Iranian president to arrive in Pakistan on Monday for three-day visit— foreign office 

A handout picture provided by the Iranian presidency shows Iran's President Ebrahim Raisi (R) and Pakistan's Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif meeting after a ceremony to inaugurate a new border market in the border city in Iran's southeastern border city of Pishin on May 18, 2023. (AFP/File)
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Updated 21 April 2024
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Iranian president to arrive in Pakistan on Monday for three-day visit— foreign office 

  • Iranian president to arrive with his spouse and high-level delegation to discuss bilateral cooperation, says FO
  • Visit an important opportunity for Pakistan and Iran to strengthen ties rooted in history and religion, says FO

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s foreign office confirmed on Sunday that Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi will visit the country from Apr. 22-24, describing his trip as an “important opportunity” for both countries to strengthen bilateral ties and enhance cooperation. 

Raisi’s visit takes place days after Iran and Israel exchanged drone and missile strikes, escalating tensions in the already volatile Middle East. 

“President of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Dr. Seyyed Ebrahim Raisi will undertake an official visit to Pakistan from 22 to 24 April 2024,” the foreign office said in a statement. 

“This will be the first visit by any Head of State to Pakistan after the general elections in February 2024.”

Pakistan and Iran are often at odds with each other over instability on their shared border, with both countries routinely trading blame for not rooting out militancy.

Tensions surged in January when Pakistan and Iran exchanged air strikes, both claiming to target alleged militant hideouts in each other’s countries. Both sides have since then undertaken peace overtures and restored bilateral ties. 

Pakistan’s foreign office said Raisi will visit with his spouse and a high-level delegation, comprising Iran’s foreign minister and other cabinet members and a “large” business delegation.

The Iranian president would meet Pakistan’s president, prime minister, Senate chairman, National Assembly speaker and visit Lahore and Karachi where he will meet the provincial leadership of the country. 

“The two sides will have a wide-ranging agenda to further strengthen Pakistan-Iran ties and enhance cooperation in diverse fields including trade, connectivity, energy, agriculture, and people-to-people contacts,” the foreign office said. 

Discussions would also focus on regional and global developments as well as bilateral cooperation to combat “terrorism,” the statement added. 

“Pakistan and Iran enjoy strong bilateral ties anchored in history, culture and religion,” the foreign office said. “This visit provides an important opportunity to further strengthen Pakistan-Iran relations.”


Pakistani artist develops unique Urdu script to tell stories of the marginalized

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Pakistani artist develops unique Urdu script to tell stories of the marginalized

  • Self-taught maestro Ahmer Farooq’s work has been displayed at shows across the UAE, US, UK and Germany
  • On a global scale, contemporary Pakistani art has largely been recognized for truck art and neo-miniature paintings

ISLAMABAD: Pakistani artist Ahmer Farooq, a self-taught maestro whose work has been displayed at shows across the UAE, US, UK and Europe, has developed a unique Urdu script in his latest collection to tell the stories of Pakistan’s diverse socio-cultural landscape and put a spotlight on its many marginalized communities. 

On a global scale, contemporary Pakistani art has largely been recognized for two movements: truck art and neo-miniature art. Kaleidoscopic murals of flowers, Islamic motifs, calligraphy, snow-capped Himalayan peaks, local mosques and popular figures are renowned examples of Pakistani truck art. Over time, the art form has extended beyond trucks and streets, and can now be seen on everything from shoes to teapots, with contemporary artists like Karachi-born and bred Haider Ali exhibiting their distinctive truck art style to museums and exhibitions across the world.

Similarly, neo-miniature art has been championed by the likes of Shahzia Sikander and Imran Qureshi, a new generation of Pakistani artists who have transformed the historical miniature painting from the Mughal courts into a contemporary art form. Recently, a painting by Pakistani figurative artist Salman Toor sold for a record $1.2 million and his work is now included in the permanent collection of Tate Modern, one of the largest museums of modern and contemporary art in the world.

