Artists showcasing at Ramadan exhibition in Dubai hope to bring Pakistani art to the world 

Visitors tour the exhibition "Spiritual Reflections" at the Conrad Dubai in collaboration with UAE-based Pakistani fine artist Maria Lari on April 5, 2024. (Photo courtesy: Social Arts x FS Karachiwala)
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Updated 06 April 2024
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Artists showcasing at Ramadan exhibition in Dubai hope to bring Pakistani art to the world 

  • A total of 19 artists are participating from Pakistan, UAE and Saudi Arabia 
  • Exhibition entitled Spiritual Reflections opened on April 4 at the Conrad Dubai

KARACHI: Artists from Pakistan and the UAE presenting at a special Ramadan exhibition in Dubai said this week such shows provided an opportunity for dialogue between cultures and to introduce Pakistani contemporary artists to global audiences. 

The group art exhibition called Spiritual Reflections is taking place at the Conrad Dubai in collaboration with UAE-based Pakistani fine artist Maria Lari, the founder of Social Arts, and award winning and internationally accredited art curator and consultant Faraz Siddiqui Karachiwala, who works between Karachi and Dubai. The show opened on Thursday, offering a curated selection of artworks centered around the transformative experiences of Ramadan.

According to a copy of the program, the artworks featured in Spiritual Reflections encompass a diverse range of artistic interpretations and visual narratives, exploring the themes of devotion, enlightenment, and wholeness. The exhibition aims to celebrate the evolving influence of art in nurturing spiritual growth, reflection, and self-discovery during the holy month of Ramadan. A total of 19 artists are participating from Pakistan, the UAE and one Saudi Arabia, selected out of over 100 submissions.




The mesh wire artwork represents whirlwind dervish by UAE-based Pakistani artist Mussarat Yasmin on the opening day of 'Spiritual Reflections' at Conrad Dubai on April 4, 2024. (Photo courtesy:  Mussarat Yasmin)

This is Karachiwala’s first curatorial project in the UAE.

“The main focus is to open endless possibilities and opportunities, fostering artistic connections between Pakistan and the UAE,” Karachiwala told Arab News in a phone interview.

“Being the first Pakistani to receive accreditation as an art curator from the Dubai government is an exceptional privilege. This allows me to contribute to the cultural landscape of the UAE in a more meaningful way. I am eager to explore these avenues with great enthusiasm and promote the rich cultural heritage of both countries.”

Soraya Sikander, widely considered one of the leading contemporary South Asian artists known for her landscapes and organic forms, said the show would expose UAE residents and others to Pakistani contemporary art.

“[They will be able to] see our thought process, ideas and inspiration,” Sikander, who has been based in the UAE since 2018, told Arab News on Thursday.




UAE-based Pakistani artist Shabnam Habib photographed next to her abstract artwork 'The Dark Night of the Soul' at 'Spiritual Reflections' at Conrad Dubai. (Photo courtesy:  Shabnam Habib)

Sikander’s work takes inspiration from South Asian art history, Mughal fresco, architecture and Iranian and Persian carpets. At the ongoing exhibition, she is exhibiting a painting of a magnificent blue tree.

“What’s special about this work is it’s suggesting the Garden of Eden and the tree, celebrating trees as a life-giving form,” Sikander explained. “It is very closely aligned with the spirit of Ramadan, Eid, giving, and fruit, ruit of knowledge, fruit-bearing, life, heaven. It has a very spiritual significance.”

Sikander said such collaborations were significant as they “bridged the gap” between Pakistan and the UAE.

“They bring together commonality, for instance, the spirit of Ramadan, Eid, the entire month of fasting, sacrificing and selflessness. ‘Spiritual Reflections’ brings together a very shared history. More than an exhibition, it is a dialogue. It’s a dialogue between cultures, civilizations, and stories,” the artist added. 

“The UAE and Pakistan have a strong relationship in terms of trade, cultural exchanges and how people are connected with one another. Of course, Pakistan played such a significant role in the development of the GCC at the start. A lot of Emirati families came to Pakistan, especially to the city of Karachi, and they learnt and went to local schools [there].”

Another UAE-based Pakistani artist Shabnam Habib, who operates in abstract expressionism using mixed media and has showcased her work at many global exhibitions, also said the Conrad show would introduce the world to Pakistani contemporary art. 




The UAE-based Pakistani artist Soraya Sikander poses for a photo next to her artwork showcased at the exhibition called 'Spiritual Reflections' at Conrad Dubai on April 4, 2024. (Photo courtesy: Soraya Sikander)

“Pakistani artists showcasing their work in the UAE gives them recognition in that space,” she said. 

“We are expats here and being recognized for our creative aspects is a big thing for us. UAE always provides such opportunities to all creatives. There are diverse nationalities here.”

Mesh wire artist Mussarat Yasmin, who was born in Pakistan and brought up in the UAE and now heads the art department at an American School in the UAE, said she was excited to work with Pakistani curators. 

“I always wanted to work with Pakistani curators because in the UAE we do not have many Pakistani curators, this is the first time it’s happening,” she said. 

“This exhibition is a big bridge between the UAE and Pakistan because we Pakistani artists are showcasing our work in the exhibition curated by a Pakistani curator. We are in a big number here.”


Sharif pledges ‘full support’ for ECO amid Pakistan’s regional trade, connectivity push 

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Sharif pledges ‘full support’ for ECO amid Pakistan’s regional trade, connectivity push 

  • Economic Cooperation Organization seeks to promote economic interests of member states in West, South and Central Asia
  • Pakistan has increasingly south to position itself as trade and transit hub connecting Central Asian states to rest of the world

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Thursday reaffirmed Pakistan’s commitment to extend its “full support” to the Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO) as Islamabad eyes greater regional connectivity and trade to sustain its fragile economy. 

Founded by Pakistan, Iran and Turkiye in 1964, the ECO describes itself as one of the oldest intergovernmental organizations that seeks to improve regional connectivity and enhance economic cooperation for countries in West, South and Central Asia. 

Sharif met the ECO’s outgoing Secretary-General Khusrav Noziri in Islamabad on Thursday during which the two spoke about Noziri’s contributions to the regional platform. 

“The Prime Minister reaffirmed his commitment that Pakistan would continue to lend its full support to ECO in enhancing intra-regional trade among ECO countries as well as on the ECO reforms agenda,” a statement from Sharif’s office said. 

Sharif said Pakistan was proud that the incoming ECO secretary-general was Dr. Asad Majeed Khan, Pakistan’s former foreign secretary. 

“The secretary-general conveyed his gratitude for Pakistan’s consistent support to him during his tenure as secretary-general ECO,” the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) said. 

PAKISTAN’S INVESTMENT, CONNECTIVITY PUSH

Pakistan has recently sought to forge deeper trade and economic ties with Central Asian countries. There has been a flurry of recent visits, investment talks and economic activity between Pakistan and these Central Asian countries, including meetings of top Pakistani officials with the leaders from Uzbekistan and Azerbaijan.

Located in a landlocked but resource-rich region, Central Asian countries need better access to regional markets including Pakistan, China, India and countries of West Asia. Meanwhile, Islamabad is seeking to bolster trade and investment ties with allies to stabilize its fragile $350 billion economy as it faces an acute balance of payment crisis amid soaring inflation and rising external debt.

It hopes to achieve this by positioning itself as a trade and transit hub connecting Central Asian countries to other parts of the world. Pakistan recently offered Central Asian states to become part of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor project, under which Beijing has pledged around $65 billion in energy, infrastructure and other projects in Pakistan

Pakistan is seeking to enhance its foreign exchange reserves and bolster its economy as it tries to cut reliance on international financial institutions such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) whose financial bailout packages come at a heavy cost for Islamabad. 

Sharif has repeatedly said his government wants mutually rewarding partnerships, not just loans, from regional allies. 


Police release chairman of Pakistan’s leading rights body after brief detention

Updated 37 min 47 sec ago
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Police release chairman of Pakistan’s leading rights body after brief detention

  • Chairman Human Rights Commission of Pakistan Asad Iqbal Butt says police questioned him about his ties to Baloch rights movement
  • Pakistani state has denied allegations by rights activists and politicians it is involved in enforced disappearances of people in Balochistan 

KARACHI: The chairperson of a leading rights body in Pakistan said he was detained by police in Karachi on Thursday who questioned him for raising his voice for the people of oppressed communities, particularly those from Balochistan. 

Asad Iqbal Butt, the chairperson of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) told Arab News police officials arrived at his house around noon on Thursday and took him to meet the Station House Officer (SHO) at Karachi’s Gulberg Police Station. 

Butt said the deputy superintendent of police (DSP) at the Gulberg station asked him whether he frequently visited Quetta to organize the Baloch rights movement. 

“I explained that the movement organizes itself and we support them when they face injustice, as we do for oppressed people of any ethnicity,” Butt said. 

Enforced disappearances is an enduring issue in Pakistan where relatives, politicians, and rights activists say many people who have gone missing, especially in Pakistan’s southwestern Balochistan province, have been abducted by Pakistani security forces on the pretext of fighting militancy.

The Pakistani state denies involvement in enforced disappearances. 

Butt said the police official accused him of having ties to the Baloch people. The HRCP chief said he responded to the DSP by telling him that he had ties to “oppressed people of every ethnicity, region, and religion.”

“I believe I was taken to police station because HRCP issued a strong statement on the Bannu issue,” Butt said, referring to last week’s shooting at a peace rally in Bannu that triggered a stampede, killing at least two and injuring 20 others. 

He said another reason for his detention could be that the HRCP is trying to prevent people from Karachi’s Lyari area, who wanted to attend an upcoming protest rally for “missing persons” in southwestern Gwadar city, from being detained by police. 

“They feared I would speak out, and HRCP’s support carries weight when it speaks,” he said. 

Karachi police officials did not respond to a request for a comment. 


Pakistan, Saudi Arabia agree to enhance cooperation in IT and cybersecurity 

Updated 25 July 2024
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Pakistan, Saudi Arabia agree to enhance cooperation in IT and cybersecurity 

  • Pakistan’s IT minister urges Saudi envoy to facilitate Pakistani companies in traveling, visa issues 
  • Much of the growth in Pakistan’s IT sector is driven by the work of tech startups and freelancers

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s IT Minister Shaza Fatima Khawaja and Saudi envoy Nawaf bin Said Al-Malki on Thursday discussed enhancing cooperation between the two countries in the fields of information technology and cybersecurity, state-run media said. 

Pakistan and Saudi Arabia enjoy close cooperation in various fields, including information technology. Pakistan recorded monthly IT exports of $257 million in February 2024, which were 32 percent more than in the same month last year. 

Dozens of Pakistani IT firms presented their innovative ideas and products at the LEAP tech exhibition in Riyadh from March 4 to 7, helping them secure lucrative deals with Saudi companies and pushing Pakistan’s IT exports to higher figures. 

Khawaja met Malki, Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to Pakistan, in Islamabad on Thursday to discuss bilateral cooperation in IT, telecommunication and cybersecurity. 

“Minister of State for IT Shaza Fatima said Pakistan intended to boost its relations with Saudi Arabia in the field of IT and Telecommunication,” the state-run Associated Press of Pakistan (APP) said. 

The minister urged Saudi Arabia to facilitate Pakistan’s IT firms, registered with the Pakistan Software Export Board, in securing visas to the kingdom.

“Ambassador Nawaf bin Saeed Ahmad Al-Malki said that Saudi Arabia will fully cooperate with Pakistan in the field of IT and Telecommunication,” APP said. 

“He also ensured to support and facilitate Pakistani tech companies in getting visa and traveling.”

Pakistan’s market for computer software has also seen steady growth for the past several years, with the total size of the software sector at approximately $3.2 billion. The US is Pakistan’s largest market for IT, accounting for 54.5 percent in the 2023 financial year, according to the International Trade Administration.

Pakistan’s IT sector consists primarily of software development and IT-enabled services for data centers, technical service/call centers, and telecom services, with 60 percent serving international customers. Much of the growth is driven by the work of freelancers and tech start-ups.


Pakistan says has ‘taken note’ of UK parliamentarians demanding ex-PM Khan’s release

Updated 25 July 2024
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Pakistan says has ‘taken note’ of UK parliamentarians demanding ex-PM Khan’s release

  • Members of Khan’s party on Tuesday spoke at British parliament about his incarceration, censorship in Pakistan
  • Pakistan’s foreign office spokesperson urges members of Britain’s parliament to promote “positive” bilateral ties

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s foreign office spokesperson on Thursday said it has “taken note” of the discussions that took place at the British parliament this week where lawmakers demanded former prime minister Imran Khan be released from prison. 

The UK parliament held a hearing on Tuesday that saw over a dozen British parliamentarians listen to members of Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party speaking about his incarceration, deteriorating law and order as well as growing censorship in Pakistan.

The event, jointly hosted by Conservative Peer Lord Daniel Hannan and British-Pakistani Labour MP Naz Shah, was attended by former Tory home secretary Priti Patel, Baroness Sayeeda Warsi, Labour MP Naushaba Khan, Lord Tariq Ahmad of Wimbledon and others.

The hearing resolved that the parliamentarians will call on British PM Keir Starmer and State Secretary David Lammy for the UK government to take note of a recent United Nations report into Khan’s incarceration and demand his release from prison, Khan’s PTI party said.

During a weekly press briefing, Foreign Office Spokesperson Mumtaz Zahra Baloch said the hearing was a private event in a side room of the House of Lords, adding that it was organized by a “political party.”

“We have taken note of the discussions that took place,” she said. “As we have said on several occasions, it is important that members of legislative bodies contribute to promoting positive dynamics in bilateral relations and contribute to developing mutual understanding and mutual respect between Pakistan and the home country.”

Khan has been in jail since August last year, even though all four convictions handed down to him ahead of a parliamentary election in February have either been suspended or overturned.

After being acquitted on the last of those four convictions, authorities rearrested Khan and his wife in an old corruption case on charges of selling state gifts unlawfully. 

He also faces an accusation of inciting his supporters to attack military installations in May last year. Khan denies all the accusations.

A UN panel of experts this month found that Khan’s detention “had no legal basis and appears to have been intended to disqualify him from running for political office.”

Khan’s PTI party secured the largest number of seats in parliament in the February general election despite what it says is a military-backed crackdown that aims to keep him out of power. It also won nearly two dozen extra parliament seats after a court ruling last week.


Pakistan court sets aside ex-PM Khan’s physical remand in May 9 riots cases

Updated 25 July 2024
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Pakistan court sets aside ex-PM Khan’s physical remand in May 9 riots cases

  • Anti-terrorism court in Lahore last week granted police Khan’s 10-day physical remand 
  • Khan, wife to remain in prison due to another reference which accuses them of “misusing powers” 

ISLAMABAD: A Pakistani high court on Thursday set aside a physical remand of former prime minister Imran Khan in a dozen new cases related to the May 9, 2023 riots, his lawyer confirmed.

An anti-terrorism court in Lahore last week granted police a 10-day physical remand of the former prime minister in a dozen fresh cases related to the May 9, 2023 attacks, when angry Khan supporters attacked military installations and government buildings across the country in response to his brief arrest. 

Khan had approached the Lahore High Court (LHC) on July 18, challenging his physical remand in the cases and requesting the court to declare it null and void. 

“The physical remand granted has been declared null and void,” Khan’s lawyer Naeem Haider Panjutha said in a video message. “This will prove to be a major setback for those who got elected through Form 47s,” he added, referring to the government. 

Khan was convicted in four cases ahead of a February national election and has been in jail since August last year, but all of the sentences against him, the last of them in a case in which he and his wife were convicted of violating Pakistan’s marriage laws, have since been overturned or suspended. 

Earlier this month, however, hours after being acquitted in the marriage case, a fresh corruption reference was filed against Khan and his wife by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB).

The new reference is related to the alleged “misuse of power in acquiring Toshakhana gifts.”

Khan and his wife are charged in the Toshakhana case with selling gifts worth more than 140 million rupees ($501,000) in state possession, which he received during his 2018-2022 premiership. The gifts included diamond jewelry and seven watches, six of them Rolexes — the most expensive being valued at 85 million rupees ($305,000).

Pakistani media widely reported on Sunday that an accountability court had approved an eight-day physical remand each for Khan and Bushra in the new NAB reference. 

Khan and his wife are expected to remain in prison due to their remand in the Toshakhana reference, which they have challenged at the Islamabad High Court.