Fit-again Afridi to lead defending champions Lahore in Pakistan Super League

Lahore Qalander's bowler Shaheen Shah Afridi is pictured during a warmup match in Lahore, Pakistan, on February 7, 2023. (@iShaheenAfridi/Twitter)
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Updated 12 February 2023

Fit-again Afridi to lead defending champions Lahore in Pakistan Super League

  • Afridi led Lahore to its maiden PSL title last year in Pakistan’s premier domestic Twenty20 event 
  • The PSL has once again attracted several foreign Twenty20 specialists in a six-team tournament

ISLAMABAD: Shaheen Shah Afridi will stage a comeback to competitive cricket after three months out with a freak knee injury to lead defending champions Lahore Qalandars in the Pakistan Super League, beginning from Monday. 

Afridi led Lahore to its maiden PSL title last year in Pakistan’s premier domestic Twenty20 tournament that has once again attracted several foreign T20 specialists in a six-team event also featuring two-time champions Islamabad United and past winners Multan Sultans, Karachi Kings, Quetta Gladiators and Peshawar Zalmi. 

Afridi, the lanky left-arm fast bowler, has been Pakistan’s bowling mainstay for the last five years since making his international debut in 2018. But a knee injury during the final of the T20 World Cup against England saw him undergo a long strenuous rehabilitation program before finally getting ready for the PSL. 

“There were times when I wanted to give up,” Afridi said. “I was working on only one muscle and it was not improving. Often during the rehabilitation sessions, I used to say to myself ‘this is enough, I cannot do this anymore.’” 

Afridi used to watch his bowling videos on YouTube to keep himself motivated and ‘push a little more’ but was frustrated to miss international cricket because of injury. 

In Afridi’s absence England whitewashed Pakistan 3-0 in the test series during its historic comeback tour to Pakistan last December, while New Zealand twice came close to beating Pakistan in the drawn two-test series. 

Afridi, who has a tendency of picking up wickets in the batting powerplay, has taken 70 wickets since making his PSL debut during the third edition of the tournament in 2018. He is third behind his countrymen Wahab Riaz (103), who is the only bowler in the PSL history with over 100 wickets, and Hasan Ali (81). 

“PSL is one of the best leagues in the world and the quality of cricket tests you as a bowler,” Afridi said. “I am very excited to be making my comeback here … I am ticking both the bowling workload and fitness requirement boxes.” 

Lahore might rue the absence of hard-hitting England batter Harry Brook, who will be on national duty while star leg-spinner Rashid Khan will also miss the first three games due to his commitment with the Afghanistan national team. 

However, Lahore has drafted in Englishman Sam Billings and West Indian Shai Hoe to bolster its batting line-up which has the experience of Fakhar Zaman upfront. 

The combination of Afridi and Haris Rauf forms the best pace bowling pair in the PSL with the latter having the capability to tie down batters in the latter half of the innings with his pace and impeccable line and length. 

Pakistan all-format skipper Babar Azam, who won the ICC’s ODI cricketer of the year award for the second successive year, had a forgettable last year in the PSL when his team Karachi Kings could win only one of the 10 league games. 

This year Babar will be leading Peshawar Zalmi after he was traded to Karachi while T20 veteran Shoaib Malik and young middle-order batter Haider Ali were traded from Peshawar to Karachi. 

Karachi has the experience of Mohammad Amir in its bowling ranks and has also drafted Australian wicketkeeper Matthew Wade and fast bowler Andrew Tye. Although Englishman James Vince might not be available for the entire tournament, left-handed opener Sharjeel Khan will need to shoulder more of the burden of scoring in the absence of Babar. 

Sri Lanka’s Bhanuka Rajapaksa has bolstered Peshawar’s middle-order with young wicketkeeper-batter Mohammad Haris and West Indian duo of Rovman Powell and Sherfane Rutherford also among their ranks. 

