In Pakistan’s mountainous north, women take up carpentry to fend for their families

Bibi Amina, a carpenter working under Ciqam project is seen cutting wood at their factory in Hunza Valley of Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan, on June 16, 2023. (AN photo)
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Updated 02 July 2023
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In Pakistan’s mountainous north, women take up carpentry to fend for their families

  • In Gilgit-Baltistan’s Hunza Valley, an initiative launched by a non-profit organization equips women with technical skills
  • Women carpenters say they use income from carpentry to run their homes and pay for children’s education expenses

HUNZA: Bibi Amina was one among only two women in Pakistan’s northern Hunza valley who were trained in the male-dominated craft of carpentry a few years ago. Now, 16 other women have taken up the craft and are using it skillfully to fashion furniture out of wood to provide for their families. 

Flanked by soaring mountain ranges and glaciers in Pakistan’s northern Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) region, a non-profit organization named the Aga Khan Cultural Service Pakistan (AKCSP) launched a project called ‘Ciqam’ (well-being in the local Hunza language) in 2003 in Hunza valley. 

The purpose of the project— which was funded by the Norwegian embassy in Pakistan as well from 2008-2017— is to train women in topographic and building surveys, carpentry, design and drafting, plumbing, and hospitality. Amina initially took up carpentry as a profession and hasn’t looked back since then. 

“The women who work here support their family; they [support] their children, brothers, and sisters for study and other expenses,” Amina told Arab News. “And the important thing is that they are confident. They do their work and go home.”




A women carpenter is busy designing a product in their factory located in Hunza Valley of Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan, on June 16, 2023. (AN photo)

Amina acknowledged that the women had to face issues initially, as Hunza’s residents were not used to women taking up carpentry as a profession. 

“Now, there is no issue and people accept them [women carpenters],” she said. 

Nazia, who wanted to be identified by her first name, also said she uses the income generated from carpentry to support her family and pay for her children’s education expenses. 

“Earlier, people used to criticize our work and say this is the work of men; [say to us that], ‘How could you do this work?’ Our families supported us and due to their support, we started carpentry,” Nazia told Arab News. 

“Neglecting other things, we continued our work.”




A group of women carpenters pose for a group photograph in their factory located in Hunza Valley of Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan, on June 16, 2023. (AN photo)

Women trained under the program use wood to craft furniture such as chairs, tables, and beds, and can also make doors, windows, and frames. 

Yasmeen, who also used her first name only, said she took up carpentry in 2015 as a trainee. After three years of training, Yasmeen learned the ropes and started working with the group. 

“Earlier, we used to do work for homes,” Yasmeen told Arab News. “I also used to sew clothes, but that was not beneficial. But I earn from here and run my home. I earn Rs20,000 ($69.81) per month,” she added. 

Ciqam CEO Aqeela Bano said the main function of the project is to empower women, adding that girls and women did not easily have access to education from 2008-2017 in GB hence the program was launched to equip them with technical skills. 

“In the short-term benefit of this project, hundreds of women were trained and their immediate needs were fulfilled,” Bano told Arab News. “For the long run, the carpenters who joined this field in the start are now master trainers.”

Bano said the project not only empowered women but also catered to environmental concerns. 

“The [women carpenters] use locally grown trees and strictly avoid using forest timbers,” Bano said. “And the two main objectives of this project are to ensure gender equality and make women skillful,” she added, vowing to extend the project to other districts as well. 

Amina is adamant about sharing her technical expertise and enabling more women to provide for their families in a profession usually dominated by men not only in Pakistan but around the world. 

“We worked and proved ourselves that we could do anything side by side with men,” she said. “And whenever the products become ready, we feel happy.” 


