Artists from Pakistan’s Balochistan province wish Babar Azam luck with sand portrait

An overview shows Pakistan's Rashidi Artists Gaddani group as they created a large sand drawing on Gaddani beach in Balochistan province depicting Pakistani cricket captain Babar Azam and T20 World Cup trophy on November 8, 2022. (AN Photo)
Short Url
Updated 09 November 2022

Artists from Pakistan’s Balochistan province wish Babar Azam luck with sand portrait

  • Pakistan take on New Zealand in T20 World Cup semifinal game today in Sydney
  • Rashidi Artists Gaddani group have made over 100 sand sketches of celebrities

QUETTA: The words ‘Pak will win’ float above the head of Pakistani cricket captain Babar Azam, his face frozen in a soft grin.

Slightly above left shoulder of the only cricketer in the top-5 of the ICC rankings in all formats levitates the T20 World Cup trophy.

This is a sand portrait of the Pakistani captain, made on Gadani Beach in Pakistan’s southwest Balochistan province by a group of six sand artists earlier this week as a tribute to the Pakistan team which faces New Zealand today, Wednesday, in a semifinal game of the ICC T20 World Cup.

Rashidi Artists Gaddani, as the group likes to call itself, wants Pakistan to bring the cup back home.

“We wanted to pay our tribute to the Pakistani cricket team before they play the semifinal in Australia,” Sameer Shoukat, a 19-year-old beach artist from Balochistan, told Arab News.

“And by making Babar Azam’s sketch at Gadani Beach, we have shown that people of Balochistan are supporting the Pakistani cricket captain.”

Azam, regarded as one of the finest batters in international cricket today, will have his hands full against a dangerous New Zealand side that comprises quality players such as Trent Boult, Kane Williamson, Finn Allen, Tim Southee and others.

Pakistan breathed a sigh of relief on Sunday when the Netherlands, against all odds, beat mighty South Africa by 13 runs to give Pakistan a chance. The green shirts capitalized on the opportunity to beat Bangladesh and finish among the top two contenders of Group 2, for the semifinal stage of the cup.

Shoukat said the Rashidi Artists Gaddani wanted to boost the team’s morale ahead of the semifinal by writing the words “Pak will win” on its sand portrait.

“We are very much optimistic that our team will bring the trophy home,” he said.

The group has been making beach sketches for the last two years, in which period it has made over a hundred sketches of various sports celebrities, politicians and other artists. Last week, Rashidi Artists drew a sand portrait of former Indian skipper Virat Kohli, which went viral on social media and even caught Pakistani fast bowler Shahnawaz Dahani’s attention.

The Pakistani bowler wrote to the artists on Twitter, telling them that he showed the sketch to Kohli, who was “very happy and he really loved it.”

Muhammad Kabir, who has been drawing sand sketches with Rashidi Artists for the last year and a half, said the group, despite limited resources, had been drawing sand sketches to convey a singular message: that the people of Balochistan love sports.

Pakistan’s restive Balochistan province has been wracked by insurgencies launched by separatist groups for several decades. The province, the largest in the country by area, has seen little infrastructural development and hasn’t produced many cricket greats over the years.

“We have been making large sketches with locally made tools, but now we have been receiving huge appreciation on social media for our work and getting orders from people who want their sandy sketches at Gadani Beach,” Kabir told Arab News.

While the T20 World Cup will come to an end on Sunday, November 13, after the final match, the Rashidi Artists said they would move on to drawing sketches of international football stars as the world is gripped with FIFA World Cup 2022 mania, scheduled to kick off in Qatar on November 20.

Transporters in northwest Pakistan strike over killing of eight people in attack on passenger bus

Updated 14 sec ago

Transporters in northwest Pakistan strike over killing of eight people in attack on passenger bus

  • The attack took place near the Chilas town of Pakistan's northern Gilgit-Baltistan region
  • Pakistani Taliban distance themselves from the attack, no other group claims responsibility

KHAPLU, Gilgit-Baltistan: Transporters across Pakistan’s northern Gilgit-Baltistan region on Sunday observed a wheel-jam strike after a passenger bus was targeted by unidentified militants near the Chilas town, killing eight people and injuring 25 others a day earlier.  

