Daughter of donkey cart vendor beats ruling party candidate in Pakistan local polls

Parveen Sheikh (center) poses for a picture after winning elections from her hometown Saleemabad in southern Pakistan on June 26, 2022. (Parveen Sheikh)
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Updated 01 July 2022

Daughter of donkey cart vendor beats ruling party candidate in Pakistan local polls

  • Parveen Sheikh faced opposition from her family when she announced contesting June 26 local elections
  • Sheikh Sheikh bagged 430 votes while runner-up Manthar Sheikh got 190 votes for Khairpur municipal seat

KARACHI: When Parveen Sheikh last month revealed plans to contest local elections from her impoverished neighborhood of Saleemabad in southern Pakistan, most people in her family and larger community opposed the idea, and many even ridiculed her. 

What chance, they said, did a poor woman have in elections in an area where female candidates were a rarity and few women went out to vote?

The mother of six, however, traveled alone on May 15 to the election office in her hometown of Khairpur and submitted nomination papers as an independent candidate for a municipal committee seat. 

On June 26, she surprised her community once again when she bagged a clean victory over her rival, a candidate of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), the ruling party of Sindh. Sheikh got 430 votes while the runner-up, Manthar Sheikh, got 190.

Around 24,500 candidates contested the June 26 elections for 7,164 local body seats in 14 districts of Sindh. 

“I showed resilience, asked no one and just submitted my [nomination] forms,” Sheikh told Arab News in a phone interview. 




The undated photo shows Parveen Sheikh posing for a picture for her election campaign in Pakistan's Sindh province. (Parveen Sheikh)

The newly elected councilor had the support of another woman, Shehnaz Sheikh, under whose mentorship Sheikh had been working on small community welfare projects for the last three years.

“Madam Shehnaz told me, ‘If you want to contest, then stand firm’. She raised my morale and encouraged me,” Sheikh said of her mentor, who financially supports poor laborers in arranging the weddings of their daughters, helps them start small businesses and installs water supply pipelines in poor communities.  

It was Shehnaz who helped Sheikh design her election campaign and gather community backing.

“When I would go to my people, visit their homes, they would say ‘you’re our child. We will vote for you, no more for the feudal lords’,” Sheikh said. 

Soon, her husband and brother also came out to support her “but only after they saw I was getting immense respect from the people,” Sheikh said. “Our laborers and women came to my help and did door-to-door campaigns with me as late as 2am in the night.” 

Sheikh, who is the wife of a constable at the federal income tax department and the daughter of a donkey-cart vendor who sells food and toys, said her hometown had no electricity, water or sewerage system.

Resolving the problems of her impoverished community, she added, was now her top priority.

“I could not study beyond primary [5th grade], because we could not afford it. None of my nine siblings studied either,” said Sheikh, who used to sell clothes on a cart to make ends meet. 

“My elder daughter, Saman Sheikh, and other children are studying because I know the importance of education. As a councilor, I will work for the education of women and provide people with drinking water.” 

In a message to “electables,” or longtime politicians from the area, she said they needed to recognize that people no longer wanted to be ruled by feudal lords and it was time for them to “change their mindsets” according to the demands of the public. 

“Don’t consider the poor inferior,” she said. “When you give respect to the poor, it doesn’t reduce yours but instead makes you more respectable in the eyes of the people.”

Sheikh said her victory had also proved one didn’t need support or funding from a major political party to win.

“When I won, I was crying and my father was also crying as it was unbelievable,” she said.

When asked if she had a message for other women, Sheikh said:

“The basic thing is your spirit, which must always remain high. And when the people are with you, no one can defeat you.”


Muslim World League secretary-general arrives in Pakistan 

Updated 05 October 2022

Muslim World League secretary-general arrives in Pakistan 

  • Dr. Muhammad bin Abdul Kareem Al-Issa has been Muslim World League’s secretary-general since 2016
  • Al-Issa will attend the Seerat-un-Nabi Conference as chief guest, says Pakistan’s religion ministry

ISLAMABAD: Muslim World League (MWL) Secretary General Dr. Muhammad bin Abdul Kareem Al-Issa arrived in Pakistan on Wednesday to attend the International Seerat-un-Nabi Conference, Pakistan’s religion ministry said. 

