International Day of Education: Painting exhibition in Peshawar shows world through street kids' eyes

A woman takes picture of an artwork displayed at a painting exhibition by street children in Peshawar, Pakistan, on January 24, 2023. (AN Photo)
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Updated 24 January 2023

International Day of Education: Painting exhibition in Peshawar shows world through street kids' eyes

  • The initiative was taken by a local organization to help vulnerable children celebrate International Education Day
  • Pakistan is said to have over two million street children who are always at risk of being drawn into situations of abuse

PESHAWAR: Paintings made by street children in the northwestern Pakistani town of Peshawar were displayed in an exhibition held by the Rangeet Welfare Organization (RWO) on Tuesday, coinciding with International Education Day, which is marked on January 24 each year.

Estimates suggest there are over two million street children in Pakistan – a number increasing rapidly due to displacement, migration, extreme poverty, and the rising numbers of runaway children forced to leave their homes after experiencing violence in the household, workplace and schools. Once on the streets, these children are at greater risk of being drawn into situations of abuse, such as child labor, exploitation, trafficking, and arbitrary arrest.

In August 2021, Jalwat Huma, a Peshawar resident, established RWO in the basement of her home to teach street kids how to use art as a means of creative expression under the slogan, “If you can’t write, you can still draw.”

"If you can't write, you can still draw," says an inscription in Urdu at a painting exhibition by street children in Peshawar, Pakistan, on January 24, 2023. (AN Photo)

On Tuesday, RWO organized an exhibition at the Peshawar University which held true to the old adage, “paint what you see,” showcasing canvases full of depictions of the alienated and the marginalized: homeless people, women and children begging on the streets, worried mothers, hands on their foreheads, cradling their newborns, as well as mosques, clerics and women in traditional tribal attire.

“We arranged this exhibition keeping in mind International Education Day so that these [underprivileged] children could celebrate the day too,” Huma told Arab News at the event. “The work of street kids – whom I consider very special – has been put up for public display which is an immense pleasure for me.”

A painting by a street kid showing vulnerable children is displayed at an exhibition in Peshawar, Pakistan, on January 24, 2023. (AN Photo)

“Just over a year ago, I initiated this journey with underprivileged children, impoverished and left to fend for themselves, sell what they scavenge off the streets or work mornings in other people’s homes. Now I am proud to display their work here in front of you all.”

Paintings by street children are displayed at an exhibition in Peshawar, Pakistan, on January 24, 2023. (AN Photo)

Huma said working with street children was a difficult task because they didn’t have any formal schooling or education in the arts, but the effort they put into their work was refreshing: “We aim to make these children international level artists and want to display their work in an international exhibition in future.”

She said her organization was also teaching them English, computers and music.

A painting by a street child that highlights the significance of education is displayed at an exhibition in Peshawar, Pakistan, on January 24, 2023. (AN Photo)

The majority of the 106 students in RWO are from the tribal Khyber region, adjacent to Peshawar district.

“Painting is an expensive medium and we couldn’t afford a huge number of students at this stage,” Huma said. “However, we have 106 children enrolled so far out of whom the works of 27 children have been displayed in this exhibition.”

Dozens of people attend a painting exhibition by street children in Peshawar, Pakistan, which was made to coincide with International Education Day on January 24, 2023. (AN Photo)

The children Arab News spoke to said they were “happy” to see their work on display and being appreciated by people from different backgrounds.

Abdullah Afridi, originally from Bara village in Khyber, said he had worked in a medicine company as an errand boy before he joined RWO a year ago and started learning how to paint:

“A friend in my neighborhood informed me that there is a place where people like me learn painting, so I visited there. After seeing people like me painting and drawing I got the motivation and left the factory and joined RWO.”

“I feel very happy when I’m painting,” Afridi said. “I was doing other people’s labor for very little pay before, now I do my own work. In the future I want to become a famous artist and portray the grief of people like me, and maybe help them like Madam Huma helped me.”

A student at Rangeet Welfare Organization, which has been working to educate street children, stands next to a painting at an exhibition in Peshawar, Pakistan, on January 24, 2023. (AN Photo)

Shahab Orakzai, a teenage volunteer at RWO who helps the children with final touch-ups and finishes on their paintings, said: “This is a great achievement for all of us. All these months we worked so hard with these street children.”