Chilas, a rugged, mountainous town, lies in GB's Diamer district, which has been a site of militant attacks, including some claimed by the Pakistani Taliban. In 2018, militants torched 13 girls’ schools in the district, while in 2012, unidentified gunmen killed nine passengers and torched six buses in the region. 

However, the Pakistani Taliban distanced themselves from Saturday's attack, while no group immediately claimed responsibility for targeting the passenger bus that was en route to Rawalpindi from Gilgit. Officials said they were investigating the attack. 

“All transporters are on strike today after this tragic incident in all districts of Gilgit-Baltistan,” Ashraf Al-Hussaini, president of the GB transporters association, told Arab News.  

"This is not the first incident in this region. We had to face such incidents in the past as well in which many people were killed."

Law enforcement officers stand next to a damaged bus that came under attack by unidentified militants in the Diamer district of Pakistan's Gilgit-Baltistan region on December 2, 2023. (Photo courtesy: Facebook/Pamir Times)

He urged the government to increase patrolling of law enforcement agencies and set up security check-posts along a section of the Karakoram Highway passing through the district. 

Hussaini said their strike was only for Sunday and they would announce their next move soon. 

GB Information Minister Iman Shah said law enforcement authorities were investigating the attack and trying to ascertain the motive behind it. 

“Treatment of the injured people is ongoing and bodies of the deceased are being shifted to their native towns and villages," Shah told Arab News over the phone. “No one has yet claimed the responsibility for the attack.” 

Diamer Superintendent of Police (SP) Sheheryar Khan said unidentified militants opened fire on the bus in the Chilas-Hudur region at around 6:30pm on Saturday. 

Arif Ahmed, the Diamer deputy commissioner, said some of the passengers hailed from the northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and southern Sindh provinces. 

"Two Pakistan Army soldiers were among the people martyred in the attack," he told reporters. 

In a text message to Arab News, the Pakistani Taliban distanced themselves from the attack. 

“Tehreek-e-Taliban has nothing to do with the firing incident on a bus in Gilgit-Baltistan’s Chilas area,” said Muhammad Khurasani, a spokesperson for the group. 

In boost for Modi, India’s BJP set to win 3 of 4 key state polls

Updated 03 December 2023

In boost for Modi, India’s BJP set to win 3 of 4 key state polls

  • Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Telangana states voted last month before the national vote due by May
  • BJP had established clear leads in three of these states and appeared set to win them, vote-counting data suggested

NEW DELHI: India’s ruling nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Sunday appeared set to win three of four states in key regional polls, in a big boost for Prime Minister Narendra Modi ahead of general elections in six months. 

The heartland states of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, and the southern state of Telangana, voted last month in the last set of provincial elections before the national vote due by May, when Modi seeks a third term. 

BJP had established clear leads in all three heartland states and appeared set to win them, vote-counting data from the independent election panel and five news TV channels showed. 

BJP’s performance was better than widely expected as opinion and exit polls had suggested a close contest between Modi’s party and the main opposition Congress, indicating BJP and Modi’s growing popularity despite a decade in power nationally. 

Although Congress won Telangana, its second victory in the south this year, Sunday’s outcome is seen as a setback to the party and its leader Rahul Gandhi as it was wiped out of the politically critical heartland. 

“We always said we will win the heartland states,” BJP President Jagat Prakash Nadda told Reuters. “The results are the outcome of our finest political strategy and work on the ground.” 

BJP members and supporters burst firecrackers, distributed sweets and danced in the streets to the beat of drums in the three states. 

“It’s a clean sweep by the BJP in three states, the mandate proves voters trust Modi,” said federal aviation minister Jyotiraditya Scindia, who belongs to Madhya Pradesh. 

Modi remains widely popular after a decade in power and surveys suggest he will win again next year. However, a 28-party opposition alliance led by the Congress party has come together to jointly fight BJP, posing a new challenge. 

Congress disappointed 

BJP also suffered a setback when it lost the big southern state of Karnataka to Congress earlier this year as Gandhi worked hard to revive the party since its drubbing in the 2019 general elections and went on a 135-day march across the country covering more than 4,000 km (2,500 miles). 

