News Buzz

November 2023

Khalid Ahmed Brings Back
Memories of Zia Mohyeddin

Thespian Khalid Ahmed recently presented a choicest selection of Urdu literature, reminding everyone of the magic legendary Zia Mohyeddin himself used to weave through dramatic recitations.

At the very outset of his performance at the National Academy of Performing Arts (Napa), Khalid Ahmed said dramatic recitation is an art that Zia Mohyeddin had popularised globally, and that is why it was important to pay tributes to him.

He started with a narration of the last part of Krishen Chander’s novel Ghaddar, a story of the Partition. He said his choice of this text was based on the fact that not many people had written on the tragedy that humanity suffered from during the genocides of those times.

He then moved on to Akhtar ul-Iman’s poem Dasna Station Ka Musafir, another literary work in the perspective of the cross-migrations of 1947.

Ahmed then moved on to Sahir Ludhianvi’s celebrated Taj Mahal. His next two choices were from Faiz Ahmed Faiz: Mere Humdum Mere Dost and Manzar.

Nostalgia returned with Ahmed choosing Nazeer Akbarabadi’s Alam-i-Peeri as his next recitation, followed by N. M. Rashid’s Raqs, and finishing off with Rashid’s acclaimed Hasan Kuzagar. Throughout this recitation, he was accompanied by Rahat Ali on flute.

HBL and J.P. Morgan Enter
into an Agreement

HBL, the largest bank in Pakistan, has entered into an agreement with J.P. Morgan Payments, to provide secure, and cost-effective cross-border payments via J.P. Morgan’s Xpedite Remit. The agreement extends an existing relationship between the two financial institutions to provide remittance services in Pakistan.

Commenting on this collaboration, Faisal N. Lalani, Head International Banking – HBL, said, “We are extremely proud of this engagement with J.P. Morgan Payments. J.P. Morgan’s Xpedite Remit solution will enable individuals across the globe to send remittances to Pakistan in a secure and cost-effective manner. Remittances can be sent to HBL and other bank accounts or as Cash Over Counter from any of the Bank’s over 1750 branches in Pakistan.”

Commenting on this collaboration, Amin Khowaja, Chief Executive Officer, Pakistan - J.P. Morgan, said, “J.P. Morgan is very excited to enter into a strategic engagement with HBL. Pakistan is one of the largest remittance recipient corridors and we will work together to streamline remittances.”

India arrests top Vivo executives

India’s financial crime agency recently arrested four executives of Chinese smartphone maker Vivo, including one Chinese national.

Vivo and the country’s Enforcement Directorate (ED) did not immediately respond to requests for comment made by email and telephone. The executives were arrested in relation to an ongoing 2022 case where the ED raided the company’s offices and accused it of money laundering. The company has repeatedly denied the allegations. It has previously said it cooperated with authorities to provide them with all required information and was “committed to be fully compliant with laws.” Vivo is owned by China’s BBK Electronics, which also operates brands such as Oppo and Realme in India.

Vivo is the second biggest smartphone brand in India with a 17 per cent market share in shipments, trailing behind Samsung.

NBP announces pilot launch
of ‘Digital Account Opening’

National Bank of Pakistan (NBP) is pleased to announce the Pilot launch of its Digital Account. The new service will enable account opening digitally for all customers. People from across the country will be able to open an account with NBP, anytime, from anywhere, just by downloading the NBP Digital App and tapping on the “Open Account” to start the customer account opening journey conveniently. This innovative platform is set to transform the banking experience for individual Pakistani customers.

NBP’s Digital Account Opening Services align with the Customers’ Digital Onboarding Framework (CDOF), and will offer a wide range of benefits to customers. As part of its commitment to enhancing customer convenience, NBP plans to continually expand the range of services available through this digital platform.

At the occasion of the ceremony, NBP President & CEO, Mr. Rehmat Ali Hasnie opened his Digital Account and commenting on this significant milestone, he stated, “At NBP, we are committed to providing innovative banking solutions that cater to the evolving needs of our customers. The launch of the Digital Account service represents a major step in this direction, enabling customers to bank with ease, security, and convenience. We remain dedicated to delivering excellence in digital banking services, and this is just the beginning of our journey towards a more digitally inclusive future.”

Khaleda Zia at ‘high risk of death’

Bangladeshi doctors believe opposition leader Khaleda Zia is at “high risk” of dying without urgent medical intervention abroad after authorities rejected a plea to let her leave the country.

Khaleda Zia, 78, is a two-time former prime minister who heads the main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and has been living under effective house arrest since her release from a 17-year prison sentence in 2020. She has advanced liver cirrhosis, diabetes and heart problems and the government of her bitter rival, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, has rejected a family request to allow her to travel to Germany for a liver transplant.

A panel of 17 doctors who treated Zia at a top private hospital in the Bangladeshi capital for the last two months backed the family, saying her condition was deteriorating. “She’s at high risk of death,” hepatologist Nooruddin Ahmad told reporters.

Zia and Hasina, 77 are known as the Battling Begums of Bangladesh politics and their internecine rivalry has dominated the politics of the South Asian nation of 170 million people for over four decades..

