Thursday, April 18, 2024 | Daily Newspaper published by GPPC Doha, Qatar.
 Kamran Rehmat
Kamran Rehmat
Kamran Rehmat is the Op-ed and Features Editor at Gulf Times. He has edited newspapers and magazines, and writes on a range of subjects from politics and sports to showbiz and culture. Widely read and travelled, he has a rich background in both print and electronic media.
FLIGHT OUT: Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif is back in London for treatment. Reuters
Heat over Sharif court reprieve

Finally, weeks after the uncertainty surrounding Nawaz Sharif’s departure from Pakistan for treatment abroad, the former prime minister is back in London.  The days leading up to his eventual but conditional exit from Pakistan had all the makings of an engrossing drama that is staple for a Pakistani audience honed on twists and turns of fate before lady luck intervenes to bail out the protagonist. Except that this is real life and it tested the mettle of key actors to the hilt before the air ambulance took off from Lahore, Pakistan’s art and cultural capital! All of last week the news cycle in Pakistan was hooked to what seemed like a battle of attrition between the main opposition party — the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) named after Sharif but one which he no longer can lead in official capacity after being disqualified from holding public or party office by the Supreme Court for concealing assets and false testimony in poll nomination papers, and the ruling Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaf (PTI) government. Sharif is currently serving a seven year-prison sentence for conviction in one case, is on bail from two other corruption cases and facing another reference from the National Accountability Bureau (NAB). Interestingly, the current NAB chief, who remains vocal about uncompromised accountability, was an appointee of the Sharif government, which consulted the-then opposition leader from the Pakistan People’s Party to put him in office — a legal requirement.  Prime Minister Imran Khan has had a tightrope walk over the issue after medical reports emerged about Sharif’s deteriorating medical condition, which a panel of medical experts also verified as being serious enough to merit intervention.  The three-time former PM, who will turn 70 next month, is suffering from an immune system disorder, highlighted more recently by diving blood platelets, which caused an alarm necessitating taking him from the prison to hospital. Reportedly, diagnosis became an issue to the extent that the idea of seeking treatment abroad gained ground swiftly. As a result, his party approached the court which granted him an eight-week release. Prime Minister Khan, whose entire political career and capital is pivoted around the anti-corruption mantra, and who relentlessly pursued the so-called Panama Papers case that first revealed Sharif family’s unexplained wealth and assets abroad and which eventually led to his ouster from power, put up the issue of any permission for Sharif’s treatment abroad before the federal cabinet where it ran into major opposition and made it difficult for the PM to simply issue a carte blanche.  Although the premier had wisened up to the reality of Sharif’s medical emergency and even hinted at it publicly in probable anticipation of being forced to ease him out, he was wary of the public backlash from his own constituency in the backdrop of rumours surrounding a possible “deal”. What made it more pronounced was the PM’s claim in the recent past that he had fended off pressure from some foreign powers to bail out Sharif. After marathon meetings, the PTI government decided to allow the PML-N supremo to proceed for medical treatment abroad conditional to submitting an indemnity bond to the tune of Rs7.5 billion (or its equivalent in UK/US currency). The one-time permission would be for four weeks starting from the date of departure.  Announcing this in a presser, Law Minister Farogh Naseem spoke on various legal aspects of the decision which however, did not include removing Sharif’s name from the Exit Control List (ECL) since “under the law, the name of a convicted prisoner cannot be removed from the ECL” — a decision the government has stuck to despite letting out Sharif. The minister also dismissed the notion that the indemnity bond was a political move, saying it was being sought as a guarantee only for Sharif’s return to fulfil legal requirements. He countered that the court and public could foreseeably question the government on what guarantees it had sought to allow a convict to proceed abroad.  That having said, the general impression is that despite drawing strong criticism from the PML-N over it what it called ‘playing politics’ over Sharif’s health, apparently, the PTI government threw in a proviso to dispel notions of a sell-out with a gambit to push the ball out of its court — and into the real one, on form. Expectedly, the PML-N moved Lahore High Court (LHC) to seek a judicial reprieve rather than being seen to pay what it publicly bemoaned as “ransom” to the government. The LHC swiftly took up the case and, on an off-day, handed PML-N a convenient route by overruling the indemnity bond sought by the government.  In the end, Shahbaz Sharif, the younger brother of the ex-prime minister and current opposition leader, submitted a written guarantee to the court for his return after treatment, which paved the way for his flight to London on Tuesday. While the LHC ruling has generated heat with the running interpretation amongst critics being that there was one set of law for the mighty and another for lesser mortals, Prime Minister Khan would be hard-pressed to completely ward off notion of a political compromise.  At a public meeting following the verdict, he seemed unhappy with the verdict and made it a point to appeal to the current chief justice of the Supreme Court and his forthcoming successor — by name — to “restore the confidence of the public in courts” by removing the perception that there is discrimination between the powerful and the weak, and that the application of law is equal for all. However, two days later the chief justice retorted that it wasn’t appropriate to criticise the judiciary and that it was the government that allowed (Sharif) to go. While admitting that no institution was “perfect”, he said there was “a silent revolution in the judiciary”. Before the top adjudicator’s response, the premier seemed to have tided over any remarkable adverse reaction because the LHC verdict was being largely interpreted in two ways; a humanitarian gesture or one that reinforced the ‘discrimination’ divide. He would now hope the optics of apparently taking a stand bears fruit with Sharif returning home at some stage. l The writer is Features Editor. He tweets @kaamyabi

DIVIDENDS OF PEACE: Thousands of devotees from India at the Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Kartarpur, Pakistan, after the opening of the corridor on Saturday. (Reuters)
Kartarpur: Winning hearts and minds

Bliss it was in that dawn to be alive! Saturday, November 9, 2019, will go down in the history of the subcontinent not only as a milestone but also a sterling reminder of what is possible when the human spirit soars over manmade borders and barriers in an all-conquering flight of imagination.  The day, closer to home in Kartarpur — the last resting place of Baba Guru Nanak Dev, the founder of Sikhism — also represents perhaps, Pakistan’s biggest and now its most celebrated peace initiative in the 21st century, completely overriding tense relations with neighbouring India, which also signed to pave the way for his disciples to cross over into Pakistan.  The 9-km corridor links Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Narowal district of Pakistan’s Punjab province, Guru Nanak Dev’s birth and final resting place, to Dera Baba Nanak shrine in Indian Punjab’s Gurdaspur district. For this past week, emotionally charged stories of reunion or simply return to roots following seven decades of separation that followed the bloody Partition of 1947 — the harbinger of the single largest exodus of humankind in history — continue to dot the media landscape. Several videos have since also gone viral; some funny, others sober, but nearly all endearing. Previous attempts to build a corridor and open the religious shrine for Sikhs, particularly from India, which is home to the largest population of faithfuls, often became a collateral for the up-and-down nature of the bilateral relations.  As has been described several times this past week, it was a classic case of ‘so near yet so far’ — with Sikhs able to merely spot the holy site some 4km from the international border but, tragically unable to cross it.    Since living up to his promise of opening the Kartarpur Corridor in less than a year after laying the foundation stone, Prime Minister Imran Khan has been hailed as a peacemaker and showered with love even across the border in India, with a rare public note of thanks also coming from his counterpart Narendra Modi.  This was amply demonstrated by a stirring speech at the Kartarpur inauguration delivered by Navjot Singh Sidhu, former Indian Punjab minister and current MLA, who roused the audience with his signature poetic depiction, only this time it had a sweeping tremolo.  Describing Khan as a “lionhearted” peacemaker immune to the idea of counting political gains and losses and concerned only with uniting people, Sidhu thundered: “For four generations, our people paid the price of the partition-wrought bloodletting. In 72 years, no-one did for our nation what Imran Khan has done”.      Turning to his one-time cricket adversary, Sidhu said: “Khan Sahib, you have made history and nobody can deny your place in it. You are the sikandar (conqueror) of hearts. And while Sikandar (Alexander the Great) had won the world with fear, you have conquered the world by winning hearts.” Prime Minister Khan in his speech reiterated the peace offer he made to his Indian counterpart even before assuming office in August last year and hoped one day the two countries would find their calling as neighbours coexisting in peace. Khan said he was humbled by what he could do to facilitate the world Sikh population and likened their long decades of yearning to how Muslims would feel if they were able to see Madina, the last resting place of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) from a distance, but not being able to visit it. Another prominent presence at the Kartarpur ceremony was former Indian prime minister Manmohan Singh, who made a poignant return to the land of his birth. The journey took Singh 72 years; despite remaining in office for 10 years and receiving several official and unofficial invitations, he could not make it, which again, is put down to political compulsions.   Last Saturday, Singh led the first delegation of Sikh pilgrims as they entered Pakistan through the Kartarpur corridor. Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi warmly received him and his wife Gursharan Kaur, and recounted to him how the former first lady herself made tea for him when they last met. The ex-Indian premier called the Kartarpur opening a “big moment” and even before entering Pakistan had stated at a special session of the Punjab Assembly to mark the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak that the “Kartarpur model” had the potential to resolve future conflicts. “Peace and harmony is the only way forward to ensure a prosperous future. The Kartarpur model may be replicated in future, too, for lasting resolution of conflicts,” Singh said at the session. For the uninitiated, Kartarpur marks the most significant and constructive phase in Guru Nanak’s life. It was here, on the banks of the Ravi, that he laid the foundations of a new faith. Nanak came to the town between 1520 and 1522 after he had travelled extensively across continents. He spent the formative years of his life at Talwandi, a town 90km west of Pakistan’s cultural capital Lahore, where he was born in 1469. It was later renamed Nankana Sahib in his honour. Today, it is the capital of Nankana Sahib district. Guru Nanak spent the next 10 years at Sultanpur Lodhi where he attained enlightenment. And for the next 20 years, he travelled across many countries and continents before coming to Kartarpur.  Interestingly, Pakistan hosts the three most important shrines that directly connect Sikhs to Guru Nanak and therefore, the ‘land of the pure’, which is what Pakistan literally means. The first is the Nankana Sahib, where he was born 550 years ago; the second is Panja Sahib, which marks the site of a major episode during his travels; and the third Kartarpur Sahib, built on the banks of the Ravi, where he spent the last 18 years of his life. Notably, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi in his speech said the Imran Khan government was now moving to work on the restoration of 400 Hindu temples that had been identified for the purpose and open them to religious tourism in the future as well. The writer is Features Editor. He tweets @kaamyabi

BOXED INTO A CORNER: Fazlur Rehman addressing the JUI-F sit-in in Islamabad. AFP
JUI-F: Which way will the cookie crumble?