He also helped build the opposition alliance, called the Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance or INDIA, after the Karnataka victory and his temporary disqualification from parliament after being convicted in a defamation case. 

But the alliance did not feature in the state polls due to internal rivalries and it was a direct contest between BJP and Congress. 

“The Congress has done extremely well in Telangana... Yes, it is disappointing to see losses in three states, but we are still the opposition with a strong presence,” Congress spokesperson Supriya Shrinate told Reuters. 

The four states are home to more than 160 million voters and account for 82 seats in the 543-member parliament. 

Modi and leaders of Congress, led by Gandhi, criss-crossed the states, addressing campaign rallies and promising cash payouts, farm loan waivers, subsidies and insurance cover, among other incentives, to woo voters. 

Politicians and analysts say state elections do not always influence the outcome of the general elections or accurately indicate national voter mood. 

Results of the last round of state elections before national elections have been misleading in the past. 

Sunday’s outcome is, however, expected to boost market sentiment. 

“Markets may have had a whiff of the likely results given the gains last week but the margin of victory will be a surprise,” said Gurmeet Chadha, managing partner at asset management firm Complete Circle. 

Markets should gain on Monday on the results, he said, adding it could be a “big move.” 

The small northeastern state of Mizoram also voted last month and votes there are due to be counted on Monday. 

Canadian man faces sentencing in January for killing four members of Pakistan-origin family

Updated 03 December 2023

Canadian man faces sentencing in January for killing four members of Pakistan-origin family

  • The incident occurred in 2021 when a white nationalist ran over the family with his truck in Ontario
  • Nathaniel Veltman was found guilty targeting the family during a hearing that took place last month

ISLAMABAD: A Canadian man, who killed four members of a Pakistan-origin family by deliberately running them over with his truck more than two years ago, is scheduled to be sentenced by a court in January, according to media reports.
The incident occurred on June 6, 2021, in Ontario. Five members of the Afzaal family were out for an evening walk when they were struck by a truck, driven by 22-year-old white nationalist Nathaniel Veltman.
The attack claimed the lives of Salman Afzaal, 46, his wife Madiha Salman, 44, their 15-year-old daughter Yumnah, and Afzaal's 74-year-old mother Talat.
The family’s nine-year-old child survived with serious injuries.
“Prosecutors and defence lawyers are scheduled to make their submissions on sentencing in the case of Nathaniel Veltman on Jan. 4 and 5,” reported CP24, a Canadian news channel.
“Veltman was found guilty last month of four counts of first-degree murder and one count of attempted murder for hitting the Afzaal family with his truck while they were out for a walk,” it added.
This incident sent shockwaves through Canada, a country with a huge immigrant population that prides itself on its multicultural character.
According to Reuters, prosecutors argued the attack was an act of terrorism, noting Veltman had written a manifesto entitled "A White Awakening" in which he outlined hatred of Islam and opposition to mass immigration and multiculturalism.
Veltman, who had confessed to his crime, was found guilty of four counts of first-degree murder and one count of attempted murder last month.
“Today’s verdict is a monumental step in the fight against hate and Islamophobia,” Reuters quoted Abdul Fattah Twakkal, a prayer leader at a mosque in the area where the incident happened, after the verdict. “It sets a precedent against white nationalist terrorism.”

Pakistan PM stresses $17 billion Indus River restoration need at Dubai’s COP28 sideline event

Updated 03 December 2023

Pakistan PM stresses $17 billion Indus River restoration need at Dubai’s COP28 sideline event

  • Ninety percent of Pakistan’s people and more than three-quarters of its economy reside in the Indus Basin
  • Kakar applauds project to increase water storage and recharge through wetlands, hill-torrents management

