Malaysian PM-in-waiting Anwar takes oath as lawmaker

Malaysian politician Anwar Ibrahim prays during his swearing-in ceremony at the parliament in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Monday, Oct. 15, 2018. (AP/Yam G-Jun)
Updated 15 October 2018

Malaysian PM-in-waiting Anwar takes oath as lawmaker

  • The swearing-in ceremony in parliament followed Anwar’s landslide win in a by-election Saturday
  • Anwar, 71, joins his wife, Wan Azizah Wan Ismail — currently Malaysia’s deputy prime minister — and his eldest daughter

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia: Malaysian Prime Minister-in-waiting Anwar Ibrahim said he felt “vindicated” after taking his oath as a lawmaker Monday, marking his return to active politics three years after he was imprisoned for sodomy in a charge that critics said was politically motivated.
The swearing-in ceremony in parliament followed Anwar’s landslide win in a by-election Saturday in the southern coastal town of Port Dickson in which he defeated six other candidates. The seat was vacated after a lawmaker from his party quit, paving the way for Anwar’s political comeback.
Anwar, 71, joins his wife, Wan Azizah Wan Ismail — currently Malaysia’s deputy prime minister — and his eldest daughter, Nurul Izzah Anwar, in parliament. He has said that his by-election victory is a “vote of confidence” in the new government.
“I have been deprived of my right from time to time and I have to go through a by-election to come back ... I feel vindicated,” Anwar told reporters Monday. He reiterated support for Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad’s leadership to ensure a stable government and pledged to focus on parliamentary reforms.
“Our parliament has in the past been considered or dubbed as a rubber stamp ... we would like to ensure a new approach where parliament is more effective,” he said.
Once a high-flying member of the former ruling coalition, Anwar was convicted of homosexual sodomy and corruption after a power struggle with Mahathir, who was prime minister for 22 years until 2003. He was freed in 2004 but was once again convicted for sodomy in 2015, charges that he said were concocted to destroy his political career.
Angered by a massive corruption scandal at a state investment fund involving then-Prime Minister Najib Razak, Mahathir made a political comeback and formed an alliance with Anwar, with the two setting aside their bitter feud ahead of May’s general election.
Following their stunning election victory, Anwar was designated as Mahathir’s successor.
Anwar was freed from prison and received a royal pardon days after the polls. Mahathir, the world’s oldest leader at 93, has said he expects to step down in two years and will keep his promise to hand over power to Anwar.
“Of course I am happy he is back ... we expected him to come back. We knew he was going to win,” Mahathir was quoted as saying by local media on Monday.

Arabic-speaking Pakistanis meet online to bridge cultural gap

Updated 2 min 53 sec ago

Arabic-speaking Pakistanis meet online to bridge cultural gap

  • Apolitical platform to promote language, encourage people-to-people contact, organizers say
  • Constitutes a versatile mix of people from all walks of life

ISLAMABAD: For an hour and a half every fortnight, a group of Pakistanis log on to Zoom, a video-conferencing platform, to enter the digital space of the “Halqa-e-Aldardsha Al-Arabia” or the Arabic Speaking Circle.

The group of 20 are joined by 50 other linguaphiles from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Egypt, Yemen, Sudan and even India — Pakistan’s nuclear-armed neighbor, and its archrival since the 1947 partition.

However, due to the apolitical nature of the group, the conversations are exclusive to and revolve around their experiences and mutual love of Arabic — a language that transcends their digital boundaries.

“Currently, there are 70 members in the group, 20 Pakistanis and 50 from other countries. The Pakistanis and two Indians aren’t native Arabic speakers, they’ve learnt it in the 1970s (as overseas workers), while members from Middle Eastern countries are native speakers, so it’s a good mix,” Dr. Inamul Haq Ghazi, founder of the group and chairman of the Arabic translation department at the International Islamic University in Islamabad, told Arab News on Tuesday.

The group held its first meeting on May 15 with an aim “to promote the language and exchange cultural experiences.” 

The idea, Dr. Ghazi said, originated from the fact that a lot of overseas workers and expatriates were well-versed in spoken Arabic but “didn’t have a platform to connect to a larger audience.”

“Our governments (Pakistan and Saudi Arabia) have strong historical relationships, but we want to promote people-to-people contact through our platform. Millions of our nationals are employed in different fields in several Middle Eastern countries, especially Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE),” he said.

Prime among those is Ambassador Javed Hafeez, another founding member, who said that it began as an informal “group of friends” who were fluent in classical Arabic and “wanted to share their social and cultural experiences.”

“Being fluent in the language, I appear on numerous Arabic news channels as an analyst where I promote a positive image of Pakistan,” Hafeez, who has served in many Middle Eastern countries including Saudi Arabia as an ambassador, told Arab News.

He added that Arabic was a rich language, before urging Pakistani youth to learn it “to expand their careers in the Middle East and know more about their social and cultural values.

A screen grab shows participants of the Arabic Speaking Circle meeting via Zoom held on May 15. (Supplied by Ambassador Javed Hafeez)

All are welcome, Dr. Ghazi added, since there are “no restrictions on nationality.”

“We are, in fact, including people of different nationalities in our group to make it a multinational platform,” he said.

The topics vary from talking about personal experiences to curated subjects.

“In our next meeting, we are planning to discuss ‘Arab travelers to the sub-continent, and how they have portrayed the area in their travelogues.’ We’ve already circulated this topic among the participants, and each member will come prepared to talk about it and ask different questions,” Hafeez said, adding that in the previous session he’d shared his experience of learning the language and how it helped him “climb the ladder of success as a diplomat.”

Next, the group has plans to set up a “Regional Arabic Center” in Pakistan, with the help of Saudi Arabia, to promote the Arabic language and cultural exchange between the two countries.

“The platform could also be used to dub classical dramas and films in both Urdu and Arabic to promote them in Pakistan and Middle Eastern countries. This is an apolitical platform, and its only purpose is to promote Arabic language and strengthen our relationship with Middle Eastern countries,” Dr. Ghazi said.