Al-Issa has been the MWL secretary-general since 2016 and has forged several alliances with Jewish, Christian and other religious committees across the world. Prime Minister’s special representative for interfaith harmony, Hafiz Muhammad Tahir Mehmood Ashrafi, earlier said the MWL secretary-general would hold meetings with Pakistan’s prime minister, president, National Assembly speaker and other senior leaders in the country. 

“At the special invitation of Federal Minister for Religious Affairs Mufti Abdul Shakoor, MWL Secretary-General Dr. Muhammad bin Abdul Kareem Al-Issa has arrived in Pakistan,” Pakistan’s Ministry for Religious Affairs and Interfaith Harmony wrote on Twitter. 

“He will attend the Seerat-un-Nabi Conference on Rabiul Awwal 12 as its chief guest,” it added. 

 

Al-Issa was accorded a warm welcome upon arrival at the Nur Khan base in Rawalpindi. Shakoor, Ashrafi and Nawaf bin Said Al-Malki, the Saudi ambassador to Pakistan, received him at the airport with various officials of Pakistan’s religion ministry. 


Asian Development Bank announces $2.3-2.5 billion in flood relief for Pakistan 

Updated 05 October 2022

Asian Development Bank announces $2.3-2.5 billion in flood relief for Pakistan 

  • Almost 1,700 people have been killed in Pakistan in rain-related incidents since June 14 
  • Asian Development Bank delegation meets Finance Minister Ishaq Dar in Islamabad 

ISLAMABAD The Asian Development Bank (ADB) on Wednesday announced it would provide $2.3-2.5 billion in flood relief to support Pakistan, as the South Asian country continues to grapple with devastating floods that it estimates could cost over $30 billion in damages. 

Unusually heavy rains and melting glaciers triggered flash floods across Pakistan since mid-June. Almost 1,700 people have been killed in rain-related incidents since June 14 while millions of houses have been damaged. Critical infrastructure, including bridges and roads, has been severely damaged by raging floods. 

The government has said over 33 million people have been affected by floods, as many Pakistanis displaced by the floods are now suffering from mosquito-borne and water-borne diseases. 

Last month, the ADB said it was working on a “significant relief and rehabilitation package” for people, livelihoods and infrastructure affected by the floods. An ADB delegation led by Country Director Yong Ye met Pakistan’s Finance Minister Ishaq Dar at the Finance Division earlier today, Wednesday. 

“He [Ye] informed the Finance Minister that ADB will provide flood relief support to Pakistan to the tune of $ 2.3 to 2.5 billion including $ 1.5 billion for the BRACE program which will be placed before the ADB Board for approval during this month,” the Finance Division said in a statement. 

The finance minister informed the ADB delegation about the devastation caused by the floods and their impact on Pakistan’s economy, the statement said. Dar thanked ADB for its support and assured the delegation of the government’s full cooperation for “swift execution of the ongoing and future programs.” 

Pakistan has identified several priority needs, including food security, agriculture and livestock, health, water, sanitation, hygiene, shelter, and nonfood items, according to the ADB. 


Pakistan army chief’s US visit reflects both countries’ desire to reset relations — experts 

Updated 05 October 2022

Pakistan army chief’s US visit reflects both countries’ desire to reset relations — experts 

  • General Qamar Javed Bajwa is in Washington on a week-long visit to discuss bilateral ties, regional security 
  • Priority should be deepening ties through deeper economic engagement— international affairs expert 

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa’s recent trip to Washington after Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari’s US visit reflects the two countries’ renewed desire to reset strained relations, international affairs and defense experts said on Wednesday. 

Gen Bajwa is in Washington on a week-long visit where he met US defense secretary General Lloyd James Austin III (Retired), national security adviser Jacob Jeremiah Sullivan, and deputy secretary of state Wendy Ruth Sherman. 

According to a statement issued by the Pakistan military’s media wing, during the meetings, both sides had convergence on major international issues including Afghanistan, and the need for cooperation to avoid humanitarian crises and improve peace and stability in the region. 

Washington has worked closely with Pakistan’s army chiefs over the years alongside civilian governments in the South Asian country. 

Uzair Younus, who works with Pakistan Initiative at the Washington-based Atlantic Council, said bilateral relations between the two countries have been improving over the past few months. 

“Gen Bajwa’s trip soon after the foreign minister’s trip to Washington is a good signal for bilateral relations,” Younus told Arab News, adding the visit had been on the cards for months. It had been delayed on a couple of occasions, he said. 

“We must not lose sight of the fact that the relationship remains bounds by a narrow, transactional approach, and deepening ties especially through deeper economic engagement, must be the priority moving forward,” Younus added. 