Islamabad, winners of the first two of the three editions of the tournament, is a team which believes in match-ups and relies heavily on data to find a winning edge. Led by Shadab Khan, Islamabad has power-hitters in Paul Stirling and Asif Ali with young Azam Khan also making good progress in the T20 format after hitting a century in the recent Caribbean Premier League. 

Hasan and Faheem Ashraf are its experienced fast bowlers with Shadab tying down the batters with his legbreak bowling in the middle overs. 

Multan got beaten in the final last year and will open the PSL at home against Lahore on Monday. 

South African pair of Rilee Rossouw and David Miller, Shan Masood and skipper Mohammad Rizwan carry enough experience in the batting lineup, but its bowling resources look thin this year with Shahnawaz Dahani and tall leg-spinner Usama Mir likely to carry the bowling burden. 

It has beefed up the team in the replacement draft by drafting in globe-trotter T20 specialist Kieron Pollard of the West Indies. 

Veteran Sarfaraz Ahmed will be leading Quetta Gladiators for the eighth successive season after failing to qualify for the final in the last three editions since it won the tournament in 2019. 

Sarfaraz is expected to bat higher in the order and has got a red-hot Iftikhar Ahmed also in the ranks. Iftikhar hit six sixes in an over against Peshawar Zalmi’s Riaz during an exhibition PSL match last week in Quetta and also made his mark in this season’s Bangladesh Premier League. 

Karachi and Multan will host the first leg of the tournament before Rawalpindi and Lahore stage the second leg. Gaddafi Stadium in Lahore will host the playoffs and the final on March 19. 

Pakistan court rejects ex-PM Khan’s plea seeking withdrawal of appeal against disqualification

Updated 06 December 2023

Pakistan court rejects ex-PM Khan’s plea seeking withdrawal of appeal against disqualification

  • Court’s rejection could be a possible setback for Khan’s efforts to overturn a decision set to prevent him running in elections
  • Khan, who is embroiled in a string of legal cases since his ouster as PM last year, says charges against him are politically motivated

ISLAMABAD: An Islamabad court on Wednesday rejected former Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan’s request to withdraw a key appeal so he could move it to a different court in the city of Lahore, his lawyer said, a possible setback in his efforts to overturn a decision set to prevent his running in elections next year.

Khan appealed last year in the Islamabad High Court against the Election Commission of Pakistan’s (ECP) decision finding that he had unlawfully sold state gifts.

However, in January, Khan sought to withdraw that appeal so that another appeal at the Lahore High Court could proceed.

Khan’s lawyer Naeem Panjutha said the Islamabad High Court on Wednesday turned down Khan’s request to withdraw his appeal.

The ECP inquiry in 2022 found Khan unlawfully sold state gifts during his tenure as prime minister from 2019 to 2022. Khan has denied his behavior was unlawful.

The Islamabad court has not yet released a decision on whether the ECP’s decision on Khan should be overturned.

Khan’s lawyers had sought to withdraw the Islamabad court appeal so a later appeal they saw as more likely to legally undermine his electoral disqualification could proceed in the Lahore High Court.

An Islamabad district court also convicted Khan over the sale of state gifts in August, resulting in his arrest. Khan has appealed the decision and a court later suspended his sentence but he remained imprisoned in a separate case.

The 70-year-old cricket hero-turned-politician has been embroiled in a string of court cases since he was ousted in a parliamentary vote of confidence last year after having fallen out with the powerful military.

Pakistan’s general election is set to take place on Feb. 8.

In second major blaze in two weeks, three killed in fire at Karachi shopping centre

Updated 06 December 2023

In second major blaze in two weeks, three killed in fire at Karachi shopping centre

  • Arshi Shopping Center in Karachi’s Ayesha Manzil neighborhood catches fire 
  • Karachi, Pakistan’s commercial hub, is known for its fragile firefighting system 

KARACHI: Three persons were killed on Wednesday after a fire engulfed a multi-story building in Pakistan’s southern port city of Karachi, a health official and rescue volunteer confirmed. 

