Lata, is that you? In Pakistan, two fans who can sing in legendary vocalist’s voice

The combination of photos shows Pakistani teenager Alishba Amir, left, and Muhammad Waseem who can mimic the singing voice of Indian legendary singer Lata Mangeshkar. (AN photos)
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Updated 10 February 2022

Lata, is that you? In Pakistan, two fans who can sing in legendary vocalist’s voice

  • At concerts, Muhammad Waseem is often requested to sing in voice of Lata Mangeshkar who passed away last week
  • Teenager Alishba Amir from Karachi feels “immense pride” to be praised for having a voice that resembles Mangeshkar’s

HYDERABAD/KARACHI: At musical gatherings, there is one request Muhammad Waseem has gotten quite used to receiving: being asked to sing in the voice of Lata Mangeshkar.

Waseem, who hails from Pakistan’s Sindh province and has acquired the alias of Waseem Lata for his ability to mimic the singing voice of the legendary Indian singer, told Arab News he was heartbroken he would not be able to fulfill his “utmost desire” to meet his mentor, who died on February 6 due to complications from COVID-19.

Mangeshkar, who passed away aged 92, was best known as a Bollywood playback singer and beloved around the world for her ability to tailor her voice and emotions to the actresses she voiced on screen.

40-year-old Waseem, based in the southern city of Hyderabad, first heard Mangeshkar’s songs as a young man and soon realized he could mimic her singing voice. At the time, he did not even know the name of the vocalist.

“It’s been around twenty years since I started singing Lata Ji’s songs and this has earned me the title of Lata,” Waseem told Arab News. “When I started [singing], people admired me saying my audio was just like Lata Ji’s audio, it is a copy of Lata. Only then I came to know for the first time that the audio which I had admired for years was of Lata Mangeshkar.”




Muhammad Waseem, alias Waseem Lata, sings at a studio in Hyderabad, Pakistan, on February 07, 2022. (AN photo by Zulfiqar Kunbhar)

Waseem, who has performed in cities across Pakistan and hopes to find a financier to record an album of original songs, recalled occasions at concerts when people demanded the sound system be shut down and the singer perform without a band to prove this was his real voice.

“Although a lot of people know me, even then at many concerts we needed to stop the playback music system because people were in doubt that I may only be lip synching Lata Ji’s songs,” the singer said. “After that I have to stop the music and perform without music so that people can be guaranteed that the voice belongs to me.”

Waseem knows around 60 Mangeshkar songs by heart and says he wants to triple that number so her songs can “last forever.”

Teenager Alishba Amir from the port city of Karachi has a similar hope: to keep Mangeshkar’s legacy alive.




Alishba Amir, a Pakistani teenager who can mimic the singing voice of Indian legendary singer Lata Mangeshkar, speaks to Arab News at her residence in Karachi, Pakistan on February 7, 2022 (AN Photo)

Like Waseem, Amir too said it was a matter of pride to be praised for having a singing voice that resembled Mangeshkar’s.

“When people compliment me by saying that my voice resembles Lata’s, this gives me immense pleasure,” the 14-year-old told Arab News.

Although the ninth grader wishes to join Pakistan’s civil services, she also dreams of becoming a professional singer. Her father Amir Riaz, who has arranged a music teacher for his daughter, said he hoped she would follow in the footsteps of her late mentor.

“The great Lata is no more but I see another Lata in the future,” he said, “in the form of my daughter Alishba.”


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.


Pakistan set 170-run target for England to win

Updated 49 min 4 sec ago

Pakistan set 170-run target for England to win

  • Pakistan, who lead seven-match series 3-2, hand T20I debut to wicketkeeper batter Mohammad Haris
  • England rest pace duo of Mark Wood and Chris Woakes to bring in Reece Topley and Richard Gleeson

LAHORE: England captain Moeen Ali won the toss and sent Pakistan in to bat in the sixth Twenty20 international at Gaddafi stadium in Lahore on Friday. 

Pakistan captain Babar Azam, center, tosses the coin as English skipper Moeen Ali looks on before the start of the sixth Twenty20 international at Gaddafi stadium in Lahore on September 30, 2022. (Photo courtesy: Pakistan Cricket Board)

Pakistan, who leads the seven-match series 3-2, handed a T20I debut to 21-year-old wicketkeeper batter Mohammad Haris as they rested Mohammad Rizwan. 

Fast bowler Haris Rauf is also rested, making way for Shahnawaz Dahani. 

England rested pace duo of Mark Wood and Chris Woakes to bring in Reece Topley and Richard Gleeson. 

The last match is also in Lahore on Sunday. 

TEAMS

Pakistan: Babar Azam (captain), Mohammad Haris, Asif Ali, Aamer Jamal, Iftikhar Ahmed, Shadab Khan, Mohammad Nawaz, Haider Ali, Shan Masood, Mohammad Wasim Junior, Shahnawaz Dahani 

England: Moeen Ali (captain), Dawid Malan, Harry Brook, Sam Curran, Ben Duckett, Reece Topley, Alex Hales, Adil Rashid, Phil Salt, Richard Gleeson, David Willey 


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. 


Cholera outbreak surging worldwide, concerned about rising cases in flood-hit Pakistan — WHO

Updated 30 September 2022

Cholera outbreak surging worldwide, concerned about rising cases in flood-hit Pakistan — WHO

  • Average fatality rate so far this year has almost tripled compared with five-year average
  • Only a few million doses of vaccines were available for use before the end of this year

GENEVA: Cholera cases have surged this year, especially in places of poverty and conflict, with outbreaks reported in 26 countries and fatality rates rising sharply, a World Health Organization official said on Friday.

In a typical year, fewer than 20 countries report outbreaks of the disease which is spread by the ingestion of contaminated food or water and can cause acute diarrhea.

“After years of declining numbers, we are seeing a very worrying upsurge of cholera outbreaks around the globe over the past year,” Philippe Barboza, WHO Team Lead for Cholera, told a press briefing in Geneva.

The average fatality rate so far this year has almost tripled compared with the five-year average and is currently around 3 percent in Africa, he added.

While most of those affected will have mild or no symptoms, cholera can kill within hours if untreated.

A cholera outbreak in Syria has already killed at least 33 people, posing a danger across the frontlines of the country’s 11-year-long war and stirring fears in crowded camps for the displaced.

Barboza also expressed concern about outbreaks in the Horn of Africa and parts of Asia, including Pakistan, where some regions are flooded.

He said only a few million doses of vaccines were available for use before the end of this year, citing a shortage of manufacturers among the problems.

WHO maintains an emergency stockpile of cholera vaccines.

“So it’s very clear that we do not have enough vaccine to respond to both acute outbreaks and even less to be able to implement preventive vaccination campaigns that could be a way to reduce the risk for many countries,” he said.

There was no overall estimate of the number of cholera cases across the world because of differences in countries’ surveillance systems, he said.