ISLAMABAD: Caretaker Prime Minister Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar told a gathering on the margins of the United Nations climate conference in Dubai on Sunday Pakistan needed up to $17 billion for the next 15 years to work on the ecological restoration of the Indus River.
The giant waterway, nurturing the ancient Indus Valley Civilization, one of the world’s earliest urban cultures, has been a lifeline for the region for millennia, fostering agricultural prosperity and cultural development.
It continues to remains crucial to Pakistan’s sustenance, ensuring its food security, providing vital water resources and driving economic growth through hydroelectric power and other industries.
The prime minister, who is currently on a week-long visit to the Middle East and leading his country’s delegation at the 28th UN Conference of Parties (COP28) that began on Nov. 30, raised the issue at a ceremony organized by Living Indus, the largest climate initiative in Pakistan.
“Pakistani government is clear on its priorities with Living Indus, and we will work together to tackle the challenges, especially now that climate changes are aggravating,” he said.
“This initiative suggests that we need a minimum indicative investment of $11-17 billion over the next 15 years to mobilize from the public and private sector, citizens and communities,” he added.
Launched last September with UN support, the Living Indus initiative aims to protect and restore the vital river. The project aims to address challenges such as water scarcity, pollution, and habitat degradation through conservation and sustainable management.
The Indus Basin is home to 90 percent of Pakistan’s population and contributes to over three-quarters of its economy.
Despite its historical and ecological significance, however, the Indus is said to be the world’s second most polluted river.
Kakar thanked the World Wildlife Fund, United States Agency for International Development, Coca-Cola Foundation and Green Climate Fund for successfully developing “Recharge Pakistan” that aims to reduce climate vulnerability, calling it the first step toward Living Indus.
The project is designed to increase water storage and recharge through wetlands, floodplains and hill-torrents management.
“This will come in pieces, we understand, especially as Pakistan is facing a financial challenge,” he said, adding the flagship project with an international commitment to climate finance of nearly $78 billion was central to the country’s efforts in reducing future flooding and drought impacts.
The prime minister said flood and water resource management under the Living Indus framework would not only benefit millions of citizens but also serve as a model for climate innovation on a global scale.
“But more important is that the Living Indus initiative seeks to mobilize a movement that repairs and restores a healthy Indus for today and tomorrow,” he added.

US official visits to Pakistan from Monday to bolster bilateral talks, address Afghan deportation issue

Updated 03 December 2023

US official visits to Pakistan from Monday to bolster bilateral talks, address Afghan deportation issue

  • Foreign office says the high-level visits are part of an ongoing dialogue over a range of issues
  • US has urged Pakistan not to repatriate Afghan nationals who actively collaborated with its forces

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan will witness back-to-back visits by senior US officials starting tomorrow, the foreign office spokesperson confirmed on Sunday, characterizing the upcoming interactions between Pakistani and American officials as part of dialogue over a range of issues.
The US State Department announced the visit of Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration Julieta Valls Noyes to Pakistan on Friday, saying she would be in Islamabad for a series of meetings from December 4 to 7.
The statement described the purpose of her visit to discuss “shared efforts to protect vulnerable individuals and accelerate safe, efficient relocation and resettlement of Afghan refugees in the US immigration pipeline.”
Pakistan has launched a deportation drive against “illegal immigrants” for security reasons, affecting the lives of a number of Afghans who left their homeland after the Taliban swept back to power after US and NATO troops pulled out of the war-ravaged country in August 2020.
The US government urged the Pakistani authorities not to repatriate people who actively collaborated with its forces in Afghanistan, fearing reprisals from the Taliban administration.
“Pakistan and the United States continue to hold consultations on a range of issues,” foreign office spokesperson Mumtaz Zahra Baloch said in a statement. “To advance these consultations, exchange of visits also takes place.”
She identified three US officials, noting that Noyes’ visit would be followed by Special US Representative on Afghanistan Tom West, scheduled to be in Pakistan from December 7 to 9, and then by Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Elizabeth Horst, who plans to visit Islamabad from December 9 to 12.
“These visits are part of ongoing dialogue with the US on a range of issues including, but not limited to, the situation in Afghanistan,” Baloch added.
Pakistan’s arrest and deportation of Afghan nationals has been criticized by a number of international rights organizations amid harassment complaints by registered refugees.
The US has also asked Pakistan to fulfil its obligations toward asylum seekers from Afghanistan seeking international protection after entering its territory.