“This is a dream come true. In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, we don’t see such things. It is a proud moment that the work of street children is being displayed and people are appreciating it.”

A painting that depicts Pashtun women from different parts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province is displayed at an exhibition by street children in Peshawar, Pakistan, on January 24, 2023. (AN Photo)

Hundreds of people from different walks of life, especially students, teachers, and art lovers, visited Tuesday’s exhibition and appreciated the efforts of kids less fortunate than themselves.

“Here I see paintings done by poor children, who sometimes scavenge, sometimes beg,” Warda Hussain, who had especially come to see the exhibition, told Arab News. “Still, they’re doing a great job, their paintings are amazing.”

A painting by a street child that captures life on social peripheries is displayed at an exhibition in Peshawar, Pakistan, on January 24, 2023. (AN Photo)


PM calls for 'global unity' to fight Islamophobia after desecration of Holy Quran in Denmark

Updated 34 min 32 sec ago

PM calls for 'global unity' to fight Islamophobia after desecration of Holy Quran in Denmark

  • Danish far-right politician torched a copy of the Holy Quran on Friday near a Copenhagen mosque
  • PM Shehbaz Sharif says desecration of Holy Quran 'highly offensive' act, calls on world to denounce it

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif called for "global unity" to fight Islamophobia on Sunday amid increasing incidents of the desecration of the Holy Quran in Denmark and Sweden last week. 

The prime minister's comments came after a far-right Danish politician torched a copy of the Holy Quran on Friday near a mosque and outside the premises of the Turkish embassy in Copenhagen. 

Rasmus Paludan, known for his extremist stance towards Muslims, pulled a similar stunt in Stockholm last week. Paludan said he would repeat the act every Friday until Sweden is included in the NATO alliance. Turkey, whose support is crucial for Denmark to join the military alliance, has spoken out against Copenhagen's bid to join NATO. 

Paludan's Islamophobic acts have triggered anger among the Muslim community worldwide and evoked strong condemnations from Pakistan, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and other Muslim countries around the world. 

In a Twitter post, Pakistan's prime minister condemned the "highly offensive" incident, calling on the civilized world to denounce it as well



"The need for global unity to fight Islamophobia couldn't be more urgent than it is now. We are deeply hurt," he wrote on Twitter. 

Pakistan's foreign office on Saturday issued a strong statement against Paludan's act, describing it as "a senseless and deeply offensive" action. 

"This repetition of the vile act leaves little doubt in the minds of Muslims around the world that freedom of expression is being blatantly abused to spread religious hatred and incitement to violence," it had said. 

Pakistan has to abide by tough IMF conditions out of ‘compulsion’ — defense minister

Updated 29 January 2023

Pakistan has to abide by tough IMF conditions out of ‘compulsion’ — defense minister

  • IMF wants Pakistan to reestablish market-based mechanism to determine Pakistani rupee's value
  • Defense Minister Khawaja Asif says government would try not to burden citizens under IMF’s conditions

ISLAMABAD: As Pakistan increased petrol prices by Rs35 per liter, Defense Minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif said on Sunday that the country had to agree to “very tough” conditions imposed by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) out of “compulsion” to address its economic woes.

The IMF’s mission is scheduled to visit Pakistan on January 31 to discuss the resumption of its $7 billion loan program, as Islamabad desperately seeks another loan tranche to shore up its foreign exchange reserves. Pakistan's forex reserves have declined to a staggering $3.6 billion, not even enough to cover a month of imports.

Earlier today, Finance Minister Ishaq Dar announced jacking up prices of petroleum products in the country by as much as Rs35 per liter. The minister said the decision was taken due to the Pakistani rupee's recent devaluation and up to an 11 percent increase in global fuel prices.

The hike in prices of petroleum products is part of the IMF's conditionalities to revive the stalled loan program, which requires Pakistan to do away with expensive energy subsidies. The price hike is expected to further increase decades-high inflation in the South Asian country. 

The global lender also wants Pakistan to reestablish a market-based mechanism to determine the value of the Pakistani rupee, which fell to a record low of 269.60 against the dollar in the open market this week. Such a mechanism is a key prior action for the country to receive IMF support.

