copy of the Quran that the Pakistani-Canadian artist says is the world’s largest version of the holy book and one in which — for the first time in over 1,400 years of Islamic history — the script is crafted out of aluminum and plated in gold.
Now, the Karachi-based artist will be displaying the first of its kind project at the Dubai Expo 2020, scheduled to be held next month. His ultimate wish: that the work is acquired by a Muslim country, preferably Saudi Arabia.
“Calligraphers have created great copies of the holy Quran but no one has casted the holy book in [aluminum in] the last fourteen centuries,” Rassam told Arab News at his home in the port city of Karachi, where he is the principal since 2018 of the Arts Council Institute of Arts and Crafts.
Indeed, several large versions of the holy book have been created in the past, using conventional materials such as paper, cloth and animal skin. These include a 4.9 X 6.6 feet copy kept at the Kul Sharif mosque in the Russian city of Kazan, that was awarded a Guinness World Records certificate for being the world’s largest Quran, and the world’s only wood-carved version, measuring 5.8 X 4.6 feet, that is displayed in Palembang, Indonesia.




Pakistani aritist Rassam Shahid places the text of the Quran verses written on gold plated clay at his workshop in Karachi.

But Rassam, 49, whose name means “the artist” in Arabic and was given him by the legendary poet Jaun Elia, said his version of the holy book, measuring 8.5 X 6.5 feet, was the largest ever created and would be registered with the Guinness World Records once completed.
Rassam began the project by casting letters in clay as part of the “script-making” process for the Quran, which has 550 pages and more than 80,000 words.
“The clay was plastered and eventually converted into fiber before being cast in aluminum, followed by the gold plating,” he explained. “I created my own design with acrylic colors ... And the technique is also very important. I used Italian glazing technique to develop the design.”




Pakistani artist Shahid Rassam holds text crafted in aluminum and gold plated, at the Central Institute of Arts and Craft in Pakistan at Arts Council of Pakistan Karachi on September 11, 2021 (AN Photo)

Rassam has previously rendered the Asma Ul Husna, or the 99 names of Allah in Islam, in a similar format after being inspired by the work of Sadequain, a world-renowned Pakistani calligrapher and painter. His training in Turkish, Arabic and Persian motifs and designs had helped in the process, Rassam said.
Besides his work as a painter and sculptor, Rassam also teaches at renowned institutes in the United States, Pakistan, India and the Middle East, including at the Al-Ain University UAE, the Abu Dhabi Cultural Foundation, Boston University, JNUT Delhi, University of Toronto, J J School of Art in Mumbai, and Shanti Nikaytan in Kolkota.




This image, taken on September 11, 2021 at the Central Institute of Arts and Craft in Pakistan at Arts Council of Pakistan Karachi Pakistan, shows a leaf from the world's largest Quran prepared by Pakistani artist Rassam Shahid (AN Photo)

Rassam has produced commissioned portraits of former Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, the sitting Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, former US secretary of state Hillary Clinton, the head of the Catholic Church Pope Francis and Nobel prize winner Malala Yousafzai. His work has been exhibited around the world, including in the UK, the US, Canada, France, Italy, the UAE, India, and Pakistan.
Now, Rassam’s next goal is to find patrons in Muslim countries for his copy of the Quran, saying he would be the “happiest man in the world” if Saudi Arabia acquired the project.
“The last largest Quran was acquired by a [Russian] museum,” he said. “I wish a Muslim country would come forward and acquire this great piece of the Holy Quran.”




