ISLAMABAD: Six hundred Pakistanis will receive fully funded Saudi scholarships to join top universities in the Kingdom, Pakistan’s ambassador to Riyadh said on Wednesday, as he encouraged students to take up the opportunity.
The scholarship initiative, which was announced by the Kingdom last year, was launched by the Saudi Ministry of Education earlier this week. It includes 25 universities that will receive students pursuing diploma, bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral studies in political science, economics, engineering, computer sciences, law, agriculture and Islamic studies.
The program covers tuition fee, monthly stipend, lodging facility, return tickets, three-month furnishing allowance for married students, medical care, and a monthly stipend of between 850 and 900 riyals.
The students will join their respective programs in the Kingdom in September-October.
“We encourage Pakistani students to avail these scholarships,” Ambassador Ameer Khurram Rathore told Arab News over the phone from Riyadh.
“We are grateful to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for providing 600 fully funded scholarships for Pakistani students,” he said. “Educational linkages between the two countries will further solidify our brotherly relations.”
According to the scholarship details published by the Higher Education Commission of Pakistan, 75 percent of the students will be awarded scholarships from Pakistan, while 25 percent will be Pakistanis residing in the Kingdom.
The commission said students could directly apply for admission by visiting websites of Saudi universities.
“The university will forward the application to the Saudi Ministry of Education which will then decide the final award of scholarships to eligible applicants,” the HEC said, adding that both male and female students could apply.
They should be between 17 and 25 years old for BA program, below 30 for MA, and less than 35 for PhD.
KARACHI: Ashfaq Yousuf Tola, chairman of recently formed Reforms and Resource Mobilization Commission (RRMC) of Pakistan, on Sunday said he was "confident" of playing a catalyst role in the simplification of the country’s complex taxation system and cut the informal, parallel economy to size.
Pakistan has been grappling with a widening current account deficit, a balance-of-payment crisis and inflation hovering around historic highs in recent months. The South Asian nation has also witnessed an economic slowdown in the wake of recent floods that have damaged huge infrastructure and agriculture output.
Pakistan’s Finance Minister Ishaq Dar last week constituted a powerful commission to review the existing revenue policies, identify issues and risks of existing tax system, review budget proposals and evaluate their consequences as well as review complexities of tax legislation.
Tola, who is currently serving as a technical advisor on the Board of International Federation of Accountants, would directly work under the finance minister and hold a full-time office at the Islamabad headquarters of the national tax agency, the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR).
“This commission is completely independent and will play a key role in addressing complex taxation and other economic issues,” Tola told Arab News in an exclusive interview on Sunday.
“The commission will have access to analyses, revenue policies and meet with the stakeholders. The commission will have its input in budget and budget evaluation.”
The RRMC head, president of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Pakistan (ICAP), has an experience of over 30 years in financial and forensic auditing, tax advisory and corporate structuring.
The 11-member commission headed by him comprises FBR chairman, experts on taxation and economy, and representatives of the business community.
This is the second commission formed by Dar in the last eight years and is given both short- and long-term objectives, with a major focus on finalization of taxation measures for next fiscal years.
“This commission is completely different from the previous one and it has no lifecycle,” Tola said. “This time strong players have been picked up for the commission who have the capability to deliver.”
Asked how the commission would work, Tola said it would form different sub-groups to come up with assessments of their relevant fields.
“For instance, economists would be tasked to evaluate the size of parallel economy and the chartered accountants would be asked to draw global comparison and identify snags and [present] recommendation on how to rectify them,” he explained.
Pakistan has complex taxation measures in place, which experts say are highly "oppressive" in nature.
“Pakistan’s tax system is complicated, fragmented, oppressive, narrow and anti-growth. It has one of the highest rates for the corporate sector,” Dr Ikramul Haq, a Lahore-based taxation expert, told Arab News.
“It is highly oppressive for salaried persons and citizens with fixed income living under hyperinflation. It levies and collects main taxes at import stage, making exports uncompetitive and increasing the already heavy cost of doing business.”
The Tola-led commission is assigned a daunting task to come up with recommendations to reform the ages-old taxation system and broaden the tax net.