Fazlur Rehman, chief of his faction of the right-wing Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F), currently holding Islamabad to ransom with thousands of his followers to force Prime Minister Imran Khan to resign is a wily old politician with a near unparalleled streak of finding himself into the corridors of power, any which way. Until now, that is. The JUI-F supremo is demanding that Khan resign because in his view the incumbent has come into power through a rigged election and failed to deliver. Rehman himself lost both his seats in the National Assembly — lower house of Pakistan’s bicameral legislature — in last year’s general elections. The portly 66-year-old lost the seats to much younger contestants from Khan’s Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaf (PTI). Rehman also lost heavily in the subsequent presidential polls to the PTI’s candidate Dr Arif Alvi in a failed attempt to enter the parliament through other means. He has since rallied the two main opposition parties namely, the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), both of whose leaders are incarcerated over corruption charges and abuse of power (ex-PM and PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif is already convicted) and have their own axes to grind, in a studied endeavour to revive his and their political fortunes. Interestingly, despite publicly supporting Rehman and his campaign to oust the Khan government, the two parties have baulked at the idea of forcing the issue through extra-constitutional means and refused to be a part of the JUI-F’s sit-in, leaving Rehman isolated and on the edge. The general perception is that the two parties are doing so to seek concessions for their own jailed leaders, one of whom, Sharif, has already been released by court for eight weeks on medical grounds. So why is Rehman bent on trying to upset the applecart and why now when the Khan government has painstakingly fronted multifarious challenges to navigate the country to some form of political and economic stability? The commentariat in Pakistan has a near consensus on the running theme — Rehman’s desperate but mostly vain attempts to stay politically relevant. His political scorecard makes for not only interesting reading but serves as a valuable guide to understand where he is coming from. Since succeeding his cleric father Mufti Mehmood in 1980 — an event which itself caused a split in the party since the much senior cleric Samiul Haq refused to work under the-then 27-year-old — Rehman’s ability to somersault for a share of spoils has meant he has trucked with almost all key political allies and rivals with the finesse of a gymnast. Consider two examples. After raising the political heat on General Pervez Musharraf for his decision to sign with the US on the war-on-terror post-Nine Eleven, driving support for Taliban against Western forces in Afghanistan and pushing for enforcing Shariah, he conveniently dropped the “ideology” to suit his ambition for power. He even didn’t let Musharraf putting him under house for almost half a year come in the way of getting the Opposition Leader’s slot as he cut a deal to support the general’s controversial Legal Framework Order that enabled the strongman to give legal cover to his extra-constitutional steps and stay on in power! Similarly, the cleric at one time opposed the rule of a woman in Islam — two-time prime minister Benazir Bhutto, in this instance — but then conveniently, settled for a role as chairman of the National Assembly’s Kashmir Committee under her government where he effectively, used a large number of foreign visits for joy ride at public expense as well as other perks. But nothing quite beats the infamous WikiLeaks cable of November 27, 2007 from Anne Patterson, the-then US ambassador in Islamabad, which offers a fascinating insight into the mind of the JUI-F chief and his insatiable lust for power. The said cable indicated to the US that his “still significant” number of votes were “up for sale” even if his party’s voter support dropped in the 2007 general elections. Patterson’s cable provided details of a meeting between JUI-F leaders Abdul Ghafoor Haideri, Senator Talha Mahmood, Senator Azam Swati and Malik Sikander Khan and US diplomats, in which she wrote: “Fazlur enjoys being courted by both Musharraf and Bhutto and sees himself increasingly in the lucrative position of being kingmaker, if not the next Prime Minister, because of JUI-F’s voter strength in what may be a three-way vote tie among Pakistan’s major parties. Even if JUI-F’s voter support drops, he has made it clear that, free and fair elections notwithstanding, his still significant number of votes are up for sale.” The ambassador acknowledged that JUI-F wanted to be a major party and wanted to be “more engaged with the US”. The cable added: “At one point in the conversation, Rehman asked the Ambassador if the USG (United States Government) would deal with him if he was elected as Prime Minister and cautioned the USG not to put all of its eggs in the basket of Benazir Bhutto. Ambassador noted that it was not USG policy to crown any particular leader in Pakistan….Rehman indicated his desire to travel to the US and suggested he could lobby the Congress and American think tanks “as well as Benazir Bhutto.” Ironically, for someone who relented on his declared opposition to the late Benazir for a share of spoils, he and his party have an abiding misogynist streak and publicly disapprove of women’s participation in public rallies in a country where just a tip over half the population is female. Even women journalists were forced to leave their ongoing sit-in! So will a desperate Rehman eventually carry out his threats to march on the PM House and force his exit? Even as a government committee engages regularly with the opposition’s Rehbar Committee — and more recently, the entry of wily political cousins, Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain and Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi, who have his ears — for a peaceful way out, the powerful military’s public pledge earlier this week “to support national institutions at any cost” would likely have chastened Rehman to the outer limits of a misadventure. lThe writer is Features Editor. He tweets @kaamyabi

GAME-CHANGER: Pakistanu2019s Sana Mir seen here at the Asia Society event in New York last week has infused a generational change in parents with daughters through her exploits, including exceptional leadership skills.
Mir-roring change through leadership

Female empowerment is a universal subject regardless of where the action is — the First World or the Third. In that realm, the degree of freedom and inalienable right to seek and achieve excellence is relative. In a more pronounced way, it is reflective of the odds women all over the world have to face — and eventually, overcome — to make their mark. Pakistan is no different even though it has produced a fair share of daughters of substance who could hold their heads high for what they came to represent on a global scale. From Fatima Jinnah, the resolute sister of Pakistan’s founder Muhammad Ali Jinnah living a life of self-denial to realise the dream of an independent state, to Benazir Bhutto, the Muslim world’s first female chief executive, and from Malala Yousafzai, the youngest Nobel laureate (just a schoolgirl when she captured the imagination of the world with her courage and activism for the right to education for the girl child) to more recently, Sana Mir, the game changing cricketer of merit, there’s plenty of inspiration. An inspiring figure in the international women’s game, 33-year-old Mir was contemplating retirement after passing on the baton of leadership in an unprecedented transition of power in Pakistan to a younger teammate only two years ago but mercifully, she is not done yet. Last week Mir was honoured with the prestigious 2019 Asia Society Game Changers award in New York — the second Pakistani after Malala — in the latest recognition of her stellar work beyond the cricket field that first made her famous. Founded in 1956 by John D Rockefellar 3rd, the Asia Society is the leading educational organisation dedicated to promoting mutual understanding and strengthening partnerships among peoples, leaders and institutions of Asia and the US in a global context. The Society’s Game Changers award identifies and honours true leaders who are making a positive contribution to the future of Asia. What makes Sana Mir’s inclusion amongst this year’s honourees special was that it marked the first time since the awards were instituted five years ago that all the awardees were path-breaking females! The list this year included Japan’s Yuriko Koike, the current and first female governor of Tokyo; China’s Jane Jie Sun, the leader of Ctrip, a $25-bn travel company in China; Sheikha Hoor al-Qasimi from the United Arab Emirates, a pioneer in the art world; Chhaya Sharma, a senior Indian police officer in charge of a team of investigators that solves some of New Delhi’s toughest crimes; and last but not least, Kung Fu Nuns, a group of Buddhist nuns, who have harnessed their mastery of martial arts and are also widely known for their social activism and humanitarian work. While presenting the award, Asia Society Co-Chairperson Ambassador Chan Heng Chee said: “Sana Mir is first and foremost a true champion in her field, she’s also a champion for millions of girls and young women on the field and off. As a child growing up in Pakistan, Sana Mir saw few other girls — and even fewer women — playing the national sport: cricket. Refusing to let that stop her, Mir joined the country’s fledgling women’s cricket team and went on to become its captain and eventually, (amongst) the top female cricketers in the world”. The citation underlined her leadership métier thus: “She led (Pakistan) to gold medal wins at the Asia Games in 2010 and 2014. Mir recently became the world’s top-ranked bowler for one-day internationals; and, the top wicket-taker for spinners ever among women in ODIs. She has been decorated with the Pakistani medal of excellence known as the Tamgha-e-Imtiaz, similar to the US Congressional Medal of Honor; won the People’s Choice Award at the Pakistan Sports Awards; and, was recently inducted into the ICC Women’s Committee as one of three female players’ representatives to the preeminent cricket body. And in 2017, she became a member of the Asia 21 Young Leaders network”. Mir, who was declared the first Pakistani ‘Woman Cricketer of the Year’ in 2013, is also her country’s first female player to take hundred ODI wickets, first to feature in 100 T20s as well as the highest wicket-taker in both formats. She has also been ranked in the Top 20 for nine years and under her captaincy, 8 Pakistani players featured in the Top 20 ODI rankings. Mir’s succinct acceptance speech truly reflected her selfless conduct and world vision ( Typically, she eschewed revelling in her glorious hour and instead dedicated it to those standing up for climate change, women helping each other and children of war-torn nations. She did this by poignantly evoking Sir Allama Muhammad Iqbal, Pakistan’s national poet, whose famous verses underlining a universal message of seeking the light of education and staying the course of humanity and compassion most Pakistani children learn at school. Saying that she was truly humbled and honoured to receive the award, Mir implored the world to comprehend the scale of global issues by seeing it through a child’s eyes. “My prayer today is that the leaders of today and tomorrow see the world through the lens of the child, the way the child sees the world, so we can safeguard their rights without regard to the colour of their skin, race, religion, or nationality”. Holding on to her values, Mir has refused to endorse beauty products throughout her career, and famously called out adverts for associating being beautiful with success in sport.  The takeaway quote? “Make no mistake: you need strong arms, not smooth arms, on a sports field”. But her best gift to the cricket-mad nation lies in the generational change she has infused in parents with daughters. “When I started in 2005, people would ask me why I’m doing this, it’s not a women’s game,” Mir recalled recently. “But now when I talk to people they say, ‘We are so proud of the team. We want our daughters to be a part of this team.’” * The writer is Features Editor. He tweets @kaamyabi