This image, taken on September 11, 2021 at the Central Institute of Arts and Craft in Pakistan at Arts Council of Pakistan Karachi Pakistan, shows a leaf from the world's largest Quran prepared by Pakistani artist Rassam Shahid (AN Photo)

 


PM Khan meets Saudi crown prince, addresses Middle East Green summit in Riyadh

Updated 25 October 2021

PM Khan meets Saudi crown prince, addresses Middle East Green summit in Riyadh

  • Pakistan will share experience of ‘Billion Tree Tsunami’ project with Saudi Arabia, Khan says
  • Saudi crown prince announces $10.4 billion initiatives to combat climate change

ISLAMABAD: Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan on Monday met with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on the sidelines of the Middle East Green Initiative (MGI) summit in Riyadh and discussed with him a range of issues, including climate change, measures to tackle it and the Afghanistan situation. 
At the launch of the summit in Riyadh, Crown Prince Mohammed announced two initiatives at a cost of $10.39 billion to combat climate change. The projects include an investment fund for carbon economy solutions in the region and a global initiative that will contribute to clean fuel solutions to feed more than 750 million people worldwide. Saudi Arabia will contribute around 15 percent of the entire cost. 
PM Khan traveled to the kingdom on the invitation of the Saudi crown prince to attend the MGO summit and share his perspective on challenges faced by developing countries due to climate change.
During his meeting with the crown prince, PM Khan paid tribute to the leadership of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, His Majesty King Salman bin Abdulaziz, in the progress and development of the kingdom. He lauded the crown prince for the Saudi Vision 2030, a strategic framework to reduce Saudi Arabia’s dependence on oil, diversify its economy, and develop public service sectors such as health, education, infrastructure, recreation, and tourism.
“The prime minister warmly congratulated the crown prince on successfully organizing the Middle East Green Initiative (MGI) Summit on Climate Change,” his office said in a statement. 
“The summit clearly demonstrated the commitment of the Saudi leadership to take tangible steps for effectively tackling the challenge of Climate Change. The Prime Minister noted that the Saudi Green Initiative and the Middle East Green Initiative aligned closely with Pakistan’s Climate Change Initiatives – ‘Clean and Green Pakistan’ and the ‘Ten Billion Tree Tsunami’.” 

A handout picture provided by the Saudi Royal Palace on October 25, 2021 shows Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (R) welcoming Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan (L) during the Middle East Green Initiative Summit (MGI) in the Saudi capital Riyadh. (AFP)

He reiterated Pakistan’s support in the implementation of the initiatives and highlighted the significance Pakistan attached to its strategic ties with the kingdom. 
The prime minister also expressed gratitude to Saudi Arabia for its steadfast support to Pakistan at every crucial juncture, according to PM Khan’s office. The two leaders agreed to further strengthen bilateral cooperation across all fields. 
On the latest developments in Afghanistan, the Pakistan premier stressed the importance of active and constructive engagement of the international community to help alleviate the suffering of the Afghan people. He expressed concern about the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Afghanistan and hoped that the international community would take urgent steps to prevent a humanitarian crisis and economic collapse in Afghanistan. 
In his address to the MGI summit earlier, PM Khan said, “All the experience that we have had in so far planting 2.5 billion trees in Pakistan and our target is 10 billion trees, so we will be sharing all our experience with you Highness [Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman].” 
He said climate change was probably one of the biggest crises facing humanity: “Unfortunately, this crisis was quite visible 20 years ago, but somehow we were all in self-denial. No one thought that this would actually happen, that the temperature was getting warmer. No one believed there would be effects of this.” 

 Pakistan's Prime Minister Imran Khan (left) addressses the Middle East Green Initiative Summit in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on October 25, 2021. (Photo courtesy: PTI/Twitter)

Khan highlighted the actions Pakistan was taking to combat climate change and emissions, including planting billions of trees and converting coal projects to hydroelectricity. 
“We will shift 60 percent of all our energy into clean energy by 2030. Thirty percent of all transport will be shifted to electric vehicles by 2030. We already shelved 2400 megawatts of coal projects, and replaced them with 3700 megawatts of hydroelectricity, and then committed there would be no new coal projects in Pakistan,” he said. “The only energy through coal will be gasifications and that’s using local coal that is in Pakistan.” 
Khan said Pakistan had focused on nature-based solutions. “Pakistan is the only country where mangrove carbon is growing. Mangroves absorb the highest amount of carbon emissions – we plan to plant 1 billion more of these trees by 2023.” 
The MGI summit is the first of its kind event in the Middle East region. Riyadh, a signatory to the Paris climate pact, on Saturday set out details of its nationally determined contributions (NDCs) — goals for individual states under global efforts to prevent average global temperatures from rising beyond 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. 