Ties between Washington and Islamabad were strained with the former suspecting the latter allowed Taliban militants to seek refuge in Pakistan. The relationship between the two countries further soured when former Prime Minister Imran Khan claimed Washington had backed a parliamentary move to oust him from office. 

The US has denied the allegations. 

“The visit is very significant and positive for Pakistan and US relationship because, during Donald Trump’s time and Joe Biden’s initial tenure, the relationship between both countries was almost frozen,” Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry, a former foreign secretary who also served as Pakistan’s envoy to the USA, told Arab News. 

“As we have ties with the US in every domain and after the visit of prime minister, foreign minister and now military leadership, the trip would generate a positive opinion about bilateral relations,” he said. 

Chaudhry added it did not matter how much time Gen Bajwa has in office before he hangs his boots. 

“The relationship is between institutions which go on with the new leadership in any institution,” Chaudhary added. 

Pentagon announced last month that the US State Department had approved the potential sale of F-16 aircraft sustainment and related equipment to Pakistan in a deal valued at up to $450 million, maintaining that this will improve the South Asian nation’s capability to meet current and future counterterrorism threats. 

Military analyst Ayesha Siddiqa said Bajwa’s visit is significant as both countries were looking to fulfill their needs. She said Pakistan’s army chief could play a vital role to ensure this. 

“This is the restart of a very narrowly focused military conversation with the US military as Pakistan’s military is still critical to the USA to ensure how counterterrorism is managed in the region and also, they did not want to push aggressively Pakistan into the Chinese [camp],” Siddiqa told Arab News. 

Gen Bajwa is set to retire in November. However, Siddiqa said Bajwa could play a significant role in negotiations between the new government post-retirement as well. 

“As after his retirement, General Jahangir Karamat was sent to Washington as an ambassador by the Musharraf government,” she said. “Negotiating and understanding what the Pakistani military is doing could lead to a future role for him.” 

Siddiqa said the visit was a significant one from Pakistan’s perspective as well, adding the South Asian country continues to rely economically and financially on support from western countries. 

She said, therefore, the relationship would remain like a transaction. 

Senior defense analyst Lt Gen (retired) Amjad Shoaib described Bajwa’s visit as a symbolic one, citing the army chief’s retirement next month as the reason for his argument. 

“The visit does not have much importance and is more of symbolic [nature] as Gen Bajwa is retiring next month,” he told Arab News. Shoaib said any decisions that the army chief reaches with the US authorities during his visit would be hard to pursue after his retirement. 

“Gen Bajwa has a very good understanding with the USA in establishing good military-to-military relations during his six-year tenure as army chief,” he said. 

“And they [USA] wanted to honor him to recognize his role in the promotion and strengthening of defense ties, especially during his tenure the Afghan issue was settled and the USA pulled out of it where General Bajwa played an important role,” he added. 

Washington has always supported Pakistan in economic terms but never supported its national interest, especially when it comes to regional issues, Shoaib said. 

“The relations required reorientation through a superior diplomacy,” he added. 


Pakistan’s rupee gains by 0.76% on hopes of IMF relief, declining price of commodities worldwide 

Updated 05 October 2022

Pakistan’s rupee gains by 0.76% on hopes of IMF relief, declining price of commodities worldwide 

  •  Dollar closes at Rs223.94, up by Rs1.70— State Bank of Pakistan 
  • Finance Minister Dar has vowed to bring dollar to under Rs200 

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s rupee continued to gain in value against the US dollar on Wednesday, appreciating by 0.76 percent with analysts crediting it mainly to hopes that the country will secure relaxations from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and declining prices of commodities worldwide. 

Pakistan’s rupee has been on an upward trajectory against the greenback ever since a change in the finance ministry, with former finance minister Miftah Ismail resigning and ruling party senator Ishaq Dar taking his place. 

The greenback closed at Rs223.94 on Wednesday, October 5 with the Pakistani rupee gaining by 0.76 percent, as per figures by the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP). 

“[The rupee gaining value] is due to relaxations that the market expects Pakistan will get from the Asian Development Bank, International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank due to floods,” Samiullah Tariq, director research at Pakistan Kuwait Investment Company, told Arab News. 

Tariq said prices of international commodities had also decreased in the global market, which had also eased pressure on the rupee. “In my opinion, the [greenback] will come down to the Rs210-215 level in the coming days,” he added. 