Tailor-made: The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge during a meeting with Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan at his official residence in the federal capital Islamabad.
Royal charm in a transformed country

That Pakistan regularly gets a raw deal in the international media thanks to a lopsided portrayal with negative undertones is nothing new. In particular, the country’s epic struggle to emerge from a terror war that was foisted upon it following the direct actions of the US-led coalition in Afghanistan, and which continue to manifest in ways that may have tested the mettle of more equipped states, often reeks of condescension. In this narrative, even the basic understanding and recognition of the sacrifices Pakistan has made — over 70,000 casualties and economic losses amounting to about $150bn — rarely makes even a guest appearance. Perhaps, it is convenient to typecast the same old imagery and just roll the ticker to the latest breaking news! It is in this context that the recently concluded five-day royal visit of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge to Pakistan proved an exception to the rule, the disclaimer about the so-called “complexity” of the undertaking notwithstanding. In the end, Prince William and Kate Middleton reached the same conclusion visitors often do about a thoroughly warm and welcoming, if resilient, country that continues to defy the odds and is forever embracing anyone with a smile. To give them credit where its due, William and Kate were more than willing to walk the talk as the late Lady Diana, the former’s mother, famously did on her last visit to the country in 1996 to support the cancer hospital of cricket legend and philanthropist Imran Khan, the current prime minister. William’s father, the Prince of Wales, and Duchess of Cornwall followed the track in 2006 but with far less fanfare. Thirteen years later, the son and daughter-in-law of Prince Charles and Diana can claim to have played a reasonably decent part in redressing the balance of a fair appraisal. Both William and Kate acknowledged they were in a transformed country, with the former making it a point to both recognise the sacrifices Pakistan had made to come this far, and the deep connect Britain had in a relationship in its own interest. At a reception hosted by Thomas Drew, British High Commissioner to Pakistan, the Duke of Cambridge drew the scorecard with this tribute: “For a country so young, Pakistan has endured many hardships, with countless lives lost to terror and hatred. Tonight, I want to pay tribute to all those who have endured such sacrifice and helped to build the country that we see today”. William also contextualised the relationship in a security paradigm. The UK, which is one of Pakistan’s top investors, is home to some 1.5mn people of Pakistani heritage. “The UK and Pakistan share unique bonds and so it will always be in our best interests for you to succeed. What happens here in Pakistan directly correlates to what happens in the streets of the UK. The fact that we’re here today, and witnessing UK-Pakistani security working together shows you how important it is. You can rely on us to keep playing an important role as a key partner and your friend,” he said. As well as holding the fourth review of Pakistan-UK Enhanced Strategic Dialogue recently and boosting co-operation in other spheres, the British Airways restored air links to Pakistan earlier this year after a hiatus of a decade in a significant recognition of the changed environment. Cricket is never far when it comes to the two full members of the International Cricket Council. What better advertisement could there have been than getting Pakistan’s only World Cup winning captain, who, ironically scripted the fairytale triumph at England’s expense, and once studied, played, lived and was even married to a Briton, in the same frame! The royal couple was evidently pleased to meet the man at the centre of all that history and is now the country’s prime minister: Imran Khan. But this was more than a customary courtesy call, for, Khan and his former wife, Jemima, were friends to Diana, who had once taken William, then a teenager, to meet him in London in 1996, where Khan announced his political ambitions — and was met with a laughter bordering on disbelief. The premier later recalled the episode — and his 22-year-old struggle to get here — in an interview with CNN and paid glowing tributes to William’s mother for her charity work, including the dedicated last visit to his cancer hospital in Lahore for fundraising in 1996. Recollecting her sudden death, he said he was surprised how even people in the rural heartland of his constituency in Mianwali in the Punjab province were shocked and saddened when he thought they wouldn’t have even probably known her! Iconic images of Diana holding a poor cancer child in her lap at Khan’s hospital still evoke emotion amongst Pakistanis nearly a quarter century later.  Following in the footsteps of the much loved ‘Queen of Hearts’, Kate charmed Pakistanis with her demeanour and elegant choice of trademark local couture as she crisscrossed the country. Green with its hues was a recurring theme — symbolised in Islam, with a darker shade perhaps the Pakistani flag, and made its presence felt as intended. But predictably, it was a two-way street with love given and received. At a children’s home, Kate admitted the couple were “moved and touched” by their experiences. “Being here in Pakistan, William and I have seen on several occasions how family is at the heart of your culture”. Kate was equally effusive in an interview with the CNN, paying tribute to the welfare work at the children’s home and, of the royal tour, in general. “It’s been fantastic, we’ve seen a lot of Pakistan, a huge variety. It was amazing seeing some of the geography, but then to see some of the community activities like this has been really special”. The tour may have been designed to promote the country’s business and tourism profile, but it clearly did more. A personal touch was evident throughout the tour and saw the couple highlight climate change, quality education, welfare work and even indulge cricket — all with a smile that would have made Diana very proud. *    The writer is Community Editor. He may be reached at [email protected]

President of Huawei Wireless Solution Edward Deng making a point during the unveiling of the Chinese technology giantu2019s 5G full series solution in Zurich.
Huawei presents latest 5G full-series solution for optimal 5G experience

Zurich The 2019 Global Mobile Broadband Forum here made a few exciting statements, including the latest 5G full-series solution for optimal 5G experience by Huawei. Unveiling the solution, Edward Deng, President of Huawei's Wireless Solution, dilated on the imperatives of using the technology and reaching the desired goals. "5G has come. Powerful networks deliver optimal user experiences. Advanced algorithms ensure optimal performance. Autonomous driving networks empower the most efficient operation and maintenance. This is what we aim to help operators achieve with 5G," Edward Deng told the media. Massive MIMO ­– multiple-input, multiple-output – an extension of MIMO, which essentially groups together antennas at the transmitter and receiver to provide better throughput and spectrum efficiency is key to expanding the limits of Shannon's Law and achieving a significant capacity increase on mobile networks. The said law relates to a formula in the information theory of American mathematician, electrical engineer, and cryptographer Claude Shannon that determines the maximum, error-free rate of a digital communications channel. Massive MIMO has been broadly recognised as a standard configuration for 5G mobile networks. Its performance directly determines the quality of 5G networks. Huawei released its second generation 5G Massive MIMO, the first in the industry to support large-scale deployment to leverage a 5G carrier's high bandwidth and overcome the coverage limitation of C-band. It was also the first of its kind to support a 200 MHz bandwidth and a transmit power of 200 W, while simultaneously boasting a lighter weight and curtailed dimensions. This efficiency has led to a shipment of over 400,000 units, and the figure is projected to soar to 600,000 by the end of 2019. It provides operators with a crucial foundation to ensure Gbps experiences on 5G networks. With 5G becoming the new wave what with large-scale deployment all around the world, Huawei has released its third generation 5G Massive MIMO. Combining industry-leading technologies and processes, such as 7nm chips and new compound materials, this product embellishes its prowess over previous models. The Massive MIMO product supports up to 400 MHz bandwidth in all spectrum scenarios, which again is the highest in the industry. Its transmit power has risen by 320 W, also the industry's highest, allowing for wider C-band coverage. Weight-wise, the Huawei product once again takes the cake, coming in at only 25 kg, enabling it to be deployed by a single person in most scenarios. Its power consumption will eliminate the barriers to global deployment across all scenarios and become a new standard in large-scale 5G deployment. The latest 5G full-series all-scenario products include BladeAAU, Easy Macro 3.0, BookRRU 3.0, and LampSite Sharing, as well as mmWave macro sites, pole sites, and small cells. BladeAAU supports single-pole installation and offers the industry's highest integration, allowing all sub-6GHz bands to be deployed in a single box in which both active and passive antennas are integrated. Easy Macro 3.0 and BookRRU 3.0 are pole site products utilizing multi-antenna technology for the first time. LampSite Sharing is the industry's digital indoor solution, supporting 400 MHz bandwidth to ensure noteworthy capacity for indoor hotspots. Edward Deng unveiled the industry's first ADN Mobile solution. This solution includes the Artificial Intelligence (AI) training platform iMaster NAIE, the cross-domain AI unit iMaster AUTIN, and the MBB network AI unit iMaster MAE. These three elements are hierarchically autonomous, with each working independently as a minimum closed loop while also vertically coordinating with each other. Not done with these innovations, Deng hinted that Huawei will also launch an entire series of Level 3 applications based on this solution next year to implement autonomous driving mobile network. These will include Site Express for auto-deployment, and Alarm Turbo. They will greatly improve operation and maintenance efficiency. Going a notch higher, Huawei will also provide scenario-based APIs and programmable environments based on ADN-powered platforms. Operators and industry partners can use them to rapidly develop and customise automation applications in line with the varied requirements. With the new decade in sight, mobile networks are primed for a new era with powerful 5G networks delivering optimal user experiences.

