NZ tour cancellation 'unfortunate scenario' but Pakistan will pull through — PCB chief

Ramiz Raja, chairman of the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB), gestures as he addresses a news conference in Lahore, Pakistan on September 13, 2021. (REUTERS)
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Updated 18 September 2021

NZ tour cancellation 'unfortunate scenario' but Pakistan will pull through — PCB chief

  • New Zealand said it was abandoning Pakistan series following ‘security alert’
  • PCB chairman urges cricket fans to support Pakistan in the upcoming World Cup

ISLAMABAD: New Zealand's sudden pullout from its first Pakistan series in 18 years was an "unfortunate scenario" but the hosts will come out of it, the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) chairman said on Saturday.

New Zealand on Friday said it was abandoning the tour over security fears. The announcement came just as the visitors were to face Pakistan at the Rawalpindi Cricket Stadium in the first of three one-day internationals (ODIs). The Black Caps were in Pakistan for the first time since 2003.

"It's an unfortunate scenario," PCB chairman Ramiz Raja said in a video message.



"We'll come out of it," he said. "We have experienced similar situations before, but we've always moved forward."

Pakistan has been trying to revive tours by foreign squads after home internationals were suspended in the aftermath of a terrorist attack on the Sri Lankan side in 2009. It has ever since managed to attract many foreign players, especially with the Pakistan Super League (PSL).

"I can feel your pain," Raja said, addressing Pakistan team supporters. "I urge the fans to back the Pakistan cricket team ... support them in the World Cup."

The World Cup is scheduled to take place in the United Arab Emirates and Oman from October 17 to November 14.

As many of the national team players have expressed their frustration at New Zealand's decision, he urged them to vent it through their performance on the field.

"My message to the cricket team is to let out your frustration, anger through performance," Raja said. "When you become the best team, everyone will want to play with you in Pakistan."

In Pakistan’s Khaplu valley, autumn foliage becomes ‘blessing’ fuel for winter survival

Updated 19 sec ago

In Pakistan’s Khaplu valley, autumn foliage becomes ‘blessing’ fuel for winter survival

  • Villagers collect dry leaves between late November and early December to use as fuel during freezing winters
  • In the absence of reliable gas or electricity sources, people have found alternative means to heat their homes 

KHAPLU, Gilgit-Baltistan: When autumn arrives in Khaplu valley with its foliage of boastful reds, yellows and copper browns, families welcome it as a “blessing” — not for the colorful spectacle, but for the fuel the falling leaves will become when burnt come winter, helping locals survive the harsh weather in Pakistan’s mountainous north.
The valley in the northern region of Gilgit-Baltistan, surrounded by some of Pakistan’s highest peaks and glaciers, is home to over 24,000 people who remain largely cut off from the rest of the country in the winter months when temperatures can fall below minus 20 degrees Celsius.
In the absence of reliable gas or electricity sources, residents have had to find alternative means of heating their homes. One option is burning the colorful leaves that fall in autumn, which locals call “gold” and diligently collect between late November and early December to use as burning fuel in the winter ahead.
“We don’t waste dried leaves because they are the main source of heating for us,” Muhammad Jaffar, a 68-year-old resident of Garbong village, told Arab News.
Jaffar, a member of the village’s welfare committee, which is responsible for leaf collection and distribution, said the dried leaves were “the biggest blessing.”
The collection and distribution of dried leaves among Garbong’s 130 households takes almost a week. Each household nominates a woman representative and does not receive leaves if it fails to do so. The same practice is observed in all other villages in Khaplu valley.
Muhammad Ali, who summons residents using a mosque loudspeaker every morning during the week to collect their share of leaves from the nearby Stronpi village, said leaf collection rules and exact dates were established years ago to avoid conflict.
“Fifteen years ago, women would fight each other for dried leaves,” he said. “Now, the committee monitors all affairs of the village from mosque to working in the fields and personal disputes as well as dried leaf collection.”
Once distributed among village households, the leaves are burnt in the open air. When they stop giving off smoke, they are brought into the kitchen in a metal pot, placed under a special square table and covered with a blanket or quilt.
“Family members nestle around the table with the brunt leaves placed under it,” Stronpi resident Sajid Ali said.
Fatima, a village’s elder who only gave her first name, said there was a special room in her basement to store the leaves during winter.
“Without dried leaves, how could we spend the winter days?” she said. “It’s only seasonal dried leaves, but for us it is like gold.”

