Malaysian Sikh bikers ride to Pakistan for cancer awareness

Chosen by the National Cancer Society Malaysia, 17 Sikh members of the Santana Riderz Malaysia Club will set out to cover 16,000 kilometers to raise funds for pediatric cancer. The ride coincides with the birth anniversary of the founder of Sikhism and concludes in the city of his birth, Nankana Sahib, Pakistan. Picture taken on April 26, 2018 (Photo Courtesy: Santana Riderz Malaysia Club Instagram)
Updated 21 September 2019

Malaysian Sikh bikers ride to Pakistan for cancer awareness

  • The ride coincides with the 550th birth anniversary of the founder of Sikhism and ends in his birthplace, Nankana Sahib, in Pakistan
  • Santana Riderz want to raise awareness about pediatric cancer, generate funds to combat the disease

ISLAMABAD: A Malaysian motorcycle club, Santana Riderz, has decided to raise awareness and funds for pediatric cancer by planning a biking expedition to Pakistan in which its members will ride through a number of countries, said the association’s top official on Friday.
The 17 riders belong to the Sikh community and hope to conclude their journey in Pakistan’s eastern town of Nankana Sahib, the birthplace of the founder of their religion, Guru Nanak, whose 550th birth anniversary will be celebrated in November this year.
Pakistan’s Punjab province holds tremendous historic significance for Sikhism. Not only does it have the community’s holiest religious shrine but was also part of its empire in the early half of the 19th century and was governed by one of its most illustrious rulers, Maharaja Ranjit Singh.
The Sikh riders have embarked on their venture in collaboration with the National Cancer Society of Malaysia (NSCM) and will cruise the roads of Thailand, Myanmar and India before finishing their trip in Pakistan.
According to details, six of them will kick off the run from Malaysia while others will ride into formation as the journey continues. The group will cover 16,000 kilometers in almost 40 days, and each rider will spend about Rs350,000 to meet their fuel, food and accommodation expenses.
46-year-old Jaspal Singh, who serves as president of the motorcycle club, maintains it is the largest bike ride of its kind since it aims to raise funds for children fighting cancer.
“Santana Riderz Malaysia Club is an organization that reaches out to help anyone in their means,” he told Arab News. “We are united by a common goal: To save and improve lives, especially young ones.”
“In Malaysia, the NCSM has always kept its door open to people who want to do voluntary work,” he added. “Children shouldn’t feel sick or lose their hair. They shouldn’t have to face long term effects like hearing loss or the ability to ever walk. These are some of the driving factors that compelled us to connect with the NCSM.”
Under the theme “Sarbat Da Bhala” – or “blessings for everyone” – funds raised through the ride will go to children and their families, regardless of race or creed. According to Singh, this was also one reason why the NCSM chose the club’s charitable ride.
Established in 1979, Santana Riderz has 46 members. The non-profit has been an active philanthropic force in Malaysia since it has previously organized a number of initiatives to help communities across that country by raising money on wheels.
On coming to Pakistan, Singh said a few of his group members had traveled to the country before, but “a journey to a place of such significance” was always worth repeating.
“Just like anyone who has faith in God, going to a place of sanctuary is most satisfying to the soul and mind. This sanctuary is a sacred place for us, set apart from the profane, ordinary world,” he added. “This kind of phenomenon is beyond emotional and indescribable. We have gratitude and feel most connected to God.”

'No food left in the sea': Pakistani fishermen fearful as Chinese trawlers dock at Karachi port 

Updated 19 October 2020

'No food left in the sea': Pakistani fishermen fearful as Chinese trawlers dock at Karachi port 

  • Fisherfolk forum says government plan to allow Chinese to carry out deep-sea fishing in territorial waters could render millions jobless 
  • Federal government says bottom trawling will not be allowed under new fishing policy