The incident took place less than two weeks after another blaze in the metropolis killed 11 people and wounded several others after a shopping mall caught fire on Nov. 25. Pakistan’s largest city, which houses millions of residents, is known for its fragile firefighting system and poor safety controls. 

Local media channels showed black smoke billowing from the six-story Arshi Shopping Center located in Karachi’s Ayesha Manzil neighborhood on Wednesday evening. Rescue volunteers frantically scrambled to evacuate residents from the building as firefighters remained busy battling flames. 

According to local media reports, the fire was caused by a short circuit in one of the shops. The flames later spread rapidly and engulfed the entire building, which reportedly comprised 250 shops and 450 apartments. 

“At least three people have died in the fire,” Shahid Hussain, a spokesperson of the welfare organization Chhipa, told Arab News. “Their bodies are now being shifted to the Abbasi Shaheed Hospital.” 

Sindh Health Department spokesperson Shabbir Ali Babar confirmed in a statement that the bodies had been shifted to the hospital, adding that two others had been injured in the fire. 

“Two injured have been admitted to the Civil Hospital’s Burns Ward,” he said. “One of the persons who suffered 100 percent burns is in critical condition while another who suffered ordinary burns has been provided medical aid.” 

He said that an emergency has been imposed in Abbasi Shaheed Hospital, Civil Hospital, and other nearby hospitals as per the caretaker chief minister’s directives. 

In a post on social media platform X, Karachi Mayor Murtaza Wahab Siddiqui confirmed three persons had died in the blaze.

Karachi, Pakistan’s largest city and the country’s main commercial hub, is home to hundreds of thousands of industrial units and some of the tallest buildings in the South Asian country. 

But despite its magnitude, the city has only 22 fire stations, a little over a dozen functional fire tenders, few snorkels, and slightly more than a thousand firefighters — woefully inadequate for a megapolis that witnesses hundreds of fire incidents annually. 

In April, four firefighters died and nearly a dozen others were injured after a fire broke out in a garment factory, while 10 people were killed in a massive fire at a chemical factory in the city in August 2021. 

In the deadliest such incident, 260 people were killed in 2012 after being trapped inside a garment factory when a fire broke out. 

Pakistani talent, IT companies can play ‘important role’ in Qatar’s digitization— minister

Updated 06 December 2023

Pakistani talent, IT companies can play ‘important role’ in Qatar’s digitization— minister

  • Pakistan’s IT minister returns after leading the country’s first-ever IT delegation to Qatar
  • Says like Saudi Arabia and Emirates, Pakistan received ‘encouraging response’ from Qatar

ISLAMABAD: Caretaker Information Technology Minister Dr. Umar Saif said on Wednesday that Pakistan’s talented manpower and its IT companies can play an important role in Qatar’s digitization, upon his return from a four-day official visit to the Middle Eastern country. 

Saif returned to Islamabad from Doha on Wednesday after leading Pakistan’s first-ever IT delegation to Qatar. His visit, which began on Saturday, was aimed at attracting investment and exploring opportunities for Pakistani software houses and freelance developers. 

During his visit, the minister led representatives of 30 leading Pakistani IT companies at meetings with officials of Qatari firms in Doha. 

“Talented Pakistanis and Pakistani IT companies can play an important role in Qatar’s digitization,” Saif said in a statement. 

He said Pakistani IT companies will be able to provide their professional services in Qatar after they are registered in the country.

“Like Saudi Arabia and the Emirates, [Pakistan’s IT delegation] has received a very encouraging response from Qatar as well,” Saif said. 

He thanked Qatari business groups and officials for their “excellent hospitality and professional response” toward the Pakistani delegation. 

In line with broader trends in the Gulf region, Qatar is actively diversifying its economy and focusing on the technology sector, taking smart city initiatives, launching tech start-ups and hosting technologically advanced events like the FIFA World Cup 2022. 

The strategic shift includes the adoption of advanced digital technologies, such as AI, cloud computing and cybersecurity, to transition into a knowledge-based economy.