Huawei Deputy Chairman Ken Hu speaking at the Global Mobile Broad Band Forum in Zurich
Needed: Cross-sector collaboration to spur 5G

Zurich *Experts debate the promise and realisation of a revolution in the making  5G is the first network designed for man and machine alike, at the same time. If one were to encapsulate the 10th Huawei Global Broad Band Mobile Forum 2019 staged with the usual fanfare here, it lay in the wisdom reinforced by Ryan Ding, Executive Director of the Board and President of Carrier BG, Huawei, who drove home that “the best way to predict your future is to create it”. The stakeholders seemed in sync and enlightened the excited audience over the two-day forum that concluded on Wednesday on the progress of 5G technology and the challenges in the way of implementing the most exciting next phase. Taking the opportunity, Huawei deputy chairman Ken Hu urged the mobile industry, authorities and enterprises to collaborate to create an environment to accelerate the next stage of 5G development. This year’s event is focusing on the future of mobile connectivity, from the introduction of 5G, Internet of Things, artificial intelligence, cloud-based virtual and augmented reality, the Internet of Vehicles, and robotics. Hu was sanguine about the success of early deployments of 5G disclosing that 40 operators in more than 20 countries had launched 5G services as of mid-October. The sgtandards were finalised last year. He noted rapid consumer adoption and increased data usage, supported by a plethora of device launches. But he also underlined the need to ring in a switch in mindset to drive the next phase of development, which he said was needed “not just for vendors and carriers but also for regulators”. “To make the most from 5G we have to work together to meet some real challenges: spectrum; site resource; and cross-industry collaboration,” Hu emphasised. A “better, affordable spectrum”, he said was necessary, including flexible pricing models and incentives for operators, which would lower initial capex and enable them to provide a higher standard of services. Hu also touched on the importance of regulation to improve provisioning of network equipment. 5G projection Although much of the talk related to early 5G successes have centred on consumer adoption, Hu said there had also been many early industrial deployments. To realise further growth in this area, he called for cross-industry collaboration to explore what works and what doesn’t in terms of business cases and ultimately enabling 5G to meet its full potential. He underlined the fact that 5G was not simply faster 4G. “It will play a completely different role in our lives, so as an industry, we all need to have a fresh mindset to drive its future development," Hu said. Spurt in 5G use South Korea is a fine example of how 5G has seen a supercharged user experience. The first market to launch a commercial 5G network in April this year, it has seen local carriers sign up more than 3.5 million 5G subscribers in less than six months. Much of this growth can be attributed to new services like 5G-powered AR/VR and live 360º HD sports broadcasting. With these services alone, data consumption among early 5G adopters has shot up by a factor of three, up to 1.3 gigabytes per month! But this is not merely one vertical rise; carriers are seeing more revenue streams as well. For example, South Korean carrier LG U+ released 5G-powered VR/AR services as part of their premium data plans. In just three months following the 5G launch, their proportion of premium subscribers grew from 3.1% to 5.3%. It is already evident that industries are deriving new value from the first round of industrial 5G applications. Hu said even though it can’t be said for certain what type of applications could be seen in the future, it's was beyond doubt that every single industry would benefit from 5G technology.   Outlook for spectrum and sites Hu noted that spectrum resources, specifically the cost and availability of spectrum, are one of the most significant barriers that carriers face moving forward. "We hope governments can provide more spectrum resources to carriers and consider more flexible pricing models. This will reduce the initial CAPEX burden on carriers as they rollout their 5G networks." Hu also recommended that governments start actively planning to meet new spectrum demand over the next five to ten years, noting that 6GHz spectrum bands are a good starting point. "Our industry also needs more support for site resources," Hu continued. "Costs are still too high, and site availability always falls short of demand. Regulators should step up and improve the situation by opening up more public infrastructure for sharing and providing guidance on site construction." In Shanghai, for instance, the city government has set standards for multi-functional utility poles. By the end of 2020, they will install these poles along 500 kilometers of public roads, which will be used to support 30,000 additional 5G sites. That's 75% increase on the total number of mobile base stations currently built throughout the city.  In Europe, the government is working directly with carriers to identify co-use requirements for 5G sites and other forms of public infrastructure (such as traffic lights, signs, and bus stops) to drive down costs for everyone through infrastructure sharing.   Cross-sector cooperation In a studied endeavour for cross-sector innovation and greater regional collaboration, Huawei opened its first 5G Joint Innovation Center for Europe in Zurich. The center is a joint effort between Huawei and Sunrise. It will serve as an innovation platform that helps European companies come together across sectors and develop industry-specific 5G solutions. “Every country has its own economic strengths. These are the areas we can focus on and combine 5G technology with industry-specific solutions to enhance each country's competitiveness,” Hu concluded. The 10th edition of Mobile Broadband Forum brought together more than 1,500 representatives from carriers, vertical industries, equipment manufacturers, standards organisations, analyst firms, and the media. The exhibition hall showcased 5G technology, commercial solutions, and a rich array of 5G applications for individual consumers, households, and businesses, including 5G-powered cloud AR/VR, 8K broadcasting, cloud gaming, machine vision, and 5G-powered remote-control solutions.

Undeterred: Prime Minister Imran Khan, with Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa sitting next to him, making a point to Chinese President Xi Jinping during his visit to China last week.
FATF: Groundwork and geopolitical maths

All eyes in Islamabad are riveted on Paris as the long-awaited verdict on Pakistan with regard to the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) – the abbreviation has assumed a common parlance of sorts – compliance report will be out this week. Listed on its grey list, the country is hoping to get back into business by regaining normalcy after the latest review. As always, the issue is marked by heavy political overtones, which is what Islamabad has also maintained with regard to the clamour about doomsday speak. The Foreign Office in Islamabad remains optimistic about a stable outlook as a result of the FATF review. To determine the credentials of a positive sentiment, it is imperative to look at the scorecard of compliance that the world body had placed on Islamabad. It would appear considerable work has gone into addressing the highlighted shortcomings. A report prepared by the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan claims that thanks to its comprehensive guidelines, financial institutions have been able to produce 219 Suspicious Transactions Reports (STRs) in the last year as compared to just 13 in eight previous years. After developing a set of regulations – Anti-Money Laundering/Combating Financing of Terrorism (AML/CFT) – to align itself with the FATF’s standards and its 40 recommendations, the SECP conducted 167 inspections to determine compliance. These include 72 cases of securities brokers, 27 of non-banking financial companies, 13 of insurance firms and 55 of high risk non-profit organisations. Talking of compliance, it is worth mentioning that it is not just the SECP that has taken up the cudgels to ensure that financial institutions are in order with their business by imposing penalties, but the entities themselves have also taken remedial measures to stay on the right side of law. To this end, the said financial institutions have deployed automated screening software to keep a tab on proscribed individuals. These entities now also have access to the Go AML system of the Financial Monitoring Unit (FMU) of the State Bank of Pakistan for online filing of STRs. To show it means business, the SECP has moved on from the convenient one-size-fits-all method to executing a risk-based approach for a robust AML/CFT regulatory framework. Stock and commodity brokers, NBFC, Modarabas as well as insurers and Takaful operators are all on the radar. Not content with this, a National Money Laundering/Terror Financing Risk Assessment has been undertaken this year to scrutinise the risks and vulnerabilities that are inherent within the financial sector including banks, NBFCs, brokers and insurers.  The Financial Monitoring Unit is collaborating with stakeholders including ministries, law enforcement agencies, State Bank of Pakistan and SECP to check potential abuse by money launderers and terrorist financiers. This, along with awareness campaigns, has had a chastening effect – leading to improvement in compliance level by regulated bodies. The FATF imbroglio and the challenging economy inherited by the Imran Khan government may have given the impression that market sentiment would border on circumspection with potential investors staying away but quite to the contrary, the situation has come to represent a measure of stability thanks to a raft of difficult and unpopular steps to streamline the economy. For instance, the market is on a winning spree – spanning 24 trading sessions, gaining 11.6% in the benchmark index last Friday to drive investor confidence. The National Assembly – lower house of the country’s bicameral legislature – recently passed a bill to amend Foreign Exchange Regulations (FERA 1947) in a bid to streamline the foreign exchange movement and prescribe severe punishment for money laundering. A recent meeting between Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa and a group of prominent members of the business community could well be considered a give-away. A report in Dawn citing an unnamed business tycoon says there were plenty of assurances to draw from the horizon. The army chief was said to exude confidence with regard to the FATF review, reportedly eyeing a return to normal category. Coming from the army chief, it was unlikely just an expression of positive intent. Islamabad has publicly urged the FATF task force to come out with a “fair and unbiased” evaluation in the face of hectic lobbying from New Delhi to have it blacklisted. Significantly, the IMF, which was said to have held the FATF issue as a structural benchmark, hinted at a positive turnaround when its country representative for Pakistan endorsed Pakistan’s efforts to ensure compliance with the FATF guidelines. Compliance apart, the FATF maths makes for interesting reading. All Pakistan needs is a minimum of three votes to avert the blacklist. Islamabad is said to be counting on three particular allies namely, China, Turkey and Malaysia, to stand by it and given the context of recent developments in the region for form, it can be predicted with reasonable assurance that the three countries would be happy to keep the all-weather relationship warm. Prime Minister Imran Khan has already visited all three countries with a certain reciprocity seen to be the order of business. In fact, the relationship has moved to the next level with Khan able to develop a visible bonhomie with the leaders of these countries. Army Chief General Bajwa has also cemented defence ties with China and been a force multiplier for the PM. But this begs the question: does Islamabad have a plan B in the unlikely event of an undesired result at the FATF review? The blacklist would likely have little impact on domestic banking as income from global trade makes up for only 3% of total revenues. Media reports suggest Islamabad is prepared for the worst and while a negative sentiment would hurt the economy given the inherent pitfalls of the global trade order, a few important countries with a geopolitical interest in a stable Pakistan would be loathe to the idea of watching from the sidelines. *    The writer is Community Editor. He may be reached at [email protected]