Top leaders and government officials from around the globe pose for a group photo as they gather in Riyadh on October 25, 2021, for the Middle East Green Initiative Summit mediated by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (sixth from left). (Photo courtesy: Saudi Green Initiative)

The United States and the European Union want Saudi Arabia to join the global initiative on slashing methane emissions by 30 percent by 2030. 
In his address to the summit, Crown Prince Mohammed said the kingdom would build a regional program to reduce carbon emissions within the framework of the Middle East Green Initiative and create a platform to implement the concept of a circular carbon economy. 
“There are gaps in the regional climate action system. And through coordinating regional efforts and sharing experiences and technologies, we can accelerate achievements in our initiatives,” he said. 
“We gather today at this summit to join forces and coordinate our efforts to protect the environment, confront climate change, and develop a roadmap toward reducing carbon emissions in the region by more than 10 percent of global contribution, and plant 50 billion trees in the region, through the largest tree-planting program globally,” the crown prince said. 
“This will contribute to achieving 5 percent of the global target for afforestation,” he added.


New Zealand hope Pakistan won't hold grudges when they meet in Sharjah

Updated 25 October 2021

New Zealand hope Pakistan won't hold grudges when they meet in Sharjah

  • Pakistan cricket authorities were left fuming after New Zealand ended the tour last month
  • Pakistan to face New Zealand on Tuesday in a Twenty20 World Cup match in Sharjah

SHARJAH: Kane Williamson hopes Pakistan will not hold any grudges over New Zealand abandoning a tour on security fears last month, when they meet in a Twenty20 World Cup match in Sharjah on Tuesday. 
Pakistan cricket authorities were left fuming after New Zealand ended the tour minutes before the start of the first one-day international in Rawalpindi, citing an unspecified security alert. 
Williamson, not part of the squad in Pakistan as he was playing in the Indian Premier League in the United Arab Emirates, played down talk of a grudge match. 
“There are a lot of good relations within the two teams. Over the years they’ve played a lot against each other, and a number of players have played with each other, as well,” said Williamson on the eve of the match. 
“I am sure the game will be played in the right spirit.” 
A week after New Zealand left, England also withdrew their men’s and women’s teams from a tour to Pakistan due to concerns over the physical and mental health of the players. 
That prompted newly elected chairman of Pakistan Cricket Board Ramiz Raja to proclaim New Zealand will be one of the targets in the T20 World Cup.
“We had one team in our target, our neighbors (India), now add two more teams, New Zealand and England,” Raja said last month. 
Williamson, who admitted the decision to abandon the tour was based on New Zealand government advice, praised the Pakistan team. 
“I suppose the focus now is here at the T20 World Cup, and no doubt after the performance last night, Pakistan have some momentum and are feeling pretty good about their cricket,” said Williamson.
Pakistan thumped arch-rivals India by 10 wickets in the teams’ opening Super 12 match in Dubai on Sunday. 
Williamson labelled Pakistan as one of the “favorites.” 
“Yeah, I mean, it was a fantastic performance. I think Pakistan have come to the T20 World Cup full of confidence, having played in these conditions more than most,” he said. 
“They certainly put it on show last night and showed why they’re one of the favorites in the competition.” 
Spearhead Shaheen Shah Afridi took 3-31 to keep India to 151-7 in 20 overs before openers Mohammad Rizwan (79 not out) and skipper Babar Azam (68 not out) wiped off the target in just 17.5 overs. 
“Tomorrow I’m sure they’ll be very strong again, so for us, it’s focusing on the cricket that we want to play and trying to adjust to conditions.” 
Pakistan can count on being well supported after playing most of their home matches in UAE in the wake of terrorist attacks on the Sri Lankan team bus in 2009. 
Williamson said Pakistan, who at third are ranked one place above New Zealand in T20, have a key blend of youth and experience. 
“They’ve got a very well-balanced side, and also a great mix between youth and experience with Mohammad Hafeez and Shoaib Malik in the middle order, as well, which brings a lot of experience to the side.” 
Williamson has declared himself fit after a recurrence of his elbow injury.
“My elbow is improving. It’s just a work in progress. But I think all in all, it’s showing improvement, which is good.” 