RSF condemns detention
of Kashmiri journalist

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has condemned the arrest of Majid Jimmy Hyderi, a freelance Kashmiri journalist, who it said has been held arbitrarily for more than three weeks in India-held Kashmir under the draconian Public Safety Act (PSA).

Majid Jimmy Hyderi’s detention has brought the number of journalists currently held in India-held Jammu and Kashmir to six.

After his arrest by local police in Srinagar on September 15 on the basis of an FIR, Hyderi was released on bail the next day, however, he was immediately rearrested under the controversial PSA, which deals with the direct threats to the security of the state.

Majid Jimmy Hyderi, as former editor of Srinagar-based regional daily Greater Kashmir and a regular contributor to DailyO, a news site aimed at young people, is known for his moderate political views and has often criticised corruption within the Kashmiri bureaucracy.

On Sept 15, his arrest on charges of “criminal conspiracy, intimidation, extortion, giving false information, and defamation” sent a chilling message about the authorities’ intolerance for even mildly critical journalists, potentially leading to a 14-year imprisonment.

Cricket set for shot
at Olympic glory

Cricket’s long Olympic exile finally came to an end when Games chiefs met in Mumbai to finalise the programme for Los Angeles 2028.

Twenty-eight sports are already confirmed on the schedule but cricket was one of five new sports alongside flag football, lacrosse, squash and baseball-softball formally proposed for inclusion by organisers for the Games in October first week.

The International Cricket Council’s proposal is for men’s and women’s Twenty20 competitions — the shortest form of the international game.

“We are delighted that LA28 have recommended cricket for inclusion in the Olympics,” ICC chairman Greg Barclay said. “Whilst this is not the final decision, it is a very significant landmark towards seeing cricket at the Olympics for the first time in more than a century.”

Frank Sinatra in Karachi

Singer, actor and model Shahzad Noor recently visited Karachi to sing Frank Sinatra’s classics at the National Academy of Performing Arts (Napa).

He was accompanied by Karachi Jazz Band and concert pianist Usman Anees. A guest appearance by Seerat J Peerzadi was also the feature of the show.

Shahzad Noor, who sang memorable Sinatra songs like ‘The way you look tonight’, ‘Moon River’, ‘My Funny Valentine’, ‘New York’ and many more, brought with him the feelings of nostalgia that made many in the audience revisit their childhood memories.

His soulful voice made him a good reminder of the way Frank Sinatra used to sing. For the songs where the papa Sinatra was joined by his equally illustrious daughter Nancy, Seerat Peerzadi accompanied Shahzad. A packed auditorium loved the music show.

Maldives’ new president wants
Indian troops out of country

Dr Mohamed Muizzu, who recently won the Maldives presidential election, has asked India to get its troops out of the country.

“We don’t want any foreign military boots on Maldivian soil. I promised this to the people of the Maldives and I will live up to my promise from day one,” the president-elect, who is due to be sworn in later in November, said.

He said he had met the Indian ambassador a few days after his victory and “told him very clearly that every single Indian military personnel here should be removed”.

The Maldives has long been under India’s sphere of influence and Mr Muizzu’s demand is likely to trigger diplomatic tensions between Malé and Delhi.

Mr Muizzu also says that the presence of these troops could put the Maldives at risk, especially as tensions between India and China escalate along their Himalayan border.

“Maldives is too small to get entangled with this global power struggle. We will not get entangled in this,” he said.

Arundhati Roy faces prosecution

Booker Prize-winning Indian novelist Arundhati Roy could be prosecuted for a 2010 speech about India-held Kashmir after a top official signed off on the move.

Roy, 61, is one of India’s most famous living authors, but her writing and activism, including her trenchant criticism of PM Narendra Modi’s government, has made her a polarising figure at home.

A criminal complaint accusing her and several others of sedition had languished in India’s notoriously glacial criminal justice system since it was first filed in 2010.

But in October first week, Indian media reported that V.K. Saxena, the top official in the administration governing New Delhi, had given approval for the case to proceed before the courts.

Saxena’s directive said there was enough evidence for a case to proceed against Roy and her co-defendants “for their speeches at a public function” in the capital.

The original complaint accuses Roy and others of giving speeches advocating the secession of India-held Kashmir from India.

Pakistan makes history at 2026 FIFA WC qualifiers

Pakistan created history as they defeated Cambodia 1-0 at the 2026 FIFA World Cup qualifier first round match, Harun Hamid scored the winner for the host at Jinnah Stadium, Islamabad. The team was playing their World Cup qualifier at home after 12 years and this was also the first international match that Pakistan played at home in eight years, the last one being in 2018, a friendly against Afghanistan.

The England-born Hamid scored the winner in the 68th minute as he slipped the ball smoothly through the Cambodian goalkeeper. Pakistan pulled off an upset of sorts as they, ranked 197th in the world, defeated Cambodia, ranked 177. The men in green played a goalless draw in the first leg earlier, and with the 1-0 win in the second leg, they won the tie 1-0 on aggregate.