Re-engagement: Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi (fourth right), with the Taliban co-founder Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar (fourth left) and his delegation at the Pakistan Foreign Ministry in Islamabad last Thursday.
Pakistan mediation moves into high gear

Donald Trump can claim to have a nodding acquaintance with cutting a deal. After all, he co-authored the 1987 The Art of The Deal – part memoir, part business-advice book – with journalist Tony Schwartz, and which apparently, announced his shrewd capital to most Americans, if not the world.  However, it would seem the Taliban have either not heard of it or don’t set too much store by it. To be fair to Trump, they have tested the mettle of mightier negotiators and held their own against war machines the like of which the world hasn’t seen for nearly two decades. If there’s something they have in reserves which trumps brute military power, it is the nagging ability to bide time and wait in on their perceived enemies in classic warfare. And so, despite the earlier bombast about annihilating them, the Trump administration – much to its chagrin, but like its predecessors chagrin has had to come around and try to negotiate a settlement of the Afghan imbroglio. It has proved elusive so far, but his keenness – desperation, to others – is apparent despite a sudden halt to the negotiations last month after a bombing in Kabul killed an American soldier. This happened as Trump was readying to host, by his admission, a secret Camp David rendezvous that would have reportedly brought “major leaders” of the Taliban face-to-face with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, who, the militia have until now refused to acknowledge as legitimate partners in the negotiations.  The drive was kicked into high gear last year in December when President Trump wrote to incumbent Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan, seeking Islamabad’s help to bring the Taliban to the negotiating table as it eyed a troop pullout from Afghanistan following a draining war that has cost the US an estimated $975bn until now, according to The Balance website. The Balance is renowned for expertise in the field and is engaged monthly by 24mn visitors. Its research data – reported by Forbes – indicates that the US was spending an annual budget of $52bn by 2018, to stay in business. President Trump is widely known to have tired of America’s longest war – and the most costly since the inflation-adjusted $4.1tn spent in World War II – and would rather get into a re-election bid for the White House next year with the ‘trophy’ of bringing his servicemen back home safely.  Washington would, of course, retain an essential contingent to help with the rehabilitation process in the post-pullout scenario. Currently, there are approximately, 14,000 US troops on the ground in non-combative role, but the Trump administration wants to pull out the troops from its five bases in Afghanistan.  Some 2,400 US troops have been killed since the American invasion of the war-torn country in 2001, including 16 this year, according to Al Jazeera.  After several months, the talks reached an advanced stage and the extensive round in Doha recently paved the way for an impending peace deal. Qatar, as always, was instrumental in taking the process forward by playing the role of a peacemaker in graciously hosting the partners to help them find a durable and peaceful solution to the conflict in Afghanistan.  Just when an agreement appeared in sight with US Special Representative on Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad even going on record about a deal “in principle”, and the withdrawal of 5,000 American troops within 135 days of it becoming final, the Kabul bombing early last month so incensed President Trump that he cancelled the reported final negotiation in Camp David.  Given to form, he tweeted the talks were “dead” and vowed no negotiations hence. However, as predicted by many pundits at the time, there are strong indicators of an impending official resumption of talks after a flurry of activity in Islamabad last week which first saw Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi hold talks with a Taliban delegation led by the co-founder of the group, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, even though for official purposes, the talks were said to be wide-ranging including the fate of more than 1.5mn Afghan refugees in Pakistan, and then, Khalilzad meeting the group. It was no coincidence that the US envoy, who has held nine rounds of talks with Taliban negotiators during the past year, spent considerable time in Islamabad meanwhile, meeting senior Pakistani officials in what the US Department of State described as follow-up meetings to the ones held in New York during the UN General Assembly session last month.  Prime Minister Imran Khan, who is a longtime proponent of a settlement away from the battlefield, had then, pronouncedly pushed with President Trump for the resumption of the dialogue, reasoning that there was no military solution to the problem. During his dozens of meetings with key US stakeholders and interaction with think-tanks on the New York circuit, he had vocally advanced his favoured mantra.  The Taliban, which was also unrelenting in sticking to its stand after the Kabul fiasco – at least publicly – has been working the windmills to find a meeting ground. Its delegates have visited China, Russia and Iran in the weeks following Trump’s sudden red card.  Few details have emerged following Khalilzad’s “informal” meeting with the Mullah Baradar-led Taliban delegation in Islamabad, and then, too from an unidentified Taliban member of the delegation, who was not authorised to speak. The State Department and Taliban spokesperson have both refused to comment. But there are strong indicators that a resumption may be in the works, including the presence, at the time, in Islamabad, of the Commander of US-led mission in Afghanistan, General Austin Miller, according to The New York Times, though it is unclear if he attended the “informal” session.  However, given how fragile even the semantics are, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani sacked his foreign ministry spokesperson Sibghatullah Ahmadi after he welcomed Pakistan’s talks with the Taliban to push the peace process forward. Ahmadi has since been referred for prosecution. Until now, the Taliban refuse to accord any recognition to the government in Kabul, which is wary of any settlement without its participation.    The writer is Community Editor. He may be reached at [email protected]

ADDRESS: Prime Minister Imran Khan gesturing during his address at the 74th session of the UN General Assembly in New York.
A resonant appeal to world’s conscience

Last Friday, Imran Khan outdid himself with a stirring extempore speech on the floor of the UN General Assembly that is likely to go down in history as one of the finest manifestations of statesman-like leadership.  For its pulse on the stark choices facing the world — starting with a resonant call to address the imbalances and hypocrisy of world powers on climate change to the end note on the humanitarian crisis in the world’s most dangerous flashpoint, it had virtually everything in sight for most stakeholders. The usual form book at the UNGA is one of filling in the customary reiteration of rather staid policy outlines by heads of state. Circa 2019 has been no different. Except that the Pakistani prime minister had other ideas. In true Julius Caesar mould, ‘he came, he saw, he conquered’. But of course, that would be an easier explanation that does not necessarily take into account the hard yards Imran Khan did on the New York circuit like a man possessed before reaching the podium.  He made some sort of a record with dozens of meetings at maddening pace, including a prized presser with US President Donald Trump; key leaders of the US House of Representatives and Senate; ivy league American think tanks, environment and trade officials; and the top international media apart from routine sit-downs with world leaders on the sidelines.  But to return to the world’s highest forum, the Pakistani leader shone like never before. Certainly, one would be hard-pressed to recall any of his predecessors making so much as a quarter of his impact, save for foreign minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s dramatic pitch in 1971 in much more turbulent times. Imran Khan began with a clarion call on climate change, recounting his own country’s vulnerability to the phenomenon. As well, he listed his ruling Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaf party’s singular contribution to the environment with its signature billion tree tsunami in the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province to global acclaim, and the ambitious plan to plant 10 billion trees in its stint in power now that it is in the Centre as well to counter the effects of global warming. But Khan expressed his disappointment at those world powers who are directly contributing — and massively, at that — to carbon emissions, and resultantly, evading responsibility to come clean.  “Perhaps, some of the leaders who can do a lot do not realise the seriousness of the situation. There are a lot of ideas but they are nothing without funding. If nothing is done, humans are (prospectively) facing a huge catastrophe,” he warned. The prime minister was also outspoken about another less spoken international crime: money laundered by the ruling elites, especially of the Third World, which then finds safe havens in the Western world.  “Corrupt elites must not be allowed to park their money abroad. Why do we have these tax havens? Why shouldn’t rich people pay taxes? Why are they legal, these secret accounts? This is devastating the developing world. The rich-poor gap is growing because of them,” he bristled. He wondered how could poorer countries spend on human development if their monies were siphoned off in off shore accounts and urged the global powers to show political will to stem the rot. “Sooner or later, there will be a crisis if the rich keep getting richer and the poor poorer. I hope the UN takes a lead on this. The IMF and ADB must find a way,” Khan drove home. But purely from the Muslim world’s perspective, the most emotional part of the prime minister’s speech was a deep dive into Islamophobia. In a detailed dilation on the subject, and drawing from his personal journey as a cricketer and later philanthropist-turned politician who has lived long periods in the West, Khan explained in lay terms the deep cleavage between the East and the West on Islam that has led to so much heartburn amongst more than 2 billion Muslims across the world. Citing deliberate provocations in and by the West following the events of Nine Eleven that pointedly denigrated the Prophet (peace be upon him) sometimes disguised as satire, Khan said the West largely did not comprehend the scale of damage they had wrought in hurting sentiments of the Muslims in whose hearts lives the Prophet (peace be upon him).  “It started after Nine Eleven and has grown at an alarming pace, and it started because certain Western leaders equated Islam with terrorism (by employing labels like “radical Islam”). There is no radical Islam or moderate Islam. There is just one Islam,” Khan emphasised. The PM said the very concept was inherently contradictory, because “no religion teaches radicalism and the basis of all religions is compassion and justice.” Khan felt the use of “radical Islam” by Western leaders created an association between a whole religion and terrorism, leading people to suspect all Muslims. “How is a person in New York, in a European country, or in the Midwest of the US going to distinguish between who’s a moderate Muslim and who’s a radical Muslim,” he asked. But at the same time, he candidly admitted the Western leaders weren’t solely to blame for the rise of Islamophobia. Muslim leaders, he said, were equally at fault, as the fear of being labelled as radical made them embrace the concept of so-called “moderate” Islam. The touchstone of his address however, was the nearly two-month old lockdown in Indian-administered Kashmir. Moving beyond Islamabad’s known stance on the burning issue, Imran Khan made an impassioned appeal to the UN Security Council and world powers to heed their responsibility in preventing a potential face-off between two nuclear-armed neighbours in the event of things reaching a point of no-return. The tremolo to his heartfelt submission was unmistakable as he sidestepped the formal to engage in a more informal, if direct, pitch rooted in deep concern for the victims. So resonant was his message that its vibes were felt across the world as he immediately shot to No. 1 on Twitter’s global trends with no other leader even in the top 10.  * The writer is Community Editor. He may be reached at  [email protected]