Pakistan has less than 3.5 million income tax filers, with a majority declaring its income below the taxable limit or reporting losses. The number of individuals registered for sales tax is less than 350,000 and actual payers are less than 85,000, the rest claim refunds, according to official data.
Haq suggested dismantling the fragmented tax structure by giving power to the federation to levy and collect tax from all sources, including from the ones whose income is based on agriculture.
Provinces should have exclusive jurisdiction over harmonized sales tax on goods and services and all these should be collected through a national tax agency, he added.
The RRMC is given an April 2023 deadline to submit its first report, which Tola is confident to meet.
To a question about the timing of the RRMC formation amid an uncertain and fluid political and economic situation, Tola said the formation of the commission was a "good initiative" and must be kept apolitical.
“This is a good thing formed and if it is kept apolitical that would be good for the country,” he said.
He, however, conceded that there was no guarantee of the commission’s future in case the government changes.
Pakistan has been hit by political instability for years now, which has aggravated since the ouster of former prime minister Imran Khan in April.
The instable political situation has been taking a toll on the country's frail economy, already suffering from devastating impacts of the floods.
KARACHI: Beauty and fragrance brands across Pakistan have been importing a product which has long dominated the Middle East culture and is widely used in traditional Arab households and markets.
'Bakhoor,' or agarwood chips, are used to spread lingering fragrance at homes, shops and offices. Pakistani businesses have been bringing these scented bricks from Arab countries before offering their different varieties to customers.
A salon in Karachi, for instance, provides hair bakhoor scalp treatment which, it says, is quite popular in the Arab World.
"Bakhoor is in high demand in Pakistan," Adeel Shafiq Alam, chief executive officer of an Arabian fragrance shop, Souk Galleria, told Arab News.
Alam's organization has been doing good business in Karachi and Lahore since 2020 and boasts international outlets in places like Dubai and the United States.
"We import bakhoor from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates," Alam added. "Bakhoor farming is not common in Pakistan. Even if we start it today, it will take another 25 years for us to benefit from it. A large number of people in Pakistan are still not very familiar with bakhoor."
Alam, whose business offers several types of bakhoor products, said people used to ask him all sorts of questions about the scented bricks when Souk Galleria started advertising bakhoor in Pakistan two years ago.
"Many of them want to buy bakhoor but are usually deterred by high prices," he continued. "Most of them find it difficult to afford good quality bakhoor, which can cost around Rs1,000 per gram."
The incense chips, which have been used in the Middle East for centuries, are said to have several medical and psychological benefits. Some say they change people's mood and relieve them of stress and anxiety.
"The future of bakhoor is bright in Pakistan since many people from this country visit Arab states, especially for Hajj and Umrah, and see how Arabs use these scented chips," Shiekh Faisal Ghani, chairman of Saeed Ghani, a popular Pakistani brand for herbal and skincare products, told Arab News.
Ghani's business offers bakhoor fragrances that include Oud Wood, Oud Combodi, Oud Kindi and Oud Amber.
"Ninety-nine percent of bakhoor is imported from Gulf countries, such as Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Oman," he added.
Karachi's Scalpxury, a beauty salon, says it is the only place in the country offering bakhoor hair treatment.
"Hair bakhoor are different from normal bakhoor sold in Pakistan. The fragrance and texture are slightly different and they give longevity to one’s hair," said Shehla Khan, the salon owner.
"Conventionally and commercially, hair bakhoor are not available in the market. I get them from the Arab region."
Khan said her business was different since it was not retailing or selling bakhoor, but using them to offer a popular variety of hair treatment.
ISLAMABAD: The second phase of the Pakistan T20 Women's Cricket Tournament is scheduled to kick off from December 5, the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) announced on Sunday.
The first phase of the tournament concluded earlier this week on Friday.
The second phase, which will begin from Monday, will be held at two venues in Lahore: The Lahore Gymkhana and the LCCA Ground, the PCB confirmed.
"Four teams namely Blasters, Challengers, Dynamites and Strikers will feature in the event where Pakistan's elite cricketers will take part," the country's cricket board said in a statement.
The second phase will be played on a single-league basis, where two matches will be held everyday on 5, 6 and 7 December.