Pakistani energy minister denies unemployment rising, says economy to grow 5% this year

Updated 04 December 2021

Pakistani energy minister denies unemployment rising, says economy to grow 5% this year

  • Hammad Azhar says it is not right to blame the government for rising inflation since it cannot do much about global commodity prices
  • Pakistani opposition parties have been questioning the government's economic performance, though officials maintain they are misleading people

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan's energy minister Hammad Azhar denied on Saturday unemployment was rising in the country, adding that the national economy was estimated to grow at five percent during the current year.
The government's economic performance has been widely criticized as Pakistan's national currency has drastically lost its value and its import bill has significantly mounted.
The country has also been forced to undertake economic reforms by the International Monetary Fund which agreed to offer a $6 billion bailout package to the administration in Islamabad in July 2019.
"Pakistan's economy is projected to grow at five percent this year," Azhar told the country's state-run PTV channel. "When an economy is growing at that rate, unemployment cannot rise: It can only decline."
Quoting a World Bank assessment, the minister said poverty had also come down in Pakistan despite the economic challenges triggered by the coronavirus pandemic.
He maintained it was not right to blame the government for rising inflation since it could not do much about global commodity prices.
The country's opposition parties have questioned the government's economic performance in recent weeks, though Azhar maintained they were misleading people.

Sri Lankan factory manager was not on good terms with Pakistani workers — local media

Updated 04 December 2021

Sri Lankan factory manager was not on good terms with Pakistani workers — local media

  • Priyantha Kumara, who was lynched by a mob in Sialkot, was accused of blasphemy after he removed a poster with religious inscription from factory’s wall
  • According to police investigation, he did not know the local language and apologized to workers after the incident

ISLAMABAD: A Sri Lankan factory manager who worked with a garment manufacturing company in Pakistan and was lynched by a mob on blasphemy allegation was not too popular with workers who had lodged several complaints against him with the owners of the facility, reported a local news channel on Saturday.
Sharing the findings of the criminal investigation into the case, Geo News said Priyantha Kumara Diyawadana “worked as an honest general manager” in the country’s southeastern Sialkot district where he looked after the production work and strictly implemented factory regulations.
“On the day of the incident, Priyantha Kumara visited the production unit where he reprimanded the supervisor for not keeping the place clean,” reported the news channel, adding the same person allegedly instigated workers against the Sri Lankan manager.
“According to the police, Priyantha Kumara had asked workers to remove posters and stickers from the walls which were being painted,” Geo News added. “He also took off some posters himself including one with a religious inscription which led to an outcry. However, he apologized to people on the instruction of his factory owners.”
The investigation also revealed Diyawadana did not know the local language and frequently faced communication problems at work.
While the issue had seemingly settled down after his apology, some workers continued to instigate people who physically attacked him.
The Sri Lankan factory manager ran to the roof where he wanted to hide, but a group of angry workers also chased him over there.
As Diyawadana’s body was dragged by the mob to the road, the security guards deployed at the building left the facility without making an effort to rescue him. His corpse was publicly set on fire in the presence of hundreds of people, many of whom filmed the incident before posting the video clips on social media.
The Pakistani prime minister described it as “a day of shame” for his country, though more than a hundred people were arrested by the police after the incident who are currently being investigated.

OIC countries to discuss Afghanistan crisis in Pakistan on December 19

Updated 04 December 2021

OIC countries to discuss Afghanistan crisis in Pakistan on December 19

  • There have been growing warnings of the humanitarian crisis facing Afghanistan since international aid was abruptly cut following the Taliban takeover
  • Pakistan has also invited the United States, Britain, France, Russia and China to the meeting of Islamic countries

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan's foreign minister called on Saturday for a fresh effort to stop neighboring Afghanistan from sliding further into crisis as he announced an extraordinary meeting of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) later this month.

The meeting of foreign ministers from Islamic countries will be held in Islamabad on December 19, with delegations from the European Union and the so-called P5 group of the United States, Britain, France, Russia and China also invited.

"To abandon Afghanistan at this stage would be a historic mistake," Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi told a news conference in Islamabad, warning that half the country was facing the risk of starvation that could trigger further chaos.

"Instability could give way to renewed conflict, it could trigger an exodus of refugees," he said.

There have been growing warnings of the humanitarian crisis facing Afghanistan since international aid was abruptly cut following the Taliban takeover on August 15 and fears of disaster if the situation is not brought under control.

However, getting help in has been hindered by sanctions on dealing with the Taliban, the US decision to freeze billions of dollars of central bank reserves held outside Afghanistan and the collapse of much of the country's banking system.

Pakistan recently agreed to allow 50,000 tons of wheat to transit through its territory from India to help Afghanistan but aid agencies have warned that much more help is urgently needed.