Indian cricket star ‘horribly abused’ online after Pakistan humiliation

Updated 25 October 2021

Indian cricket star ‘horribly abused’ online after Pakistan humiliation

  • Mohammed Shami, India’s only Muslim player, became target of social media vitriol after defeat in Dubai
  • A host of Indian cricket legends, fans, and politicians also spoke out against the hate onslaught

NEW DELHI: A torrent of social media abuse was aimed at India’s only Muslim player, the bowler Mohammed Shami, after his side were thrashed by arch rivals Pakistan at the cricket T20 World Cup. 
Violence against Muslims was also reported after the emphatic 10-wicket win on Sunday, Pakistan’s first against India at any World Cup. 
Cricket clashes between Hindu-majority India and Muslim Pakistan frequently heighten tensions between the neighbors, who have fought three wars since their independence in 1947. 
The 31-year-old Shami became the main target after the defeat in Dubai, even though India captain Virat Kohli acknowledged that his side had been “outplayed.” 
Thousands of vitriolic messages were left on social media, including Shami’s Instagram account, calling him a traitor and alleging he had taken money to throw the game. 
But a host of Indian cricket legends, fans, and politicians also spoke out against the hate onslaught and urged support for him. 
“The online attack on Mohammad Shami is shocking and we stand by him. He is a champion and anyone who wears the India cap has India in their hearts far more than any online mob,” said former Test player Virender Sehwag. 
“We support every person who represents Team India,” said batting legend Sachin Tendulkar. Shami “is a committed, world-class bowler. He had an off day like any other sportsperson can have.” 
Omar Abdullah, a former chief minister of the Indian administered Kashmir, called on Indian players to reject the hate messages just as they had backed the Black Lives Matter movement. 
“Your BLM knee-taking counts for nothing if you can’t stand up for your teammate who is being horribly abused and trolled,” Abdullah said on Twitter. 
“Ignore the haters, most of India’s grateful for your effort,” said another supporter on Instagram. 
People set off celebratory gunfire in the Pakistani cities of Islamabad and Karachi after the famous win, while hundreds ignited firecrackers in Indian administered Kashmir, where troops are fighting an insurgency. 
Gautam Gambhir, a former India Test cricketer who has become an MP for the ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, said it was “shameful” that people were celebrating Pakistan’s win. 
And in Punjab state students from Indian administered Kashmir said they were beaten up. 
A student at a technology institute in Sangrur said dozens of men armed with hockey sticks and batons attacked them as they watched the closing stages of the game. 
“They entered our room, switched off the lights and beat us. They destroyed our laptops,” the student told AFP, speaking on condition of anonymity because of fears of more trouble. 
“We are safe now and we have support from our college. But we didn’t expect this at all. We are Indians.” 
The match also sparked violence in neighboring Bangladesh. Two Pakistan supporters were beaten by India fans as they celebrated the win in one southern district, media reports said. 


In Riyadh meeting with envoy Kerry, PM Khan urges investment in climate change mitigation

Updated 25 October 2021

In Riyadh meeting with envoy Kerry, PM Khan urges investment in climate change mitigation

  • Prime Minister Imran Khan is in Saudi Arabia for the Middle East Green Initiative summit 
  • Last month, Pakistan, US held inaugural meeting of joint working group on climate, environment