Re-engagement: Prime Minister Imran Khan shakes hands with President Donald Trump ahead of the annual UN General Assembly session in New York.
Emerging Khan-Trump bonhomie boosts ties

President Donald Trump’s joint presser with Prime Minister Imran Khan on Monday ahead of the 74th UN General Assembly session in New York is a strong indicator that his administration is deeply interested in keeping Islamabad on its side. The evident personal bond between the two leaders augurs well for the bilaterals and reinforces the relationship reset which has been in order for some time now.    To his credit, Imran Khan has been able to get Pakistan back into business against all odds and every engagement since his epoch-making visit to the White House two months ago has remarkably improved ties, which lay in virtual cold storage at this time last year with heated exchange of tweets between him and US President Donald Trump over Islamabad’s role in the fight against terror.  With little consideration for diplomatic rulebook, Trump had back then accused Pakistan of not doing anything for the US despite all the aid, he felt, his predecessors lavished on Islamabad in the war on terror. But unlike the past when Islamabad’s official reaction was mostly guarded, Khan responded in kind and drew the full visage of the sacrifices his country rendered in helming the global fight against terror with negative consequences for political and economic stability at home.  In a series of tweets, the prime minister laid out the scorecard of losses, in man and material terms, that Islamabad endured to help the US-led coalition in Afghanistan and flayed the ungratefulness in no uncertain terms.  With the moribund state of relations, it would have been considered foolhardy to bet on a turnaround at the time. Yet, Trump began to realise in the succeeding months that the narrow path he had initially taken to shut the doors on Islamabad would be completely counterproductive to his long-held desire to recall American troops from a draining and morale-sapping war in Afghanistan. With an eye for presidential re-election next year, he felt his best chance would be a re-engagement with Pakistan as a calibrated partner to solve the Afghan imbroglio. Despite his earlier strong rhetoric on taking the Taliban to the cleaners, Trump was finally drawn to the conclusion that his administration would be better off negotiating with the Taliban. In this studied endeavour, Islamabad’s role was deemed crucial thanks to its influence over Taliban. A re-engagement eventually paved the way for the unlikely White House rendezvous between President Trump and Prime Minister Khan in July, and which led to a surprisingly candid meeting. It was preceded by a rock star-like reception in Washington’s famous Capital One Arena for the celebrity prime minister, whose reverberations were felt deep with even Secretary of State Mike Pompeo making that his first point of reference in talks with him. It appeared to make an impact on Trump as well, who, referred to the Pakistani leader’s “popularity” and “leadership” role in charting a new course.  The surprise package, of course was the claim Trump made about having been asked by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi for “mediation” on the Kashmir issue, which New Delhi swiftly denied. But in what appears to be a crafty attempt to raise his global profile as a peacemaker, Trump has continued to offer his good offices, mostly at Khan’s bidding — as was evident in the New York meeting  as well — “should both Islamabad and New Delhi be willing”.  Monday’s meeting also saw Khan making yet another attempt to convince Trump to re-engage with the Taliban after the latter called off the talks in an apparent huff over the killing of an American sergeant in the Afghan capital Kabul in a bomb attack claimed by the Taliban earlier this month.  Political pundits however, conjectured it was done to offset the impression that Trump had ceded too much ground to the militia after he disclosed in a tweet that he had planned to host peace negotiations at the presidential compound in Camp David, Maryland, involving Taliban’s “major leaders” and the Afghan president as well.  The move is seen as a setback with key stakeholders, Islamabad in particular, keen to see their investment of more than a year in making it possible for both the US and Taliban to resolve their differences with give-and-take in a post-pullout scenario. Prime Minister Khan, of course is an avowed proponent of a peace deal since his early days as a firebrand opposition leader. With him at the helm now, and strong backing from the powerful military, there is a fresh impetus to obviate any possible fissures. It would appear Trump comprehends the scale of adversity American forces and its allies would confront in the event of things going south. His decision to meet Khan again and lend gravitas to it by holding a joint presser appears to be consistent with the idea of leaning on Islamabad to provide a peaceful exit and hold on to the gains in its aftermath.  Moving on to other issues of enormous geo-political importance, even though Trump has continued to raise a fever pitch about Iran with the ongoing tensions in the Middle East; creditably, Khan is proactively pushing for sense to prevail on all sides, warning of the dangers of instability in its wake whilst holding forth in a number of key engagements with American stakeholders and think-tanks.  With his much awaited address to the UN General Assembly on Friday, stakeholders back home will draw considerable satisfaction from Prime Minister Khan’s efforts to solidify the recent gains in Islamabad’s foreign policy reset whether President Trump realises his desire for winning a Nobel or not! * The writer is Community Editor. He may be reached at [email protected]

Challenging year: Prime Minister Imran Khan has been trying steadfastly to shore up the economy against all odds.
PTI’s first year in power: Retrieving the economy

If anything, Imran Khan — the wildly popular opposition politician who would be prime minister — has found out, in his very first year in power, the chasm that exists between the dream and reality of governing Pakistan. Few question his sincerity. But pitched political battles at home and a troubled neighbourhood on their own are enough to test a leader’s mettle.  As always, in the Pakistani matrix, it is the economy that determines the strength and sustainability of a government. To be fair to the PTI, it inherited an account deficit of epic proportion — with the foreign debt amounting to approximately $20bn — and borrowing that bordered on gross fiscal irresponsibility.  In classic ‘scorched earth’ mould, the last government of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) appeared to take steps that were completely out of sync once it became apparent to the party leadership that its deck of cards had fallen and there was little chance of returning to power. PML-N supremo, Nawaz Sharif, had been convicted and disqualified by the Supreme Court and later jailed; the embattled party had lost ground after a draining and ill-directed defence in the Panama papers case involving unexplained properties and wealth stashed abroad by the Sharif family; and last but not least, the in-house struggle for power with Sharif’s younger brother, Shahbaz, and his daughter, Maryam, jockeying to call the shots, but getting nowhere in the end. However, the PTI has been far from successful in trying to redress the balance despite desperate attempts to shore up the economy. It began with an initial refusal to go to the IMF and instead lean on friendly states to ride out the crisis. And while it seemed to stem the tide for a while, the ballooning balance of payment crisis with other setbacks that saw the stock market see-sawing following rupee devaluation and a surge in inflation brought the situation back to Square One.  Ultimately, the prime minister replaced the finance minister, Asad Umar, one of his confidantes, even before the first year was out with the experienced Abdul Hafeez Sheikh in his stead. Since then, Islamabad has negotiated a $6bn IMF package.  While the economy reset is a long drawn out process and will likely remain a headache into the foreseeable future, the PTI government did take the painful but daring step to introduce tax reforms to expand the collection base and bring tax evaders into the net. It has been a longstanding bane with successive governments until now since it is fraught with unpopularity and likely alienating voters. In a nutshell, the idea was to change the bad national habit.  Despite the challenges ahead, the government has been able to raise the bar significantly. The Federal Board of Revenue has met its target of raising Rs236bn in taxes with a success percentage of 99.2 for the fiscal ending July 2019. The Inland Revenue domestic taxes have also shown an increase of 60% over the last year.  In a heartening development — far more still needs to be done though — income returns for the tax year 2018 have reached 2,404,371 as compared to 1,486,756 for the previous year, a growth of 62%. Correspondingly, the number of new tax filers during fiscal 2018-19 stood at 348,140; the figures for 2017-18 were 146,096 — an increase of 137%. So while we may be some distance from claiming that there is now a ‘tax culture’ in place, what is clearly evident is that people are now willy-nilly drawn to the idea that there may be little escape from addressing their fiscal responsibility to the state. As the prime minister rightly pointed out after going on a spree of public pronouncements and the odd ‘appeal to conscience’, the “business of the state cannot be run without its citizens paying taxes”.  To the government’s credit, it has taken a number of steps to increase revenue and widen the tax base by making it easier for the citizens to even file the returns themselves with user-friendly initiatives. It also launched a tax amnesty scheme to lift investor confidence — going to the extent of twice deferring deadlines to allow more people to stand on the right side of the law. This enabled previous evaders to benefit from lesser penalties by documenting their assets and filing returns thereafter.   Mindful of the need to front up to the economic challenges, the military, for its part, came to the party, too, with Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa emphatically stating that it would forego an increase in the defence budget. This provided more than a semblance of relief to the government.  Even though there is a measure of economic stability after a trying first year to redress the financial mess left behind by its predecessors, the PTI government faces a slew of challenges to make the cut. It won’t be a smooth ride, especially given how quickly public patience wears thin, but it will have to hold its nerve and stay the course.  * The writer is Community Editor. He can be reached at [email protected]