Pakistani artist Ahmer Farooq photographed next to his work during an exhibition on May 24, 2024, at Tanzara Gallery in Islamabad, Pakistan. (AN Photo)

In the past two decades, the Pakistani artistic community has also encouraged a vital culture of public art through the advent of local biennials, most notably the Lahore Biennial, established in 2018, and the Karachi Biennial, which held its first edition in 2017.

Against this background, Farooq, a Lahore-based former business graduate, has taken it upon himself to share the narratives he believes are often silenced by conservative Pakistani society. From the voices of religious minorities to the transgender community and large swathes of the population facing poverty, Farooq’s brush strokes capture the “essence of resilience and defiance against the odds.”

“Ahmer’s work has a very, when you see it, these bold vibrant paintings, but they’re very, very deep,” said Noshi Qadir, the curator of the artist’s latest show at Islamabad’s Tanzara Gallery, held in collaboration with the Norwegian Embassy. 

“The way he navigates the topography of the canvas, portraying the sufferings, the triumphs and the emotions of humans and their identity. So it’s very deep, it’s very thought provoking.”

This time, Farooq’s work has a twist: as a secret keeper of Pakistan’s marginalized, as he likes to describe himself, and to exercise discretion about their very private triumphs and tribulations, he has developed a unique script in Urdu, Pakistan’s national language.

“When you would look at the canvas, you would see that the information or the text is not really readable,” Farooq said as he pointed to large stylized calligraphic alphabets on his colorful canvases. 

“And that’s done deliberately because for example, when you’re looking at an individual like a person here, standing here, you would only see a person, but you would not really know their story or what all they’re going through. This information is private information.”

A painting by Pakistani artist Ahmer Farooq displayed at an exhibition on May 24, 2024, at Tanzara Gallery in Islamabad, Pakistan. (AN Photo)

The use of a secret new language was because his latest collection was all about “the stories of marginalized communities” of Pakistan, the artist said:

“And the marginalized communities can be anyone, it can be religious marginalized communities, it could be people from the transgender community. It could be people like you and I, like who don’t fit into a certain norm which the society tells us to follow.”

“ARCHIPELAGO OF THE SELF”

Per Albert Ilsas, the Norwegian ambassador to Pakistan who inaugurated the collection entitled Archipelago of the Self, said Farooq’s “captivating” work explored the “complex interplay between personal and societal forces, expertly navigating the multifaceted nature of the Self.”

An archipelago, sometimes called an island group or island chain, is a chain, cluster, or collection of islands, or sometimes a sea containing a small number of scattered islands.

“Farooq’s art sheds light on the fragmented realities of marginalized individuals, illustrating the negotiating of public, private and secret selves. Farooq’s work, the emotional burden caried by those living on the margins — women, religious minorities, ethnic and other minorities — is palpable.”

The ambassador said each brush stroke spoke of the “anxiety and emotional turmoil inherent in navigating a world where one’s identity is constantly scrutinized and judged.”

Ahmer described the Self as a collection of archipelagos, or a “scattering of isolated islands amidst the relentless ties of societal currents” and said his latest collection was an invitation to enable the “courage, resilience and hope of building bridges that reconnect all our islands.”

Zainab Shuja, an art student from Rawalpindi visiting Farooq’s exhibition, reflected on the significance of experiencing Pakistani contemporary art firsthand:

“We don’t see much contemporary art because we’re being trained [in the classical tradition] right now, and it’s always good to go out and experience what Pakistani contemporary art looks like. And we see all those influences here, and it’s really refreshing to see.”

Jonathan Andre from the Swiss Embassy in Islamabad praised Farooq’s art for its authenticity, highlighting the power of art to transcend boundaries and foster understanding. 

“I think his art is very particular, very special, very authentic, very original,” he said. “And it’s great to see such an art scene in Pakistan to see a mix of culture with art and it translates very well in artworks.”


As Pakistan’s Jacobabad sizzles at 49°C, residents brace for ‘unbearable’ heat in coming months

Updated 16 min 50 sec ago
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As Pakistan’s Jacobabad sizzles at 49°C, residents brace for ‘unbearable’ heat in coming months

  • Jacobabad in Pakistan’s southern Sindh province is counted among world’s hottest cities 
  • Residents say prolonged power crisis makes heat unbearable during summer months 

ISLAMABAD: The temperature in southern Pakistan’s Jacobabad city skyrocketed to 49° C on Sunday but residents said they feared the coming months would cause “unbearable heat” in the city, as many parts of the country remain in the grip of a heat wave. 

Jacobabad in Pakistan’s southern Sindh province is considered one of the hottest places on earth, where temperatures during the summer frequently cross 50° C. Prolonged power outages and water crisis mean the summer months are particularly harsh for the city’s roughly 300,000 residents. 

Pakistan’s disaster management authority warned earlier this month temperatures in certain areas of Pakistan’s Sindh and eastern Punjab provinces could surge to 40 degrees Celsius between May 15-30. 

But residents, however, are more concerned with what the coming months of June, July and August would bring. Zulfiqar Ali, the owner of a herbal medical shop in the city, said the breeze makes the current heat wave bearable. 

“The actual heat starts in June, July and August,” Ali told Reuters. “The winds stop totally at that time, so it becomes very humid. That heat is unbearable. We sweat so much that we cannot even work.”

Sharjil Ahmed, a school teacher, said residents consume cold drinks to beat the heat when the temperature crosses 50° C. However, power breakdowns make life difficult for the city’s residents. 

“Because of power load shedding, there is a shortage of ice most of the time,” Ahmed said. “We try to stay in the shade, under trees.”

Increased exposure to heat, and more heat waves, have been identified as one of the key impacts of climate change in Pakistan, with people experiencing extreme heat and seeing some of the highest temperatures in the world in recent years. The South Asian country of more than 241 million, one of the ten most vulnerable nations to climate change impacts, has also recently witnessed untimely downpours, flash floods and droughts.

Climate change-induced extreme heat can cause illnesses such as heat cramps, heat exhaustion, heatstroke, and hyperthermia. It can make certain chronic conditions worse, including cardiovascular, respiratory, and cerebrovascular disease and diabetes-related conditions, and can also result in acute incidents, such as hospitalizations due to strokes or renal disease.

According to the Global Climate Risk Index, nearly 10,000 Pakistanis have died while the country has suffered economic losses worth $3.8 billion due to climate change impacts between 1999 and 2018. A deadly heat wave that hit Pakistan’s largest city of Karachi, the capital of Sindh, claimed 120 lives in 2015.


Amid heat wave spell, authorities say mercury to rise further in southern Punjab from today 

Updated 27 May 2024
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Amid heat wave spell, authorities say mercury to rise further in southern Punjab from today 

  • Temperatures to rise in Bahawalpur, Rahim Yar Khan, Bahawalnagar, Dera Ghazi Khan, Multan districts from Monday
  • Heat wave first spell to last till May 30, second to begin from June 7-8 followed by third one in last week of June 

ISLAMABAD: A spokesman for the Punjab Disaster Management Authority has said temperatures will continue to rise in southern parts of the Punjab province from today, Monday, amid an ongoing heat wave that is expected to carry on until next month.

Pakistan’s disaster management authority warned earlier this month temperatures in certain areas of Pakistan’s southern Sindh and eastern Punjab provinces could surge to 40 degrees Celsius between May 15-30. The Provincial Disaster Management Authority (PDMA) warned of an “intense” heat wave in the southern districts of Punjab, with severe risk identified in Bahawalpur, Rahim Yar Khan, Dera Ghazi Khan and Multan districts from May 21 to May 27.

An estimated 18 million students are also unable to attend classes because Punjab, Pakistan’s populous province Punjab, has ordered shutting down schools this month due to rising temperatures. 

“Mercury will rise further in Bahawalpur, Rahim Yar Khan, Bahawalnagar, Dera Ghazi Khan and Multan districts from today, Monday,” a Punjab official was quoted as saying by state broadcaster Radio Pakistan on Monday. 

“The National Institute of Health has advised people to avoid unnecessary outings and drink more water to prevent themselves from the effects of heatwave.”

Addressing a press conference last week, the Prime Minister’s Coordinator on Climate Change Romina Khurshid Alam said 26 districts of the country were in the grips of a heat wave since May 21. 

Alam said the first wave would last till May 30, the second would begin from June 7-8 and the third one in the last week of June. May and June were recorded as the “hottest and driest” with higher monthly average temperatures, she added, appealing to the masses, especially children and elderly, to adopt preventive measures.

She noted that the severity of heat waves had increased rapidly during the past few months with 13 districts of Sindh, nine of Punjab and four districts of Balochistan experiencing “severe heat.”

“Harsh weather is likely to persist at least till June 3. There is no possibility for respite, at least for Sindh. The heat spell may break in parts of Punjab but that, too, after June 4,” the chief meteorologist said last week.

Increased exposure to heat, and more heat waves, have been identified as one of the key impacts of climate change in Pakistan, with people experiencing extreme heat and seeing some of the highest temperatures in the world in recent years. The South Asian country of more than 241 million, one of the ten most vulnerable nations to climate change impacts, has also recently witnessed untimely downpours, flash floods and droughts.

Climate change-induced extreme heat can cause illnesses such as heat cramps, heat exhaustion, heatstroke, and hyperthermia. It can make certain chronic conditions worse, including cardiovascular, respiratory, and cerebrovascular disease and diabetes-related conditions, and can also result in acute incidents, such as hospitalizations due to strokes or renal disease.

According to the Global Climate Risk Index, nearly 10,000 Pakistanis have died while the country has suffered economic losses worth $3.8 billion due to climate change impacts between 1999 and 2018. A deadly heat wave that hit Pakistan’s largest city of Karachi, the capital of Sindh, claimed 120 lives in 2015.

In 2022, torrential monsoon rains triggered the most devastating floods in Pakistan’s history, killing around 1,700 people and affecting over 33 million, a staggering number close to the population of Canada. Millions of homes, tens of thousands of schools and thousands of kilometers of roads and railways are yet to be rebuilt.


Pakistan PM praises European countries for recognizing Palestinian state, hopes for same attention for Kashmir

Updated 27 May 2024
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Pakistan PM praises European countries for recognizing Palestinian state, hopes for same attention for Kashmir

  • Prime ministers of Ireland, Spain and Norway have said they will formally recognize Palestine as a state on May 28
  • Himalayan region of Kashmir, administered in parts by India and Pakistan, has been a flashpoint between them since 1947

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Monday praised Spain, Norway and Ireland for their decision to recognize the state of Palestine, hoping that the international community will “pay the same amount of attention” to the plight of the people of Kashmir. 

The prime ministers of Ireland, Spain and Norway announced 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.

In a telephonic conversation with Norwegian PM Jonas Gahr Store on Sunday night, PM Sharif appreciated Norway’s “principled stance,” adding that it would send a message of hope and solidarity to the people of Kashmir suffering continuous bombardment at Israel’s hands. 

“I expressed my hope that this bold, principled decision by Norway, Spain, and Ireland will encourage other countries to recognize the State of Palestine,” Sharif wrote on social media platform X from his official account that shares updates in Arabic. 

“We hope the international community will pay the same amount of attention to the suffering and tragedy of Kashmiris who have been suffering from oppression and brutal occupation for 76 years.”

The Himalayan region of Kashmir has been a flashpoint between India and Pakistan since 1947 when the two countries gained independence from British colonial India. The nuclear-armed South Asian neighbors have fought two out of three wars over Kashmir. 
Both countries claim the territory in full but administer parts of it. The western portion of the larger Kashmir region is administered by Pakistan as a nominally self-governing entity.
On Aug. 5 2019, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi withdrew Indian-administered Kashmir’s autonomy in a move that was seen by analysts as a strategy to tighten his grip over the territory. The decision provoked outrage in Pakistan and triggered the downgrading of diplomatic ties and suspension of bilateral trade between the two countries. 
Israel’s war on Gaza has sparked international condemnation from rights activists and organizations and countries around the world. Israel’s constant bombardment has killed nearly 36,000 Palestinians, according to Gaza’s Health Ministry, which does not distinguish between civilians and fighters in its count. 
Around 80 percent of Gaza’s 2.3 million people have fled their homes while severe hunger is widespread and UN officials say parts of the territory are experiencing famine.

Israel says Hamas triggered the war with its Oct. 7 attacks on Israel, in which Palestinian militants killed some 1,200 people and seized some 250 hostages. Hamas still holds some 100 hostages after many were released during a ceasefire last year.


ICC includes Pakistani legends Wasim, Waqar and Ramiz in World Cup commentary panel

Updated 27 May 2024
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ICC includes Pakistani legends Wasim, Waqar and Ramiz in World Cup commentary panel

  • Wasim Akram and Ramiz Raja are former World Cup winners who will share expert analysis during T20 World Cup 2024
  • Veterans Ravi Shastri, Nasser Hussain, Ian Smith, Mel Jones, Harsha Bhogle and Ian Bishop to lead commentary team

ISLAMABAD: The International Cricket Council (ICC) recently announced it has roped in Pakistani cricket legends Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis and Ramiz Raja as members of a star-studded commentary panel for next month’s T20 World Cup to share their insights and expert analysis during matches. 

The ICC Men’s T20 World Cup 2024, scheduled to kick off from June 1-29, will feature 20 teams across the world compete for the trophy. The tournament will be hosted for the first time partly in the United States while the West Indies will also host some matches of the tournament.

In a post on Sunday, the ICC said the commentary panel would be led by veterans such as Ravi Shastri, Nasser Hussain, Ian Smith, Mel Jones, Harsha Bhogle and Ian Bishop. Former men’s and women’s T20 World Cup champions Dinesh Karthik, Ebony Rainford-Brent, Samuel Badree, Carlos Brathwaite, Steve Smith, Aaron Finch and Lisa Sthalekar will also add insights to the game during the matches. 

“Former 50-over World Cup winners Ricky Ponting, Sunil Gavaskar, Matthew Hayden, Ramiz Raja, Eoin Morgan, Tom Moody and Wasim Akram will also be lending their expert analysis to the upcoming tournament,” the ICC said. 

The global cricket body said other big names part of the commentary team are Pakistan’s Younis, Dale Steyn, Graeme Smith, Michael Atherton, Simon Doull, Shaun Pollock and Katey Martin. Renowned names in broadcasting such as Mpumelelo Mbangwa, Natalie Germanos, Danny Morrison, Alison Mitchell, Alan Wilkins, Brian Murgatroyd, Mike Haysman, Ian Ward, Athar Ali Khan, Russel Arnold, Niall O’Brien, Kass Naidoo and former West Indies skipper Daren Ganga will also be part of the commentary team.

ICC will provide extensive coverage of the tournament across the 28 days of action with a pre-match show, an innings interval program and a post-match wrap-up.

The T20 World Cup is being seen by the ICC as a launch pad toward the sport’s return to the Olympics for Los Angeles 2028. The ninth edition of the tournament, in the fastest and most explosive form of the game, will be the biggest ever after the decision of the International Cricket Council (ICC) to expand the field from 16 nations to 20.

Nepal, Papua New Guinea and Oman are among nations relatively new to the big stage who will be looking to make their mark and grab attention with an upset win or two during the tournament.

Groups for T20 World Cup 2024

Group A: India, Pakistan, Ireland, Canada, United States

Group B: England, Australia, Namibia, Scotland, Oman

Group C: New Zealand, West Indies, Afghanistan, Uganda, Papua New Guinea

Group D: South Africa, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Netherlands, Nepal