The final of the tournament will take place at Lahore's Gaddafi Stadium on December 9 which will also be live-streamed for viewers on the PCB's YouTube channel.
“The tournament provides a great opportunity for players to kick-start their preparations for the ICC Women's T20 World Cup in South Africa later next year and hone their skills in the format," it added.
The contest will feature a blend of Pakistani cricketers who have represented their country internationally along with the emerging talent in the game.
In order to incentivize domestic performers, the best player of every match will continue to receive Rs20,000 as they were getting in the first phase of the tournament. The player of the tournament will bag Rs50,000. The winning team will receive Rs1 million, while the runner-up will get Rs0.5 million.
Fatima Sana (Captain), Aima Saleem, Anam Amin, Ayesha Bilal, Ayesha Naseem, Bismah Maroof, Fareeha Mehmood, Gul Rukh, Huraina Sajjad, Maham Manzoor, Mahnoor Aftab, Masooma Zehra, Shawal Zulfiqar, Sidra Amin and Amber Kainaat
Team management – Mauhtashim Rashid (head coach), Shahid Mehmood (assistant coach), Mahlika Mansoor (manager)
Omaima Sohail (Captain), Aiman Anwar, Aliya Riaz, Anoosha Nasir, Ayesha Zafar, Dua Majid, Ghulam Fatima, Hamna Bilal, Javeria Wadood, Khadija Chishti, Lubna Behram, Najiha Alvi, Noreen Yaqoob, Rameen Shamim and Rida Aslam
Team management – Azam Khan (head coach), Nazim Khan (assistant coach), Asiya Khan (manager)
Umm-e-Hani (Captain), Aleena Shah, Gull-e-Uswa, Gull Feroza, Kainat Imtiaz, Nahida Khan, Nida Dar, Sadaf Shamas, Sadia Iqbal, Saima Malik, Saira Jabeen, Sidra Nawaz, Tuba Hassan, Waheeda Akhtar and Yusra Amir
Team management – Taufiq Umar (head coach), Jawad Hamid (assistant coach), Hina Azam (manager)
Muneeba Ali (Captain), Aroob Shah, Ayesha Irfan, Eymaan Fatima, Fatima Khan, Iram Javed, Javeria Rauf, Kaynat Hafeez, Maham Tariq, Nashra Sundhu, Natalia Parvaiz, Neha Sharmeen, Saba Nazir, Soha Fatima and Zunera Shah
Team management – Waqar Orakzai (head coach), Rehmat Gull (assistant coach), Aisha Jalil (manager)
ISLAMABAD: Pakistan's first Grammy-winning music artist Arooj Aftab shared her quest to find her childhood home in Saudi Arabia with her fans on Instagram along with interesting pictures and videos of the place.
The Brooklyn-based vocalist, who bagged the most prestigious international music award for her song "Mohabbat" in April, was born to Pakistani parents in the kingdom where she spent the first few years of her life.
Aftab pursued a degree in music production and engineering in Boston before settling down in New York where she became part of the city's "new music" scene.
"Searching for my childhood home in Riyadh with no address, just a couple of landmarks from memory - a park, a mosque, a hill and a hotel," she wrote on Instagram last week along with a bunch of photographs and videos documenting her experience.
"I think I found it," she continued. "Almost 30 years later, the once sweet neighborhood full of villas and elegant apartments, home to well offish and upcoming young immigrant families - is now just a few abandoned villas, empty squares of demolished house, sleepy old apartment buildings, and construction sites as the city is packing in affordable apartment housing into the area. The vibe of this place is unmistakable though. These are the streets. These are definitely the streets."
Aftab shared the image of the back gate of her villa, showed the streets surrounding her childhood residence along with an abandoned building structure which she said looked like the place where she once lived.
"This space between memory and sadness, between the past and the excitement to return to it, between seeing change and the relief it brings …. this space is perfect," she added.
The Pakistani singer, who has gained international recognition through fusion music, got over 8,850 likes on the post which clearly captivated her Instagram fanbase.
Apart from becoming the first and only Grammy winner for her country, Aftab also debuted at the prestigious Coachella music festival this year.