Body found in big cat enclosure at Pakistan zoo

Updated 06 December 2023

Body found in big cat enclosure at Pakistan zoo

  • Man found dead in Bahawalpur’s Sherbagh Zoo in Punjab province
  • Pakistan’s zoos are frequently accused of disregarding animal welfare

LAHORE: A man was found dead inside a big cat enclosure at a Pakistan zoo on Wednesday by staff carrying out routine cleaning, officials said.

The body was found at Bahawalpur’s Sherbagh Zoo in the eastern province of Punjab after staff spotted a shoe in the mouth of one of the big cats.

“When they cleaned the zoo and the dens, they found the (animal) holding a shoe in its mouth,” Zaheer Anwar, a senior government official in Bahawalpur, told the media.

“The staff got suspicious and then they found a body inside the den,” he said.

The official described the big cat using a word that in Pakistan can mean tiger or leopard, and both are believed to be housed inside the zoo.

“Our assessment so far is that this appears to be a lunatic, because a sensible person would not jump into the den,” Anwar said.

“You can see that the den is secured. There are stairs behind the den, maybe he jumped from there.

“(The) staff are all accounted for.”

Zafarullah, an official of the rescue service 1122 in Bahawalpur, told AFP that the victim’s legs had been heavily mauled.

“It is yet not known who he is and how he got there. It is being investigated. The body looked several hours old,” said Zafarullah, who goes by one name.

He said forensic experts were examining the body.

The zoo is run by Punjab’s wildlife department, according to its website, and costs adults 50 rupees (18 cents) to enter.

The department has not commented.

Pakistan’s zoos are frequently accused of disregarding animal welfare.

Pakistani PM tasks authorities to prepare emergency polio eradication plan for 2024 

Updated 06 December 2023

Pakistani PM tasks authorities to prepare emergency polio eradication plan for 2024 

  • Caretaker PM Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar chairs high-level meeting of Pakistan’s task force on polio eradication 
  • PM notes recent cases of polio reported in Pakistan, calls for integrated anti-polio campaigns in high-risk areas 

ISLAMABAD: Caretaker Prime Minister Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar tasked authorities on Wednesday to prepare an emergency polio eradication plan for the next year to target high-risk areas, the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) said. 

Polio is a highly infectious disease caused by poliovirus mainly affecting children under the age of ten years. It invades the nervous system and can cause paralysis or even death. 

Pakistan and Afghanistan are the only two countries in the world where polio continues to threaten the health and well-being of children, with Pakistani authorities reporting six polio cases this year. 

Kakar chaired a meeting of Pakistan’s task force on polio eradication during which he stressed monitoring polio vaccination campaigns through technology, the PMO said in a statement. 

“The prime minister gave directions [to authorities] to prepare an anti-polio emergency plan for next year,” the statement said. 

Kakar called for the resumption of regular polio immunization campaigns across the country, emphasizing that best international practices and research be adopted for the use of Inactivated Polio Virus (IPV) vaccines. 

The prime minister said integrated anti-polio programs should be adopted in high-risk areas, the PMO said. Kakar said important stakeholders of Pakistani society such as parents, religious scholars and teachers should be included in polio awareness campaigns as well. 

He issued directions that a Ulema Convention should be held to shed light on the importance of the role of ulema in anti-polio campaigns, the statement added. 

Participants of the meeting were told polio teams are administering vaccines to children at Afghan repatriation camps in Peshawar, Nowshera, and Chaman cities. They were also briefed that Punjab, Balochistan, Azad Kashmir, and Gilgit-Baltistan were polio-free areas, whereas some union councils in southern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province were more affected, the PMO said. 

Pakistan’s efforts to eradicate polio have encountered difficulties as many Pakistanis harbor suspicions about foreign entities that fund vaccination campaigns. Many believe in the conspiracy theory that polio vaccines are part of a plot by Western outsiders to sterilize Pakistan’s population. 

The masses’ doubts regarding polio campaigns were exacerbated in 2011 when the US Central Intelligence Agency set up a fake hepatitis vaccination program to gather intelligence on former Al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden.