Pakistani TV anchor breaks internet for continuing bulletin amid powerful earthquake jolts

Shah Faisal reading news from the prompter at the Mashriq News studio in Peshawar, Pakistan on March 22, 2023. (AN photo)
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Updated 22 March 2023

Pakistani TV anchor breaks internet for continuing bulletin amid powerful earthquake jolts

  • Local TV anchor Shah Faisal says powerful earthquake "frightened" him
  • 6.5-magnitude earthquake in parts of Pakistan killed at least 10 on Tuesday

PESHAWAR: A Pakistani TV anchor broke the internet this week after a video of him continuing to read a news bulletin amid a powerful earthquake late on Tuesday evening was shared widely on social media.

At least 10 people were killed and over 60 injured in Pakistan's northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) province on Tuesday night when a 6.5-magnitude earthquake jolted parts of the South Asian country.

In a video that has gone viral on social media since, young TV anchor Shah Faisal, 30, can be seen reading the news when tremors start to shake the studio. Instead of running to safety, the journalist, who works for Pashto-language Mashriq TV in KP's provincial capital Peshawar, breaks the news of the earthquake.

"The cameraman had already fled while I was here in the studio," Faisal, who hails from Mardan city, told Arab News in an interview at the studio. "I was speaking, but in my mind, I kept thinking, 'What will happen now?' Our studio is on the fifth floor and it was shaking a lot, there were a lot of jolts."

Before the quake struck, Faisal was reading a news story about Prime Minister Shehbaz during the 09:00 p.m. bulletin. Next, Faisal can be seen swaying from side to side. Numerous LED TVs in the background and his own laptop are also seen shaking as another man scurried out of the studio behind the anchorman who continued with the bulletin.

One of the two producers working with him fled for safety, Faisal said. The second one took over and told him to break the news of the earthquake.

Faisal said he initially thought the earthquake would be of a similar nature to a “milder” one that had taken place in KP around two months ago.

"This one was very severe and its duration was longer too," Faisal said, adding that the quake "frightened" him.

After the jolts, Faisal immediately called home to inquire after his family and learnt that his father was watching him on TV as the earthquake occurred.

Faisal has since been reading comments on social media about his viral video. Almost 90% of them are encouraging while the remaining are critical of his choice to continue with the bulletin rather than run for cover.

"But it is our belief that life and death is in the hands of Allah," Faisal said. 

"And on the day that we are decreed to leave here [this world], we will leave on that day. I had faith and praise be to Allah, he gave me encouragement."

Flood-hit Pakistanis still waiting on promised rebuild 

Updated 16 sec ago

Flood-hit Pakistanis still waiting on promised rebuild 

  • The monsoon deluges last summer submerged a third of Pakistan, killing 1,700 people and displacing 8 million more 
  • Scientists say climate change making seasonal rains heavier and more unpredictable, raising urgency of flood-proofing 

DADU: Noor Bibi lost her mother, her daughter and the roof over her head in the catastrophic floods that drowned Pakistan last summer. 

One year later she remains homeless, living with the remnants of her family in spartan tents marking where the village of Sohbat Khosa was gutted by the deluge in southern Sindh province. 

Noor, a farm worker approaching her 60s, prays for “someone with righteous thoughts that will help us build some good houses in an elevated place.” 

“If it flooded again, we would not bear such big losses,” she told AFP. 

But government pledges to rebuild flood-ravaged swathes of Pakistan so they are resilient to future extreme weather have largely failed to materialize. 

The monsoon deluges of last summer submerged a third of the country, killing 1,700 people and displacing eight million more. 

Climate change is making those seasonal rains heavier and more unpredictable, scientists say, raising the urgency of flood-proofing the country. 

A failure to do so will be most acutely felt by the poor, who tend to live in the most vulnerable areas. 

Here in Dadu district, which was heavily flooded, no rehabilitation is visible. Rare pieces of public infrastructure remain in disrepair and housing reconstruction is left to locals or NGOs. 

In January, Islamabad announced a “Resilient Recovery, Rehabilitation and Reconstruction Framework” valued at $16.3 billion, but it remains confined to paper. 

International donors have also pledged $9 billion, but most of the cash will come in the form of loans. 

Villagers’ crops were swept away in the floods, depriving them of livelihoods that might have allowed them to pave their own way to recovery. 

With pooled funds, the residents of Sohbat Khosa only raised enough for a toilet and water tank. 

Their best hope is the Alkhidmat Foundation, a Pakistani NGO, which plans to build around 30 new homes. 

“The government seems to not exist here, and if anything is done by the government, that is only corruption,” said Ali Muhammad, a coordinator for Alkhidmat in Dadu. 

Pakistan is currently mired in dual political and economic crises that have brought all public initiatives to a standstill. 

But decades of entrenched corruption and mismanagement are also to blame. 

“Building back better is expensive, and the amount of damage is colossal,” Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari told AFP. 

He said he “can’t speak to what the federal government has done,” but in Sindh province, controlled by his party, “we’ve started a couple of initiatives.” 

“One is the financing of the reconstruction of houses, through NGOs and charity organizations,” he said. 

However, Alkhidmat, like two other NGOs interviewed by AFP, has not received any public money and relies entirely on private funds. 

Thanks to Alkhidmat’s efforts, a few dozen homes have been built in the district, but it’s nowhere near the two million damaged or destroyed in the floods. 

The village of Bari Baital, submerged until November, is expected to eventually host 80 houses built by the foundation — far too few for its thousands of inhabitants. 

To resist future rains they are raised on brick pillars, and built with reinforced roofs and water-resistant cement. 

“People are completely unaware of climate change,” said village teacher Imtiaz Ali Chandio. 

All they know is that their village has been a “passage for floods for centuries,” he said. 

But moving is not an option, meaning the scenario will likely soon be repeated. 

“Where else could we go?” asked Abdulrahim Brohi, who already weathered catastrophic floods in 2010. “Everything of ours is here.” 

“Somewhere else people won’t accept us,” added Brohi, who estimates his age to be between 50 and 60. “We don’t have resources to rebuild our houses here, so how can we afford land somewhere else?” 

Prized by tourists for its scenic mountain vistas, the Swat Valley in northwest Pakistan was also hit hard by last year’s floods. 

Hundreds of hotels, restaurants, businesses and homes perched on the banks of the Swat river were swept away as ferocious waters were funnelled down the ravine. 

To prevent a repeat of the disaster, authorities have “imposed a complete ban on the construction of any sort of building on the river,” said Irfanullah Khan Wazir, Swat’s deputy commissioner. 

Nonetheless, in Bahrain, a small resort town once half underwater, the government’s writ is so weak that builders are riding roughshod over the ban. 

A number of shops, restaurants and hotels have been renovated or rebuilt just meters from the coursing water. Even the mosque has been rebuilt on the same spot where it was heavily damaged. 

“People are doing illegal construction on weekend nights, but [authorities] are not paying any heed — their silence is baffling,” said hotel manager Zafar Ali. 

His own property is under construction 20 meters (65 feet) from the river, in a zone he says is authorized. 

It is now protected by a flood wall twice the height of the previous one. Economic considerations also prevented them from relocating away from their waterfront vantage. 

“Tourists want to be able to open their windows and see the river outside,” Ali said. “Those built further away struggle to cover their expenses.” 

Locals in Swat also condemned the inaction of authorities. The main road following the river has been reopened, but whole sections of tarmac remain torn away. 

Compensation schemes have been limited to certain people who lost their homes. They are granted 400,000 rupees ($1,400), nowhere near enough to rebuild. 

Muhammad Ishaq, a tailor in Bahrain, built his house near the river for easy access to the water. He watched as his home was swallowed by the floods, and has since been forced to move in with his father further up the mountainside. 

Life there is harsher, he told AFP, but even if he manages to rebuild, he knows he “will have to stay away from the river.” 

Pakistani journalist taken away by police from Karachi home — family 

Updated 25 min 28 sec ago

Pakistani journalist taken away by police from Karachi home — family 

  • Zubair Anjum, producer with Pakistan’s Geo News channel, was taken ‘at gunpoint,’ brother says 
  • A number of journalists, rights activists have recently gone ‘missing’ in the South Asian country 

ISLAMABAD: Police officers took away a Pakistani journalist, Zubair Anjum, from his home in the southern port city of Karachi, the broadcaster Anjum worked for said on Tuesday, citing his family. 

Two police vans and double-cabin vehicles arrived at Anjum’s home near the Model Colony intersection late last night and took him away, according to Pakistan’s Geo News channel, where the television producer works. 

Some of the police personnel were uniformed while others were in plain clothes. 

“They asked for Zubair bhai and took him away at gunpoint. They also took along his mobile phone,” Anjum’s brother was quoted as saying. 

“The police did not give any reason for the arrest. They did not even let him wear his slippers. We repeatedly kept asking what the matter was.” 

The policemen forced their way into Anjum’s home and “manhandled” the family, according to the report. They also took away the digital video recorder (DVR) of a CCTV camera installed in the neighborhood. 

Speaking to Geo News, Faisal Bashir Memon, senior superintendent of police (SSP) in Qur’angi district, said his force had information about Anjum’s arrest. 

“Police from stations in the Qur’angi district have not arrested Anjum,” Memon told the broadcaster. “We are investigating the incident.” 

Meanwhile, the police have lodged a case relating to Anjum’s “disappearance” at the Model Colony police station, the report read. 

Anjum’s disappearance comes days after a prominent Pakistani human rights activist, Jibran Nasir, was “picked up” by about 15 men, dressed in plain clothes, in Karachi, his wife said. Nasir returned a day later, his cousin confirmed to Arab News, without divulging further details. 

As a rights activist, Nasir raised alarm over the crackdown against former prime minister Imran Khan’s party members and supporters over the violent protests that erupted after Khan’s arrest on May 9. 

The government denies reports it is illegally abducting dissenters, maintaining that only those who partook in violence and vandalism are being dealt with under the law. 

Last month, Sami Abraham, a prominent Pakistani television journalist, went missing apparently because of his public support to Khan. 

Abraham has long publicly opposed the government of Khan’s successor, PM Shehbaz Sharif. Khan, who has been at loggerheads with the government and the military, was in office in 2018-2022 and was ousted in a no-confidence vote in parliament last year. 

Abraham returned home days later on May 30. No one claimed responsibility for Abrahim’s abduction, but it was widely believed that he was being held by the country’s security agencies, which are often accused of abducting, harassing and torturing journalists. The security agencies deny the allegation. 

Another pro-Khan TV journalist, Imran Riaz, went missing last month and has yet to be found. 

FM Bhutto-Zardari calls for transforming Pakistan, Iraq ties into partnership

Updated 20 min 54 sec ago

FM Bhutto-Zardari calls for transforming Pakistan, Iraq ties into partnership

  • Relations between Pakistan and Iraq have received a boost with a number of ministerial-level exchanges in recent years 
  • In August last year, Iraq’s Foreign Minister Dr. Fuad Hussein visited Islamabad to discuss ways to strengthen bilateral ties 

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, who is on a three-day visit to Iraq, has stressed the need to enhance cooperation between the two countries, Pakistani state media reported on Tuesday. 

The foreign minister attended Pakistan-Iraq Business Forum in Baghdad and a ceremony for the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MoU) between the Pakistani and Iraqi federations of chambers of commerce and industry. 

“There is immense potential to increase trade and economic cooperation between Pakistan and Iraq,” the state-run Radio Pakistan broadcaster reported. 

“Both the countries need to transform the fraternal relationship into a partnership.” 

Pakistan would cooperate with Iraq in all fields, especially with business communities, to benefit from trade and investment opportunities, he assured. 

The two sides signed a memorandum of understanding on this occasion. 

“The MoU will facilitate linkages between business community of both countries,” the Pakistani foreign office said. 

Bhutto-Zardari arrived in Baghdad on a three-day visit Monday morning. During the visit, the foreign minister has held meetings with the Iraqi leadership and will lay the foundation stone of Pakistan’s own embassy building in Iraq, according to the Pakistani foreign office. 

On Monday, Pakistan and Iraq signed agreements to enhance cultural cooperation and abolish visas on diplomatic passports of both countries. 

Relations between Pakistan and Iraq have received a boost with a number of ministerial-level exchanges in recent years. 

In August last year, Iraq’s Foreign Minister Dr. Fuad Hussein visited Islamabad to discuss ways to strengthen bilateral relations. 

Pakistani Shariah-compliant buy-now-pay-later startup makes waves globally

Updated 06 June 2023

Pakistani Shariah-compliant buy-now-pay-later startup makes waves globally

  • Shershah Hassan, Waleed Amjad Islam KalPay featured on Forbes “30 under 30 Asia” list this year
  • KalPay allows customers to buy products and pay in three equal installments without interest

KARACHI: It was in 2020 that school and university friends Shershah Hassan and Waleed Amjad Islam began brainstorming a business idea that would help change people’s lives.

Hassan, 26, and Islam, 25, came up with Kalpay, a Shariah-compliant buy-now-pay-later (BNPL) startup that is making waves globally and was featured on this year’s prestigious Forbes “30 under 30 Asia” list.