“The IMF program, which we had to re-enter because of the [current] circumstances and out of compulsion, has set very strict and tough conditions for Pakistan,” Asif said on Sunday, speaking to reporters.

He added the government would undertake efforts to ensure the common man would not have to bear the economic burden of IMF’s conditions.

“We will try that only those belonging to the [upper] socioeconomic class will have to bear the economic burden of this crisis,” he said.

Answering a question related to the acute dearth of forex reserves in the country and the ensuing depreciation of the rupee against the dollar, the defense minister said people who have a foreign currency account in the country would still be able to withdraw “some” of their money in dollars.

“If someone here has a dollar account and wants to withdraw money from their banks, they can do so but in small amounts. For instance, if someone wants to take out money to pay for their children’s school fees, they can do so,” he clarified.

Asif also said the country’s imports, which had to be halted due to the dwindling reserves, were “gradually being relaxed.”

“Our exports are gradually being relaxed, so we will hopefully recover from the economic [turmoil] soon,” he said. “Slowly and gradually, things are being streamlined.”

Pakistan secured a $6 billion IMF bailout in 2019, which was topped up with another $1 billion last year. However, the lender then stalled disbursements in November due to Pakistan’s failure to make more progress on fiscal consolidation and economic reforms.

Pakistani FM heads to Moscow today as efforts on to finalize oil deal

Updated 29 January 2023

Pakistani FM heads to Moscow today as efforts on to finalize oil deal

  • Russia last week conceptually agreed to provide cheap crude oil to cash-strapped Pakistan on easy payment terms
  • Bhutto-Zardari will meet his Russian counterpart and deliberate upon the 'entire spectrum' of bilateral relations

ISLAMABAD: Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari will be leaving for Moscow today, according to the Pakistani foreign office, amid efforts to finalize an oil deal between cash-strapped Pakistan and Russia. 

This is Bhutto-Zardari maiden visit to Russia since becoming the foreign minister last year. It follows the visit of a Russian delegation to Islamabad to attend the 8th Pakistan-Russia Inter-Governmental Commission (IGC) meetings in Islamabad earlier this month.  

The Russian delegation signed multiple memoranda of understanding with Pakistan in different sectors and also conceptually agreed to provide cheap crude oil to the cash-strapped South Asian nation, which has been struggling for months to meet its energy needs amid a severe forex crunch. 

In view of Pakistan’s deteriorating economic conditions and its forex reserves declining to a staggering $3.6 billion, Russia has also said it will allow Islamabad to pay for the energy imports in currencies of friendly countries. 

“Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari will undertake an official visit to Moscow at the invitation of Foreign Minister of the Russian Federation Sergey Lavrov from 29-30 January 2023,” the Pakistani foreign office said in a statement on Saturday. 

“The foreign minister will hold official talks with his Russian counterpart where the two sides would deliberate upon the entire spectrum of bilateral relations and exchange views on regional and international issues of mutual interest.” 

Over the decades, Pakistan-Russia ties have seen many ups and downs, mainly due to the Islamabad’s alliance with Washington. But in recent years, relations between the two states have warmed up as a countermeasure to proximity between India and the United States (US) on world issues. 

On Friday, Reuters reported that Independent Russian oil refiner Forteinvest had clinched a deal that will see 1,000 tons of Russian gasoline sent to Pakistan by land for the first time. 

The development came days after US State Department Spokesperson Ned Price said “now is not the time” to bolster economic ties with Russia, as the West continues to find ways to curtail Moscow’s finances due to its invasion of Ukraine. 

The Pakistani government, however, reiterated that the South Asian country would go ahead with the oil deal with Russia, adding that all deals will be finalized by March and oil will arrive in Pakistan by the end of April.  

At least 50 killed in twin transport mishaps in Pakistan

Updated 29 January 2023

At least 50 killed in twin transport mishaps in Pakistan

  • A passenger bus fell into a ravine and caught fire in Balochistan's Bela area, killing at least 40 people
  • In second mishap, 10 children were killed after their ferry capsized in country's northwest on Sunday

KARACHI: At least 50 people were killed in two separate transport tragedies in Pakistan on Sunday, officials said, renewing a debate about poor transport safety protocols in the South Asian country. 

In the first incident, a passenger bus fell into a ravine and later caught fire in Bela area of Pakistan's southwestern Balochistan province, where road accidents claim thousands of lives annually.  