India’s massive election faces heatwave challenge in penultimate phase

Updated 8 sec ago
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India’s massive election faces heatwave challenge in penultimate phase

  • The Election Commission has deployed paramedics with medicines and oral hydration salts at polling stations in Delhi
  • In Haryana, people residing near polling booths pitched in to help voters, handing out cold drinks, dry fruits and milk

NEW DELHI: The world’s largest election may become the hottest on Saturday, as Indians participate in the next-to-last phase of voting with temperatures forecast to surge to 47 degrees Celsius (117 degrees Fahrenheit) in the capital New Delhi.
More than 111 million people in 58 constituencies across eight states and federal territories are eligible to vote in the general election’s sixth phase, which recorded a turnout of 10.82 percent in the first two hours of the 11-hour poll.
The overall turnout in the same phase of the last elections in 2019 was about 63 percent.
“There is a concern, but we hope that people will overcome the fear of the heatwave and come and vote,” Delhi Chief Electoral Officer P. Krishnamurthy told Reuters.
Voting in the elections began on April 19 and will conclude on June 1, with counting set for June 4.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, leader of the Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), who is favored to win a third consecutive term, also asked people to “vote in large numbers” in a message on social media platform X on Saturday.
The Election Commission has deployed paramedics with medicines and oral hydration salts at polling stations in Delhi, which have additionally been equipped with mist machines, shaded waiting areas and cold water dispensers for voters.
In some parts of the northern state of Haryana, people residing near polling booths also pitched in to help voters beat the heat, handing out cold drinks, dry fruits and milk free of cost.
Among those who cast their ballot early in Delhi were Rahul Gandhi, leader of the main opposition Congress party and Modi’s main rival, his mother Sonia Gandhi and sister Priyanka Vadra.
“We are keeping all our grievances aside and casting our vote for our constitution and democracy,” Vadra told reporters.
Opposition leader and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, whose bail after pre-trial detention of nearly two months in a graft case has given fresh impetus to the opposition campaign, also voted in the capital.
Price rise and unemployment were two of the major issues mentioned by voters to Reuters when asked about the factors that determined their ballot.
“The government boasts about fast economic growth but the reality on the ground is very different,” said Delhi voter Fazal, 46, who only gave his first name and works at a multinational corporation, adding he also voted to “save democracy.”
Ashok Ghana, a plumber in the eastern state of Odisha, who said he voted for the BJP, added that “price rise and the non-availability of jobs” were the issues he considered.
Among those who voted based on the situation in their region was property dealer Praveen Chauhan, 43, in Delhi.
“My main issues are clean water, electricity, access to good health care and education,” he said, adding that the Kejriwal-led Delhi government “has given us that till now.”
While the heatwave was a concern in Delhi, a cyclone that is expected to hit land tomorrow was being closely watched in eastern Odisha and West Bengal, parts of which are also voting on Saturday.


Pakistan plans to improve medical education framework, resolve issues of locals studying abroad

Updated 25 May 2024
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Pakistan plans to improve medical education framework, resolve issues of locals studying abroad

  • The development came days after hundreds of Pakistani medical students returned from Kyrgyzstan following last week’s mob attacks
  • Kyrgyz medical schools have over the decades become popular among aspiring doctors, thanks to affordable fees and living expenses

ISLAMABAD: Deputy Prime Minister Ishaq Dar on Friday called for improving regulatory framework for medical education in Pakistan to make it at par with international standards and to resolve issues faced by Pakistani students studying abroad, Pakistani state media reported.
The decision was made at a meeting of a government committee on medical education in Islamabad, which was presided over by Dar. The committee reviewed medical education system, including fee structures, and identified key areas for improvement to align it with global standards.
The development came days after hundreds of Pakistani medical students returned from Kyrgyzstan following last week’s mob attacks on residences of foreign students studying in the Kyrgyz capital of Bishkek over an earlier brawl between several Kyrgyz men and some Egyptian students.
Medical schools of Kyrgyzstan have over the last few decades become popular among aspiring doctors from India, Pakistan and some other Asian and Arab countries, in part thanks to relatively affordable fees and living expenses.
“The Deputy Prime Minister underlined the need to establish coordination mechanism between medical institutions and the public and private sector to ensure uniform high-quality education in all provinces,” the Radio Pakistan broadcaster reported.
“The meeting decided to constitute a sub-executive committee to review the existing TORs [terms of reference], synergize the regulatory bodies, streamline procedures for foreign students in Pakistan and uniformity in curricula.”
PM Shehbaz Sharif constituted the committee on medical education on May 20. The committee, which includes representatives of the medical community, education sector and government officials, was set up to reform medical education, improve health care standards and ensure highest quality of medical training for future generations of health care professionals.
“The sub-committee will prepare its report with the objective to ensure that medical graduates in Pakistan are equipped with the knowledge and skills required to meet contemporary health care challenges,” the report read.


Pakistan PM admires Ireland’s decision to recognize Palestine in phone call with counterpart

Updated 25 May 2024
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Pakistan PM admires Ireland’s decision to recognize Palestine in phone call with counterpart

  • Ireland, Spain and Norway this week said they would formally recognize Palestine as a state on May 28
  • The additions have brought the total number of countries recognizing the Palestinian state to nearly 150

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Friday held a telephonic conversation with his Irish counterpart Simon Harris, in which he admired Ireland’s recent decision to recognize Palestine as a state, Sharif’s office said.
The Pakistan prime minister felicitated his Irish counterpart on his assumption of office and remarked that his youth and dynamism would bring major changes to Ireland, according to a statement issued from Sharif’s office.
He noted that Pakistan had always advocated that a two-state solution, in accordance with relevant United Nations (UN) resolutions, was the only way to bring lasting peace to the Middle East.
“Ireland’s decision would send a message of hope and solidarity to the innocent Palestinians who were suffering Israel’s brutal atrocities,” Sharif was quoted as saying by his office.
“It would also go a long way in promoting the Palestine cause and would urge other countries to follow Ireland.”
The prime ministers of Ireland, Spain and Norway said on Wednesday they would formally recognize Palestine as a state on May 28, following recent recognitions by Barbados, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago and the Bahamas. The additions have brought the total number of countries recognizing the Palestinian state to nearly 150.
PM Harris said that Ireland had taken a principled decision in consultation with other European allies because the extent of Israel’s military action in Gaza could no longer be condoned in any way.
“The Irish felt that this decision was necessary to promote normalization in the occupied territories,” he was quoted as saying.
Sharif reaffirmed Pakistan’s strong commitment to the just struggle of the Palestinian people and lauded the decision of the International Court of Justice to order Israel to stop its assault on Gaza and Rafah.
Pakistan does not recognize the state of Israel and calls for an independent Palestinian state based on “internationally agreed parameters” and the pre-1967 borders with Al-Quds Al-Sharif as its capital.
In recent months, the South Asian country has repeatedly raised the issue of Israel’s war on Gaza, launched last October, at the United Nations through its permanent representative, Ambassador Munir Akram.


Pakistani delegation to seek investments during Kuwait visit by month-end

Updated 25 May 2024
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Pakistani delegation to seek investments during Kuwait visit by month-end

  • The delegation will be led by Pakistan’s investment minister Abdul Aleem Khan and hold meeting with top officials
  • Khan says the visit will also help create greater employment opportunities for Pakistani workforce in the Gulf state

ISLAMABAD: A high-level Pakistani delegation is expected to visit Kuwait by the end of the month to strengthen bilateral cooperation and highlight business opportunities in the country amid renewed efforts to attract investment from the Gulf state.
Last year, the two countries agreed to deepen their economic and investment ties during the visit of interim prime minister Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar to the Arab state in late November. The visit was billed as a significant step in enhancing the relationship between the two countries, with the signing of various memoranda of understanding aimed at boosting cooperation in fields such as manpower, information technology, mineral exploration, food security, energy and defense.
Kakar’s visit to Kuwait came just a few months after the country established the Special Investment Facilitation Council (SIFC), a civil-military hybrid body designed to oversee foreign financing with a specific focus on the Gulf region.
The upcoming visit of the Pakistani delegation, led by Federal Minister for Board of Investment, Privatization and Communications Abdul Aleem Khan, was announced in an official statement, although the exact dates were not specified.
“During the visit to Kuwait, there will be progress in providing employment to more workforce from Pakistan, especially health professionals and skilled labor,” Khan was quoted as saying in the statement.
“Pakistan will increase cooperation [with Kuwait] by taking on board its export companies for dairy farming, meat products, rice and other food items and move forward through accelerated measures,” he added.
The minister expressed optimism that the visit would mark the beginning of a new era of mutual cooperation, improvement in economic affairs and investment, for which the relevant departments were making preparations.
He presided over a meeting about the visit and told participants that Kuwait’s envoy had also been taken on board while making all necessary arrangements.
The delegation is expected to hold meetings with top officials of the Gulf country to discuss trade and business activities between the two countries.