He said a “change in sentiment” had also been observed in the currency market since Dar has taken over the finance ministry. 

Earlier this week, Dar said the country’s currency will strengthen to under 200 rupees to the US dollar. He said the rupee would be strengthened through government “policies” as the current rate was inflated due to speculation. 

Dar, who was sworn in last week as finance minister for his fourth stint in the role, has strongly favored intervention in currency markets in the past. 

Khurram Schehzad, CEO of an investment banking and advisory outlet Alpha Beta Core, told Arab News the rupee had gained in value due to “better surveillance” of currency markets by the SBP and the finance ministry. 

However, he warned the rupee may decline in the coming days. 

“Our economy is weak and with the floods, it’s a challenging situation,” Schehzad said. “There are chances of imports rising due to which the rupee may decline again.” 

He said Pakistan’s reserves were low and with the rupee appreciating, Pakistan’s exports may not be sustainable in the long run. Schehzad said the value of the US dollar against other currencies was also on the rise, which could mean the rupee may further weaken in the coming days. 


Sarah Inam’s family says won’t return to Canada without justice in alleged killing by husband

Updated 05 October 2022

Sarah Inam’s family says won’t return to Canada without justice in alleged killing by husband

  • Sarah Inam, 37, was allegedly murdered by husband Shahnawaz Amir last month
  • Family is based in Canada and arrived in Islamabad last week for last rites, to pursue legal case

ISLAMABAD: The father of Sarah Inam, a Pakistani-Canadian who was allegedly beaten to death by her husband last month, said on Wednesday the family would stay in Pakistan until the case was solved, calling on the government and judiciary to dispense speedy justice.

Inam, a 37-year-old economist who worked in Abu Dhabi, was murdered with dumbbells, according to police, by her husband Shahnawaz Amir at a suburban Islamabad home on September 23. Inam got married to Amir of her own choice on July 18 in his hometown of Chakwal. The parents of the couple were not present at the event.

Amir is currently under arrest and being investigated by police.

Inam’s parents and two brothers arrived from Canada and the United States respectively last week to perform Inam’s last rites and pursue the legal case.

“We are still traumatized and shocked, but strongly believe that we will get justice,” Inam Rahim, the victim’s father, told media in Islamabad.

“It was all planned. He [Amir] was a predator from the start, and my daughter was so naive to believe him,” he said, adding that the family would stay in Pakistan to pursue the case till its end.

Rahim said Amir seemed “sensible and convincing” when they had interacted over the phone after the marriage and the family never suspected he was a “beast and killer.”

“We had no negative information about Shahnawaz before the incident,” he said, adding that his daughter informed the family about the marriage over the phone after it was contracted.

“We were planning a formal wedding reception for our daughter in the first week of November,” Rahim said. “It never occurred to us that our daughter, who was a genius and accomplished professional, could be killed like this.”

The father expressed confidence in the police and the investigation process and said he hoped “justice will be served in the minimum possible time.”

The police have so far verified the couple’s nikah, seized a Mercedes car bought by the deceased, and investigated at least five people who attended the couple’s marriage in Chakwal. The police have yet to recover the deceased’s Canadian passport to get exact details of her travel history and have also sought court permission to access the victim and suspect’s bank accounts to investigate accusations of extortion against Amir.

Inam’s murder is reminiscent of last year’s headline-grabbing murder of Noor Mukadam, 27, which drew an outpouring of anger over femicides in the South Asian nation.

In March this year, a Pakistani court sentenced to death Pakistani-American Zahir Jaffer, a childhood friend of Mukadam, for beheading her. Mukadam and Jaffer were widely believed to have been in a romantic relationship, which they had broken off a few months before her murder.

The Islamabad High Court on Wednesday took up appeals in the Mukadam case and regular hearing will start from October 26, which lawyers say would conclude within ten weeks.

Speaking on the occasion, Inam’s brother Farrukh Inam, an employee at a tech company in the US, said his sister had been killed in a “premeditated act,” calling for the culprit to be hanged at the earliest.

“Our lawyer says we have a strong case to plead against the culprit and we’ll take it to the logical conclusion,” he said. “We haven’t been able to sleep peacefully since her murder.”

Inam’s two uncles, aunts and several first cousins were also present at the press conference.

“She was a brilliant, intelligent and kind person,” one of her uncles, Col (retired) Ikram Rahim, said. “She has left a void in our family that can’t be filled.”