ISLAMABAD: Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan on Monday urged a top United States official to explore the possibility of climate change mitigation investment in Pakistan and other developing nations, the prime minister’s office said, in a meeting held on the sidelines of the Middle East Green Initiative (MGI) summit in Riyadh. 
PM Khan was in Saudi Arabia on the invitation of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to attend the MGI summit. He met US special presidential envoy for climate, John Kerry, on the sidelines of the moot on Monday. 
The development came weeks after Pakistan and the US held an inaugural meeting of a joint working group on climate and environment, and agreed to take “greater action” for climate change mitigation and adaptation. 
The US-Pakistan working group was formed in July this year at a meeting between Pakistani PM’s aide on climate change Malik Amin Aslam and US special envoy Kerry in London, where they both were attending a ministerial meeting on climate change on July 25-26. 
PM Khan “encouraged the Special Envoy to further explore the possibility of enhanced bilateral engagement through the US International Development Finance Corporation (DFC) to support investment in climate [change] mitigation, resilience, and adaptation in Pakistan and the developing world,” the PM’s office said in a statement. 

U.S. special presidential envoy for climate John Kerry (4L) mets Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan (C), on the sidelines of the Middle East Green Initiative (MGI) summit, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on October 25, 2021. (Photo courtesy: APP)

The Pakistan premier underscored the need to reinforce national as well as global emphasis against this existential threat. 
Special Envoy Kerry agreed that “Pakistan and the US shared a longstanding relationship, which should be further reinforced in areas of mutual convergence, including climate and environment,” the statement read. 
The US official briefed PM Khan on various measures undertaken by President Joe Biden’s administration to develop a broad global consensus on climate action in the run-up to the United Nations Climate Change Conference of Parties later this month. 
The 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference, also known as COP26, is the 26th United Nations Climate Change conference, scheduled to be held in the city of Glasgow from October 31 to November 12 under the presidency of the United Kingdom. 
PM Khan further said that Pakistan and the US should continue sharing ideas, expertise and technology to optimize mutually beneficial opportunities in the fight against climate change. 
The two sides agreed to work in “close coordination to determine next steps in building an effective framework of cooperation in this regard,” the statement said. 
PM Khan was in Saudi Arabia to share his perspective on the challenges faced by the developing countries due to climate change at the MGI Summit. 
In January 2021, Germanwatch, a Bonn-based think tank, described Pakistan as the eighth most vulnerable country to climate change, having witnessed 173 extreme weather events and suffered an estimated loss of $3.8 billion as a consequence from 2000 to 2019. 


Thousands stranded as Afghan-Pakistan border crossing stays closed

Updated 25 October 2021

Thousands stranded as Afghan-Pakistan border crossing stays closed

  • Chaman border crossing was briefly opened on Sunday to let people with urgent medical needs into Pakistan
  • The crossing is a vital source of customs revenue for the cash-strapped government in Afghanistan

QUETTA: Hundreds of trucks and other vehicles waited at one of the main crossings between Pakistan and Afghanistan on Monday as the border closed again after a brief opening the day before, despite promises that it would reopen, traders said.

The Chaman border crossing, the second-largest commercial border point between the two countries after Torkham in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, links with Spin Boldak in the Afghan province of Kandahar, and is regularly used by thousands of labourers and traders from both countries.

The crossing, a vital source of customs revenue for the cash-strapped government in Afghanistan, has been closed for about three weeks, despite repeated protests by truckers and others stuck waiting at the border.

"We also have a life. We have children and we need money," said truck driver Turyalai.

As Afghanistan sinks deeper into economic crisis, neighbouring countries have been increasingly worried about a mass movement of refugees.

But the closure of Chaman and interruptions to traffic at Torkham as well as the suspension of Pakistan Airlines flights from Kabul have left Afghanistan largely cut off.

Originally closed by Pakistani authorities due to security threats, disputes over issues ranging from COVID-19 to the validity of Afghan travel documents have prevented the re-opening of the Chaman crossing, despite severe hardship to truckers and local farmers.

The border was briefly opened on Sunday to let people with urgent medical needs into Pakistan, which has a much more developed health system than Afghanistan. But it was quickly closed again, leaving many stranded.

"Many people, some of them sick, were left here," said Mohammad Younus, from the southern Afghan province of Helmand, who was trying to return home from Quetta in Pakistan when the border was sealed.
He said security forces had dispersed waiting crowds with baton charges and it was unclear when the border would re-open.

"Some people are saying the border will open (again), others are saying it will not," he said.