TRIBUTE: A flower placed at the 9/11 Memorial in 2014 by the author.   Photo by Kamran Rehmat
Rewind to the day that shook the world

I remember the day vividly. Just a few minutes shy of 5pm when I was about to leave for work in Muscat, the languid capital of Sultanate of Oman, where I worked as News Editor in Times of Oman, the country’s leading English language broadsheet, I switched on the TV; its volume pressed low. It just so happened that the channel on cue was CNN. I watched smoke billowing from a skyscraper but since I did not initially pay attention to the tickers at the bottom of the screen, it seemed eerily like a scene out of a movie. I thought as much. Just then, a plane emerged from the middle of the TV screen on the right and rammed into the building. This intrigued me, because the plane looked real — real enough for me to raise the volume and figure out the fuss. It was then that I realised that this was no figment of imagination and the skyscraper which had looked like a spitting image of the World Trade Center was, in fact, just that: South Tower, taking a startling hit.   It took a while to absorb that all this was really happening — that the world’s sole superpower was under attack — a series of incredibly precise missions impossible one after the other (all in a day’s terror work) — beyond the wildest imagination of a Hollywood scriptwriter. Even though it has been 18 years, there is still that aura of disbelief that the mightiest of all nations could be a sitting duck for the while it lasted.  But what is beyond a shadow of doubt is that the deadliest terrorist attacks in history did change the world, for both America and the rest of us on this cinder of a planet.  In 2014, I had occasion to visit the 9/11 Memorial, an experience so profound that it takes you in its sweep. In a way, it symbolises a global communion — remember citizens of more than 90 countries perished in the attacks and the majority of them paid with their lives in the Twin Towers tragedy. Regardless of religion, race, ethnicity, language, or any other distinction, the spirit of humanity weighed heavy and whilst recalling the nerve-racking moments of the tragedy on the day that shook the world, there was an inescapable feeling that may be the world had underestimated the propensity of evil and it took an epic tragedy to draw the realisation and fight back.

DOWN MEMORY LANE: My mother, Bushra Rehmat, sitting next to Imran Khan, Pakistanu2019s current prime minister, at our residence in Islamabad following a luncheon. She passed away a few months before his inauguration as the countryu2019s 22nd prime minister.
“A mother holds her children’s hands for a while, their hearts forever”

For such a profound conclusion about motherhood, it is a touch sad that the author of the above quote is anonymous. In a lot of ways, the contributions of a mother belong to the same realm: anonymity. Nimra Bucha, a television artiste and spouse of Pakistan’s internationally celebrated writer and journalist Mohammed Hanif, in her condolence message over my mother’s demise last year stamped this authoritatively. “What mothers do is not visible to the world,” she wrote. While we take a lot for granted — smug in the comforting thought of being in their long and apparently secure shadows — life does not quite prepare you for losing your parents. It’s been just a year, but my heart reels from an indescribable sorrow, hollow as an empty shell. While visiting her last resting place recently, a million random thoughts occupied my mind, but mostly feelings of emptiness and profound loss that cannot be described in a million words. It took a lot to summon the courage to get back to life and then, too, because now a bit of the responsibilities that my parents selflessly fulfilled to raise us four siblings are now my call for my own family of four. Such is life — no respect for feelings, not even decent time and space for grieving. My mother was asleep the last time I should have hugged her before departing for Doha, which is now my home away from home, but deluded myself with the assurance that only this time, perhaps there was no need to wake her up for an emotional adieu since I was returning home in a matter of months, for good. It was not to be. The last time I saw her alive actually was on a video call on her birthday. Birthdays are not always made up of rainbow colours; in fact, they can be a harbinger of doom. A week later, she was gone. Losing my father was hard enough, but her loss shook the soul and sapped the spirit. Memories are all that one is left with. Simplicity defined Bushra Rehmat. A mother to the manner born, she selflessly devoted her life to the challenge of raising four of us; three boys and a girl, but it couldn’t have been easier with the modest means. Despite an early marriage, she used every opportunity to learn from her experiences in foreign lands each time my diplomat dad was posted abroad. In hindsight, winning a swimming medal in Kuwait as a schoolgirl must have set it up for a fulfilling family life later in Tanzania, Sri Lanka and India. Adept at all household craft, including culinary skills — the legendary Imran Khan, Pakistan’s current prime minister, did testify to that profusely when he came to our place for lunch years ago (and caused a sensation in the neighbourhood), she developed a taste for music, films, reading and cricket. She was also a Steffi Graf fan as the life-sized poster of the tennis great on her kitchen door proved. The reading included a keen eye for politics and like any other Pakistani, she had an opinion or two about the fare that keeps the nation hooked. Until her debilitating condition took over, she used to regularly read the morning paper, and books, including political works. The one refrain in all the condolence messages and calls that poured in from all over was predicated on her unassuming, soft spoken nature. One individual after the other spoke of a woman who was content with life no matter what it threw at her, never complaining or speaking ill of — or to — anyone. She did however, face an amusing ‘identity’ crisis — thanks to her pronounced natural birthmark, a ‘bindi’ (a coloured dot in the centre of the forehead), especially outside Pakistan! No matter what we accomplish, we’d never be a patch on what our parents did for us, against all odds. And the greatest favour they did us as Facilitators of Good Hope even if they didn’t always agree with our unconventional ideas, was to relent and let us make our own choices. Unbeknownst to many, my mother was that primary mover, quietly making my father agree. They say time heals all wounds, but then it also wounds all heels meandering for inner peace. Middle age, and the experience of having been here before with my father’s passing away two decades ago, is hardly any solace. At home, I reminisce over a black and white frame and yearn to go back in time with my mother clasping me in her arms! Child or man, that will now never happen. May Allah rest her soul in eternal peace. 

IT professionals, entrepreneurs and enthusiasts thronging the Huawei area at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.
Huawei dominates Mobile World Congress with multiple themes

Barcelona Huawei knows no other way than to play big, starting with a colourful yet unique entry into its large pavilions at the entry point. It began to stamp its feet on the opening day of the Mobile World Congress here by presenting its end-to-end 5G products and solutions such as simplified 5G sites, architecture, protocols, and operations & maintenance with customary aplomb. The tech giant expects the new offerings to help operators quickly deploy 5G networks on a large scale. Huawei has also launched the SoftCOM AI solution, which will help build autonomous driving networks of the future and maximise the value of telecom networks. At MWC 19, Huawei has expanded on the theme of "Building a Fully Connected, Intelligent World". Its boisterous main exhibition hall — Hall 1 — is designed around the theme of "The Digital Village", representing the combination of technology and culture. The “Digital Village” provides a platform that brings together global industry elites and KOLs, allowing them to exchange ideas and discuss what challenges and opportunities the fully connected, intelligent world will bring to humanity. In Hall 1, Huawei is showcasing its end-to-end 5G products and solutions, ranging from simplified 5G sites and 5G integrated transport, to 5G cloud core and simplified 5G O&M. It also demonstrated its core technologies behind the new products and solutions, including radio frequency, optical transmission, IP, and IT. In Barcelona this year, Huawei has set its eyes on cyber security mechanisms by holding forums and announcing joint initiatives with major industry organisations. The event marks the first time that all of Huawei's three business groups (BGs) — Carrier BG, Enterprise BG, and Consumer BG — have participated in the MWC. Huawei's Enterprise BG showcased four star products: the industry's fastest OceanStor Dorado series all flash storage; the world's first AI-powered data centre switch; the world's first Wi-Fi 6 access point (AP) for commercial use; and the X series cameras — the world's first AI-powered software-defined cameras. Huawei's Consumer BG showcased multiple popular devices, and launched the world's fastest foldable 5G smartphone on Sunday in a much anticipated and watched event globally.