Can New York hit cricket for 6? These guys think so

Updated 25 May 2024
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Can New York hit cricket for 6? These guys think so

  • The centuries-old English game has a feverish following throughout much of the world
  • But US, partial to American football, basketball and baseball, has been stubborn holdout

EAST MEADOW: In the shadow of New York skyscrapers a field of dreams emerges, but it is not a baseball diamond. It’s for another bat-and-ball sport — cricket — that supporters are betting will finally bowl Americans over.
The centuries-old English game has a feverish following throughout much of the world, but the United States, long partial to American football, basketball and national pastime baseball, has been a stubborn holdout.
That may change early next month when the United States has its moment in the cricket sun, co-hosting the Twenty20 World Cup — the championship series for a shortened format of cricket.
The temporary new stadium, financed entirely by the International Cricket Council, the sport’s global governing body, will host eight tournament matches including the June 9 headliner, a potentially epic clash between powerhouses India and Pakistan, two of the sport’s biggest rivals.
Some 10 miles (16 kilometers) east of New York, a forest of metal beams supporting 34,000 bleacher seats rises from Long Island’s Eisenhower Park, a site the ICC chose after its earlier plan in the Bronx fell through.
It is not quite the gracious as Lord’s cricket ground in London, but Nassau County International Cricket Stadium will be in the spotlight shortly — thanks to a swift green light from local authorities.
“The world is coming right here to Nassau County. You’re going to have kings and princes and big dignitaries,” beamed the county’s deputy commissioner of parks, Michael D’Ambrosio.
“A lot of people are very envious and jealous that we got this,” he told AFP, noting the tournament’s massive global viewership.
The ICC, for its part, is investing big in the sport’s future in the US, particularly the New York region, home to several hundred thousand people with links to cricket-playing countries, notably India and Pakistan.
The India-Pakistan showdown is already sold out, with tickets now topping $1,000 each online.
But once the stadium is dismantled in July, local cricket will return to its struggling state. Despite having around 10,000 players, the sport has no dedicated stadium in New York.
“Cricket is growing, but the infrastructure — that’s where the fight is,” lamented Ajith Shetty, president of the Commonwealth Cricket League (CCL), the region’s premier cricket grouping.
New York does field a team in Major League Cricket, the professional league launched last year, and plays on dedicated pitches — in Texas and North Carolina, where all MLC matches occur to control costs.
“We are exploring opportunities to create a permanent venue close to our loyal fan base,” a spokesperson for defending MLC champions MI New York told AFP.
Meanwhile CCL players lug a 500-pound (225-kilogram) mat from park to park, which acts as the “pitch,” the rectangular area at the center of a cricket field.
“No other sport has to put in this much work, only cricket in New York. They make us suffer,” said Shetty, an Indian-born entrepreneur.
“New York used to be a Makkah of cricket,” he added. But while conditions have stagnated in the Big Apple, other states have improved, especially Texas.
Houston is where team USA stunned Bangladesh on Thursday to sweep their three-match T20 international series ahead of the World Cup.
Backed by local entrepreneurs, some CCL clubs pay players thousands of dollars per year, although not enough to quit their day jobs.
Waqas Ashiq, who plays for Long Island United CC and recalls the struggles back when the team started in 2008, sees the glass half full.
“It’s been a long time coming,” he said before strolling on to the field to bat.
“I’m hopeful that with this World Cup coming, people get their interest piqued a little bit.”
According to Shetty, the entrepreneur, the ICC is keen to invest in US youth development, particularly in light of cricket returning to the Olympics, at the 2028 Games in Los Angeles. Schools are also showing interest.
The challenge now, agreed Ashiq, in addition to the quest for a permanent stadium, is involving the next generation — children of the cricket-loving immigrants who have made New York their home.
“That’s the only way to grow the sport and make sure it’s secure for the next 10, 20, 30 years.”