KARACHI: A pressure group that represents Pakistani fishermen has said a government plan to allow Chinese companies to carry out deep-sea fishing in the country’s territorial waters could threaten the survival of at least three million people who depend on the sea for livelihood.
Last month, 12 Chinese deep-sea trawlers docked at the port of Karachi, unleashing fear among local fishermen who say commercial fishing vessels and bottom-trawling would deplete fish stocks in the exclusive federal sea zones off the Sindh and Balochistan provinces. 
Bottom trawling - dragging nets across the sea floor to scoop up fish - stirs up the sediment lying on the seabed, displaces or harms some marine species, causes pollutants to mix into plankton and move into the food chain and creates harmful algae blooms or oxygen-deficient dead zones.
The coastal line of Sindh and Balochistan is 1,050 km long, Mohammad Ali Shah, Chairman Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum, told Arab News last week, saying around three million fishermen relied on the sea to survive. 
A new fishing policy is expected but yet to be revealed by the government, he said. 
“The deep-sea trawler policy has not yet been approved but before that they [China] have brought these trawlers,” Shah said, calling the arrival of the Chinese vessels at Karachi port last month ‘illegal.’ 

In this undated photo, fishing vessels of Fujian Fishery Company move from the Gwadar port towards Karachi, Pakistan (Photo courtesy: Fishermen Cooperatives Society)

In 2018, the government enacted a deep-sea fishing licensing policy that both fishermen's representative bodies and provincial government bodies opposed, calling it a constitutional violation and an encroachment on the livelihoods of fishermen in the coastal provinces.
Fears about foreign fishing companies eating up local communities are not new.
For years, fishermen in the southwestern city of Gwadar in Balochistan province - a flagship of the $60 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor - have protested against foreign trawlers. 
Tensions first began to mount when the Fisheries Department disclosed its plan to issue licenses to various foreign fishing vessels to operate in an exclusive economic zone in 2016.
But last week, the federal minister for maritime affairs, Ali Haider Zaidi, told Arab News the country’s new deep-sea fishing policy would not allow Chinese trawlers to engage in unregulated deep-sea fishing. Bottom trawling, he said, would be banned under the new policy.
“Importing boats is not illegal,” he said. “How you use them has to be regulated.”
Pakistan divides its sea into three zones, where zone-3 (from 20 to 200 nautical miles) is controlled by the federal government. Up to 12 nautical miles (zone-1) is the domain of the provinces Sindh and Balochistan and between 12 to 20 nautical miles the sea is declared a buffer zone. 

Fishermen remove fish from a net at the Clifton beach in Pakistan's port city of Karachi on Oct. 6, 2020. (AFP/File)

Local fishermen are not allowed to fish in zone-3 and foreign fishing vessels are not permitted to fish in the other two zones under the existing policy.
The Fishermen's Cooperative Society (FCS), which issued the permit to the Chinese trawlers, said the Chinese fishing vessels would not use the destructive bottom trawling method and instead help ‘upgrade’ Pakistan’s fishing industry and export.
Official figures put the annual value of Pakistan’s fish exports at roughly $450 million.
“Bringing Chinese trawlers for deep sea fishing is in line with the government’s deep-sea fishing policy and aimed at upgrading and modernizing fishing, besides providing job opportunities to local fishermen,” Abdul Berr, Chairman of the Fishermen's Cooperative Society, told Arab News.
“Around 3,500 fishermen will get employment opportunities with the arrival of the world’s latest fishing boats and modern small boats,” Berr said. 
He added: “First, 70 percent of the staff at trawlers and processing facilities will be local. There will be no fishing in provincial territorial waters. The trawlers will bring all their catch to Karachi where it will be processed in factories and then exported.”
Small local fishermen would receive modern fiber boats on ‘easy instalments,’ Berr said, a step towards replacing their obsolete boats.
But Sindh’s minister for livestock and fisheries, Abdul Bari Pitafi, said the mega fishing ships would wipe out sea-life, even if they were only operating in the federal government’s zone-3.
“We will...also oppose its [trawlers’] operations in zone-3 because they will just wipe out sea-life including the fish’s seed,” Pitafi told Arab News.
In 2016, a survey carried out by the Food and Agriculture Organisation revealed that more than 72 percent of the fish stock in Pakistan’s coastal areas had already declined.
“One trawler does a catch that is equal to a catch by 100 of our fishing boats,” Younus Khaskheli, a fisherman, said. “And their fishing net is the most dangerous one, because it hunts thousands of tons of fish.” 
Tens of thousands of fishing boats are registered in Pakistan, he said, with fishermen from Sindh, Balochistan, Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and even Bangladesh fishing in these waters.
“Our sea stock will end; the country will lose the income of billions and our fishermen will become jobless,” Khaskheli said. “There won’t be any food left in the sea.”