The Mate X boasts the Falcon Wing Mechanical Hinge
‘World’s Fastest 5G Foldable phone’ steals the show

Barcelona: Huawei Mate X stole the thunder on an otherwise quiet afternoon, a day ahead of the annual World Mobile Congress. As the race heats up for foldable mobiles, the Chinese giant went so far as to call it “the world’s fastest Foldable 5G phone”.  The Mate X boasts the Falcon Wing Mechanical Hinge, 7nm multi-mode modem chipset Balong 5000, a high-capacity 4500mAh battery supporting the world’s fastest 55W HUAWEI SuperCharge and the brand new Interstellar Blue finish.  When folded, the device is a huge display smartphone with a 6.6-inch screen, and when opened, it turns into a slim tablet with an 8-inch screen. Huawei says the multi-form factor revolutionises both productivity and entertainment experiences on a mobile device. Before an awed audience, a Huawei spokesperson folded and unfolded the screen to ring in the cutting edge of the world’s mobile powerhouse.  The Huawei Mate X fully open The Huawei Mate X seen folded Huawei claims the 5G modem is so fast and it’s quad 5G antenna so ahead of the competition that the Mate X is capable of download speeds of up to 4.6GBPS – 10 times faster than most 4G modems. This could mean with 5G connectivity, consumers will be able to download a 1GB movie in 3 seconds flat! The Mate X also comes with an integrated Fingerprint Power Button that enables users to power up the device with one tap, offering a secure and convenient experience.  The expansive viewing area takes on both productivity and entertainment scenarios – everything from editing a document to reading feels better on a larger screen.  The device will have internal storage of 512GB and 8GB RAM.  It will have a generous 4,500mAh battery and support 55-watt charging: this could charge up to 85% in half an hour.  At approximately $2,600, the Mate X, maybe a touch expensive, but it is seen to be edging its rivals swiftly as it sets pace to lead the charge for the future.  A delighted Richard Yu, CEO of Huawei CBG, said: “The HUAWEI Mate X’s revolutionary form represents a voyage into the uncharted. As a new breed of smartphones, it combines 5G, foldable screen, AI and an all-new mode of interfacing to provide consumers with an unprecedented user experience. It will be the first key for consumers to open the door to 5G smart living.”

Placing a flower at the 9-11 Memorial in 2014.  PHOTO: Kamran Rehmat
Total recall: The day that shook the world

I remember the day vividly. Just a few minutes shy of 5pm when I was about to leave for work in Muscat, the languid capital of Sultanate of Oman, where I served as News Editor in 'Times of Oman', the country’s leading English language broadsheet, I switched on the TV; its volume pressed low. It just so happened that the channel on cue was CNN. I watched smoke billowing from a skyscraper but since I did not initially pay attention to the tickers at the bottom of the screen, it seemed eerily like a scene out of a movie. I thought as much. Just then, a plane emerged from the middle of the TV screen on the right and rammed into the building. This intrigued me, because the plane looked real — real enough for me to raise the volume and figure out the fuss. It was then that I realised that this was no figment of imagination and the skyscraper which had looked like a spitting image of the World Trade Center was, in fact, just that: South Tower, taking a startling hit.  __________________________________ There can be any number of arguments in favour of or against the response from the Bush Administration to the terrorist attacks in terms of its dimension and dynamics, but there  can be no denying that the rearguard was inevitable and instructive ___________________________________ It took a while to absorb that all this was really happening — that the world’s sole superpower was under attack — a series of incredibly precise missions impossible one after the other (all in a day’s terror work) — beyond the wildest imagination of a Hollywood scriptwriter. Even though it is 17 years to the day, there is still that aura of disbelief that the mightiest of all nations could be a sitting duck for the while it lasted. But what is beyond a shadow of doubt is that the deadliest terrorist attacks in history did change the world, for both America and the rest of us on this cinder of a planet.  There can be any number of arguments in favour of or against the response from the Bush Administration to the terrorist attacks in terms of its dimension and dynamics, but there can be no denying that the rearguard was inevitable and instructive.  Inscribed names of the victims at the 9-11 Memorial . PHOTO: Kamran Rehmat In a nutshell, the attacks on powerful symbols of American might — Twin Towers signifying the country’s financial might; Pentagon denoting the military might; and the fourth one in Pennsylvania, whose intended target was assumed to be any one of the White House, US Capitol, Camp David retreat in Maryland, or one of a clutch of N-plants along the East Seaboard, but which fell through after determined passengers and flight attendants, who had, by then, learned of the attacks in New York and Washington via cellphones, fought off the hijackers by reportedly, attacking the cockpit with a fire extinguisher — had unequivocally, challenged America’s preeminence and power to influence the world. Now that the dice had been cast, it posed a present and clear danger to the basic civilisational structure of the West, in general, and America, in particular, but also other parts of the globe vulnerable by association. The world itself had to change to counter it. And it fell upon the US to lead the charge.  Declaring a war on terror the same night, President George Bush said in a televised national address: “Terrorist attacks can shake the foundations of our biggest buildings, but they cannot touch the foundation of America. These acts shatter steel, but they cannot dent the steel of American resolve.” Thus began the US-led Operation Enduring Freedom, pivoted on the black-and-white stated policy of “with us or against us”. Regardless of the red heat it generated for its covenant, it impacted global geopolitics on a scale never before seen, and which saw the effective ouster from principled locations in Afghanistan of the Taliban from operational power, and a draining but eventually successful campaign to eliminate Osama bin Laden-led Al Qaeda, and years later, the mastermind himself.  This space would be scant to discuss the length and breadth of the impact made by the global war on terror. But very briefly, what it did was dramatically overhaul the established security policy in the US. Safety, surveillance and privacy took on a whole new dimension with a series of measures — such as the US Patriot Act — which critics say came at the cost of civil liberties. But what it did do was to largely and effectively insulate the US from the kind of damage the 9/11 attacks wrought on it.  Down the road, it has led to far stricter immigration policies resulting in trigger-happy deportations. Elsewhere on the globe, the terror war and its aftermath fomented ongoing conflicts and rebellions, but the scale of death and destruction that had become the norm and peaked with the devastating attack on America in 2001 has reduced. Although by no means is the world out of the radar of terror, it is more aware of the pitfalls of not meeting the menace head-on and suffering isolationism. In 2014, I had occasion to visit the 9/11 Memorial, an experience so profound that it takes you in its sweep. In a way, it symbolises a global communion — remember citizens of more than 90 countries perished in the attacks and the majority of them paid with their lives in the Twin Towers tragedy. Regardless of religion, race, ethnicity, language, or any other distinction, the spirit of humanity weighed heavy and whilst recalling the nerve-racking moments of the tragedy on the day that shook the world, there was an inescapable feeling that may be the world had underestimated the propensity of evil and it took an epic tragedy to draw the realisation and fight back.  

HE the Minister of Justice and Acting Minister of State for Cabinet Affairs Dr Hassan Lahdan Saqr al-Mohannadi, HE the Secretary-General of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Dr Ahmed bin Hassan al-Hammadi and other Qatari dignitaries cutting the cake with Pakistan ambassador Shahzad Ahmad at the event yesterday. PICTURES: Noushad Thekkayil
Pakistan National Day celebrated with fanfare

The 78th National Day of Pakistan was celebrated in style at Ritz-Carlton Doha last evening. The glittering ceremony was attended by a large number of Qatari dignitaries, including royals, high-ranking government functionaries, members of the diplomatic corps, prominent businesspeople and notables of the Pakistani community in Qatar. HE the Minister of Justice and Acting Minister of State for Cabinet Affairs Dr Hassan Lahdan Saqr al-Mohannadi graced the occasion as the chief guest, along with HE the Secretary-General of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Dr Ahmed bin Hassan al-Hammadi, Protocol Chief Ibrahim Yusuf Fakhro, Pakistan’s just retired distinguished air chief Sohail Aman, and Alfardan Group chairman Hussain Alfardan were also present on the occasion. The ceremony began with the playing of national anthems of Qatar and Pakistan, which was followed by a speech from Shahzad Ahmad, Pakistan’s ambassador to Qatar. The envoy gave a brief backgrounder of the day’s significance — the ‘Pakistan Resolution’ of 23rd March 1940 in Lahore that paved the way, seven years later, for an independent state for the Muslims of the Indian subcontinent. In a departure from mostly formal speeches, ambassador Ahmad highlighted Pakistan’s rich heritage and culture, zeroing in on the tourism potential offered by the country’s historical sites and the sheer majesty of its breathtaking landscape. Inviting the distinguished guests, and everyone else to take the plunge, he said, “Today, it’s never been easier to visit and learn about the rich culture of Pakistan and its people. The Financial Times added Pakistan to its list of “Where to go in 2018: an insider’s guide” and now with nine flights a day from Qatar Airways and a journey time of three hours, it has never been easier to make this a destination.” He advised the interested not to pay heed to the often biased portrayal of his country. “The media image portrayed of Pakistan is so far from reality. Pakistan is culturally rich, diverse and the Pakistani people welcoming and tolerant. Misperceptions have been popularised by lazy, and at times, biased journalism,” the ambassador noted, before pointing out that the world had grown smaller through the frequency and low cost of travel. “There are really no excuses for unfounded opinion making. And I urge you to visit and see Pakistan for yourself,” Ambassador Ahmad said as a series of spectacular visuals played out on the large screen for the benefit of the guests. He was also sanguine about the state of bilateral relations with Qatar. He said Pakistan and Qatar shared extremely strong ties, and that theirs was “not a singular relationship but multi-faceted”. He noted that the last several years had seen those ties become ever stronger. “We pray for the success of our Qatari brethren, and our mission in Qatar continues to look for avenues of cooperation between our two countries. I am confident in our continued shared partnership,” the ambassador said, and thanked His Highness the Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, the Qatari leadership, government and the people, for the love and support that they have shown and continue to show to the Pakistani people. The official ceremony concluded with the cutting of a cake by Qatari guests of honour, and the Pakistani ambassador. Yesterday’s high profile event was the second successive celebration of Pakistan’s National Day following Friday’s festivity on the embassy premises for expatriate Pakistanis. Yesterday’s celebration was made all the more memorable for it marked the day when Pakistan was crowned World Champions after winning the cricket World Cup in Australia. In a spirited coincidence, major league cricket also returned to Karachi yesterday after a hiatus of nine years, sparking wild jubilations back home. The Pakistani guests at Ritz-Carlton were soon treated to the live coverage of the Pakistan Super League final, doubled by an array of mouthwatering trademark Pakistani dishes, which were equally lapped up by foreigners of all shades.