With this win Pakistan also broke their miserable losing streak in their last 13 matches out of which eight were played from November 2022 June this year. Throughout this period they conceded 18 goals and scored only one, which was against Djibouti in a friendly. The 2026 World Cup will also be the first time 48 teams will be featured in the main event with a new format. But on the continental front, Pakistan joined Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Tajikistan in Group G, while second-round matches will begin on November 16.

South Asia, the world’s most disconnected region

The Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA), the 23-member intergovernmental organization, recently conducted its annual conference in Colombo, Sri Lanka. Pakistan, a country with a 1,046-kilometer-long coastline along the Arabian Sea and being a significant state in the Indian Ocean Region, was purposefully excluded from this conference. Pakistan, for its part, has likewise not made a real effort to enter the door.

The Himalayas have lost 40% of their ice due to the melting of glaciers. Pakistan, in particular, has been in the throes of a serious existential threat. Therefore, Pakistan has faced a tremendous existential threat, along with the rest of South Asia, which has been the most severely impacted by the climate crisis. Pakistan would have benefited from the rich discussion that was on the IORA’s menu, which covered the blue economy, maritime safety, disaster risk management, regional trade, and fisheries management, etc. The World Bank held its second Editor’s Forum with journalists and editors from South Asian nations.

X social media to test $1 annual subscription

Social media platform X, formerly known as Twitter, said it will test a new subscription model under which it will charge $1 annual fee for basic features.

The new subscription termed as “Not A Bot” will charge users for likes, reposts or quoting other accounts’ posts, and bookmarking posts on the web version of the platform.

The purpose of introducing the new subscription model is to combat bots and spammers, X said, adding that the fee will vary from country to country based on the exchange rate.

X said the new method will be first available for users in New Zealand and Philippines.

Within this test, existing users are not affected. But new users who would not wish to subscribe will only be able to view and read posts, watch videos and follow accounts.

Nutshell turns 20

Nutshell’s 20-year journey of finding opportunity, providing access, and delivering excellence was celebrated in a majestic evening in Karachi. The beautiful venue hosted Nutshell’s friends, supporters, and well-wishers. A constellation of more than 900 guests from all walks of life - corporate leaders, senior public sector officials, and the national intelligentsia graced the occasion.

Bombay court rejects petition
to ban Pakistani Artistes

The Bombay High Court, in a landmark decision, has dismissed a petition seeking a ban on Indian citizens, companies, and associations from engaging Pakistani artistes, including actors, singers, musicians, lyricists, and technicians.

A division bench of Justice Sunil B. Shukre and Justice Firdosh P. Pooniwalla firmly stated that the petition represents a “retrograde step in promoting cultural harmony, unity, and peace, and has no merit in it.”

The petitioner, a cine worker, had sought directions from the Information and Broadcasting Ministry, the Ministry of External Affairs, and the Ministry of Home Affairs to issue appropriate notifications imposing a ban and prohibiting the granting of visas to Pakistani artistes working in India.

According to reports, the plea cited the resolution passed by the All-Indian Cine Workers Association (AICWA) in the aftermath of the Pulwama attacks, along with similar resolutions by the Indian Motion Pictures Producers Association (IMPPA) and the Federation of Western India Cine Employees (FWICE). They demanded banning Pakistani artistes from the Indian film industry. The MNS Cinema Wing, created by Raj Thakeray, also cautioned filmmakers against hiring Pakistani artists.

Advocate Vibhav Krishna, representing the petitioner, argued that allowing Pakistani artistes to work in India could lead to discrimination against Indian artists. He contended that the favourable environment available to Pakistani artistes in India is not reciprocated for Indian artistes in Pakistan. According to Krishna, the ban is essential to prevent the exploitation of commercial opportunities by Pakistani artistes in India, which could potentially deprive Indian artistes of similar opportunities.

PIA switches to plan B

The Pakistan International Airlines (PIA), which is currently facing a fuel crisis, carried on with its plan B – limited operations – as several of its flights were cancelled yet again.

The state-run airline’s two-way flights from Karachi to other cities continued to be cancelled and most of them were delayed.

The Pakistan State Oil (PSO) has refused to provide jet fuel to the cash-strapped PIA over lack of payment of its outstanding dues, adding to the national flag carrier’s serious financial woes.

Two PIA flights from Karachi to Islamabad – PK 308 and PK 368 – were cancelled. Similarly, the national airline’s flights from Karachi to Dammam, Muscat, Lahore, Bahawalpur, Rahim Yar Khan and Quetta were also unable to take off. Further, two flights from Islamabad to Karachi – PK 319 and PK 369 – were cancelled as well.

Four more Islamabad flights – to and from Sukkur and Quetta – were also included in the cancellation list. Several flights were unable to take off on time. The departure of flight PK 743 from Karachi to Madina was delayed by 6:20 hours. Flight PK 735 from Islamabad to Jeddah, scheduled to take off at 11am, had been delayed by 14 hours. Similarly, a flight from Multan to Madina would depart at 12pm with a delay of 4:25 hours.

The PIA was operating 48 flights, 32 of them on international routes while 16 domestically. The national flag carrier’s priority profitable destinations include Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries, Canada, China and Malaysia’s Kuala Lumpur.