Balochistan, a mountainous, desert region bordering Afghanistan and Iran, is Pakistan’s largest but most impoverished province, with a staggering 40,000-kilometer network of road infrastructure.  

According to the Motorway police, 6,000 to 8,000 people die each year in accidents across the Balochistan province, mainly on single-lane roads that have infamously come to be known as "killer highways."  

“A bus going from Quetta to Karachi plunged into a ravine and caught fire at around 3am,” Hamza Anjum Nadeem, the Bela assistant commissioner, told Arab News. "At least 39 bodies have been recovered and search for others is underway."  

Anjum later confirmed the death of another passenger, taking the count to 40. 

Of these, 38 dead bodies were being moved to the southern port city of Karachi, 177 kilometers away from Bela, for medico-legal formalities, Karachi Police Surgeon Dr Summaiya Syed told Arab News. 

Balochistan is the epicenter of the $64 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a road and infrastructure development plan, which aims to ultimately provide the shortest route for Chinese cargo headed for the Middle East, Africa and Central Asia.  

Major roads are slated for construction under the CPEC, including the road from Balochistan’s Khuzdar district to the Chinese-funded, deepwater port of Gwadar. But for now, the absence of dual carriageways, inadequate training of drivers, and a lack of highway patrols mean thousands continue to die on these roads each year.   

In another incident, 10 children died when their boat capsized in Tanda Dam lake near Kohat in the country's northwest, according to police. 

All of the dead recovered so far aged between seven and 14 years, local police official Mir Rauf told the AFP news agency. 

Rauf said 11 children had been rescued from the water, with six in critical condition. The boat was carrying between 25 and 30 students on a daytrip from a local madrassa when it overturned. 

“A rescue operation is underway,” Rauf said. 

Mass drownings are common in Pakistan, when aged and overloaded vessels lose their stability and pitch passengers into the water. 

In July, 18 women drowned when an overcrowded boat carrying a wedding party across the Indus river in Punjab province capsized. 

The South Asian country also has poor road safety controls and thousands of lives are lost to road crashes each year, particularly in the southwestern Balochistan province. 

According to the National Road Safety Strategy 2018-2030, a report administered by the Asian Development Bank that cited police data, 6,548 people died at the scene of accident on Pakistan’s roads in 2016. Of these, 355 fatalities happened on national highways and 6,003 on provincial roads.  

At least seven people were killed and 15 others were injured after a passenger bus collided with a truck in Balochistan's Killa Saifullah district this month.    

In June last year, 22 people were killed when a passenger bus veered off a narrow road and fell into a ravine in the same district.

Earthquake jolts Islamabad, adjacent Pakistani cities — USGS

Updated 29 January 2023

Earthquake jolts Islamabad, adjacent Pakistani cities — USGS

  • This is the 3rd time in a month Islamabad, parts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa felt tremors
  • The residents of Islamabad share their experience on Twitter, calling it a ‘massive jolt’

ISLAMABAD: A magnitude 4.4 earthquake jolted the Pakistani capital of Islamabad and nearby cities on Sunday, the United States Geological Survey (USGS) said, with many residents of the capital describing it as a “massive jolt” on Twitter.

According to the USGS, the earthquake struck at around 12:45pm Pakistan time, with its epicenter located 25.5 kilometers away from the capital at a depth of 32.4 kilometers.

However, Sabir Khan, a senior meteorologist at the National Seismic Monitoring Center (NSMC) in Islamabad said the magnitude of the earthquake was recorded 6.3 on the Richter scale, the state-run APP news agency reported.

No casualties have so far been reported in its wake.

“Stay safe Pakistan! It was a massive jolt,” Zubair Faisal Abbasi, an Islamabad resident, wrote o Twitter.

“Quite strong shaking in Islamabad #earthquake,” said Sana Jamal, another Islamabad resident.

This was the third time in a month that the Pakistani capital experienced tremors.

On January 19, several parts of Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provinces were shaken when a 5.6-magnitude quake hit Islamabad, Charsada, Peshawar, Nowshera, Mardan, and Shabqadar, the National Seismic Monitoring Center (NSMC) said.

Tremors were felt in Islamabad and parts of KP on January 5 as well.