Sri Lankan president says expects justice from Pakistan after lynching of citizen over alleged blasphemy

Updated 04 December 2021

Sri Lankan president says expects justice from Pakistan after lynching of citizen over alleged blasphemy

  • Priyantha Kumara Diyawadana was beaten to death and set ablaze by mob in an incident Pakistan’s prime minister described as ‘day of shame’
  • President Gotabaya Rajapaksa urges the government to ensure the safety of all other Sri Lankan nationals in Pakistan

COLOMBO: Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa said on Saturday he was deeply saddened by the brutal assassination of a citizen in Pakistan on blasphemy allegation, but praised the administration in Islamabad for taking steps to ensure justice.

Priyantha Kumara Diyawadana, who worked at a factory in Pakistan’s eastern city of Sialkot, was beaten to death and set ablaze by a mob on Friday, in an incident that Prime Minister Imran Khan described as a “day of shame” for Pakistan.

Sri Lankan foreign ministry spokesperson Sugeeshwara Gunaratne told Arab News the victim was in his late forties and survived by his wife and two children below 10 years of age.

The Pakistani prime minister said in a Twitter post he had spoken to the Sri Lankan president “to convey our nation’s anger & shame” over Diyawadana’s killing in Sialkot city, adding that over a hundred people had been arrested in the case and would be prosecuted.

“As an ardent friend of Pakistan, Sri Lanka commends the actions taken by the Government of Pakistan led by Prime Minister Imran Khan to ensure justice, immediately after this brutal assassination,” the Sri Lankan president said. “The Sri Lankan Government and the people of Sri Lanka look forward with great confidence on the future steps that will be taken by the Government of Pakistan in this regard.”

“I also urge the Government of Pakistan to ensure the safety of all other Sri Lankans living in Pakistan,” he said.

Armagan Gondal, a police chief in Sialkot district where the killing occurred in Pakistan’s Punjab province, told media factory workers had accused the victim of desecrating posters bearing the name of Islam’s Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him).

Sri Lankan Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa said it was “shocking” to see the brutal and fatal attack on Diyawadana by extremist mobs in Pakistan.

“My heart goes out to his wife and family,” he wrote on Twitter. “Sri Lanka and her people are confident that PM Imran Khan will keep to his commitment to bring all those involved to justice.”

The Sri Lankan foreign ministry said it was in the process of verifying the incident with Pakistani authorities, adding that it expected Islamabad to take “required action” to investigate the matter and ensure justice.

“The Sri Lanka High Commission in Islamabad is in the process of verifying the details of the incident from the Pakistan authorities,” it said in a tweet.

“Sri Lanka expects that the #Pakistan authorities will take required action to investigate and ensure justice. We are awaiting results of further #investigations and working with all parties concerned to bring the remains home.”

Sri Lanka’s Muslim Civil Society Alliance also expressed shock and dismay over the lynching of a national in Pakistan, calling it a “barbaric crime.”

“This is an extremely shameful and barbaric crime and should not be tolerated,” it said in a statement. “Extrajudicial vigilantism cannot be condoned at any cost by anyone, no matter which religion, ethnicity or nationality they belong to.”

In his message on Twitter, Pakistan’s information minister Chaudhry Fawad Hussain said he had been thinking what to write on the Sialkot lynching since words had lost their value after such incidents.

“Such incidents only pain us for 48 hours and then everything returns to normal and conscience remains buried until the next such incident occurs,” he wrote on the social media platform.

“This apathy is an indication of a bigger storm,” Hussain continued. “Rivers of blood have flown before us in countries [around the world].”

Few issues are as galvanizing in Pakistan as blasphemy, and even the slightest suggestion of an insult to Islam can supercharge protests and incite lynching.

Video footage of the incident in Sialkot shared on electronic and social media showed hundreds of people gathered outside the factory, amid plumes of smoke rising from a spot in the center of the crowd where the perpetrators had reportedly burnt the body of the victim after beating him to death.

Other videos showed a mob dragging a man’s heavily bruised body out to the street, where they burned it in the presence of hundreds of demonstrators who cheered on the killers.

Many in the mob made no attempt to hide their identity and some took selfies in front of the burning corpse.

The slogans chanted in the social media videos were the same used by supporters of the Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP), a religious political party that has railed against blasphemy on its rise to prominence.

The TLP has in the past paralyzed the country with protests, including an anti-France campaign after Paris-based satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo last year republished cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). The group was only unbanned last month and its leader freed from detention after another period of civil unrest in which seven police officers were killed.

Friday’s attack came less than a week after a Muslim mob burned a police station and four police posts in northwest Pakistan after officers refused to hand over a man accused of desecrating Islam’s holy book, the Qur’an. No officers were hurt in the attacks in Charsadda, a district in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.