Launched in June 2021, KalPay is already working with around 500 e-commerce merchants across multiple product and service categories, allowing customers to buy products and pay in three equal monthly installments using cards, e-wallets and bank transfers without any interest or extra charges.

Credit card penetration is less than 1 percent in Pakistan and almost 90 percent of transactions are done by cash. Pakistan has the third largest unbanked adult population globally, with about 100 million adults without a bank account in a population of 220 people, according to the World Bank.
“The idea was generated back in 2020, we thought about a product that could help ease financing problems and offer solutions to basic banking problems,” Hassan, who is the CEO and cofounder of KalPay, told Arab News in an interview on Monday.

“The drive was that I have to do my own business and the goal was that the work should be impact focused to improve the lives of consumers by giving them access to finance,” he said. “That dream is being fulfilled.”

After bootstrapping for around 9 months, Hassan raised investment in June 2021 and then left his job at a US company. In October of that year, he launched the startup along with his friend Islam. The funding came from local and foreign investors, including venture capital firms and angel investors from Saudi Arabia, Europe, Singapore and the United States.

“Currently KalPay is working on three verticals and providing BNPL ecommerce-based solutions through working with 500 companies and giving users access to easy financing,” Hassan, who is an Accounting and Finance graduate from the Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS), said.

The KalPay chief said his firm offered financing between Rs2,000 to Rs500,000, that could be paid back in three installments. Two of its new verticals are KalPay Rasayi and KalPay Taleem, offering BNPL services on the purchase of productive assets like smartphones and laptops and fee payments for education and skill development services. 

“If we are financing a laptop or a smartphone to a freelancer or Foodpanda rider, the laptop and smartphone are the source of income to them,” Hassan explained. “That is how we are creating impact in society because these products could change the lives and future of people.” 

The startup’s growth in terms of value and volume is in double digits on a month-on-month basis, and Hassan said he and his partner were planning further growth and consolidation.

Responding to a question about the rationale behind launching a Shariah-compliant product, Hassan said his research had revealed that a majority of people in Pakistan didn’t want to engage in interest-based financing.

“Obviously our [Pakistani] market is Muslim majority, so while searching from a financing perspective, one thing came into the spotlight that some customers don’t get financing because of religious concerns and I also wanted to have Shariah-compliant products,” Hassan said, adding that the service was not only for Muslims.

Talking about the challenges of the business, especially amid record inflation in Pakistan, Hassan said:

“The cost of capital and cost of financing has substantially gone up [in Pakistan]. Of course, it is a tough market to operate and the risk remains that if you are giving a loan to someone today and after six months he won’t be able to pay back.” 

The CEO admitted that some people defaulted but said the ratio remained in the single digit. 

Commenting on the cofounders’ inclusion in the Forbes list, Hassan said it came as a surprise.

“It was a sort of surprise for me because they don’t disclose before publication,” he said. “It is an honor for me, my team and of course, for Pakistan.”

Soldier killed in fire exchange with militants in northwestern Pakistan — army

Updated 06 June 2023

Soldier killed in fire exchange with militants in northwestern Pakistan — army

  • There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack
  • South Waziristan is known for attacks by the Pakistani Taliban

ISLAMABAD: A soldier was killed in an exchange of fire between Pakistani troops and militants in Pakistan’s northwestern South Waziristan District, the military said on Monday.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack in an area where Pakistani Taliban, or TTP, have been known to carry out attacks against security forces.

“Own troops effectively engaged the terrorists’ location,” the army’s media wing said. “However, during intense exchange of fire, Lance Naik Muhammad Sabir (age 30 years, resident of District Mansehra) having fought gallantly, embraced shahadat [martyrdom].”

“Sanitization of the area is being carried out to eliminate any other terrorists found in the area,” the army added.

The TTP seeks stricter enforcement of Islamic laws, the release of its members in government custody, and a reduction in Pakistani military presence in parts of northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the province bordering Afghanistan that it has long used as a base.

The TTP has stepped up attacks on Pakistani soldiers and police since November, when it unilaterally ended a cease-fire with the government after the failure of months of talks, hosted by Afghanistan’s Taliban rulers in Kabul.

The Pakistani Taliban regularly carry out shootings or bombings, especially in the rugged and remote northwestern Pakistan, a former TTP stronghold.

The uptick in violence has raised fears among residents of a possible military operation in the former tribal regions of North and South Waziristan, now two districts in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.