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.”


Won’t push partisan 'agendas' through Pakistan digital media wing, its chief says

Updated 06 August 2020

Won’t push partisan 'agendas' through Pakistan digital media wing, its chief says

  • Imran Ghazali is one of the founding members of the social media team of PM Khan’s ruling Tehreek-e-Insaf party
  • Digital Media Wing was set up in February “to effectively counter fake and libellous news and highlight development agenda of government”

ISLAMABAD: A longtime aide to Prime Minister Imran Khan and the newly appointed chief of Pakistan’s Digital Media Wing (DMW) said this week he would not allow official social media channels to be used to push “personal or party” agendas.
The cabinet of PM Khan approved the new digital unit in February this year, and appointed Imran Ghazali as its general manager on August 3. Ghazali, a longtime media executive, is one of the founding members of the social media team of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, the political party founded and headed by PM Khan.
The DMW, which has a 22-member team of content writers, graphic designers, video editors and videographers, has received funding of Rs42.791 million, or $256,000, from the government to kickstart its work.
“Our sole mandate is to provide the public with genuine official information on social media platforms,” Ghazali told Arab News in an interview. “Let me assure our critics that we won’t be pushing any personal or party agenda through official digital channels.”
Responding to criticism that he has been hired because of his closeness to the prime minister, Ghazali said: “I’m hired for the job based on my years of industry experience, and through a rigorous official process.”
Ghazali has previously worked as head social media consultant at DFID’s family planning project DAFPAK, led digital strategy for UNICEF for the Clean Green Pakistan initiative and worked as a consultant for the World Bank, among many other senior positions in the media industry.
APP, Pakistan’s state news agency, reported on February 4 that the Economic Coordination Committee of the cabinet had approved the creation of a new digital media unit in the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting.
“The purpose of the wing would be to effectively counter the fake and libellous news and highlight the development agenda of the government,” the APP said.
The creation of the new digital media unit has raised concerns the government is taking yet another step to curb press freedoms.
Last month, Pakistan’s interior minister said the government planned to introduce new laws to curb coronavirus misinformation on social media platforms in a move that has stoked fears authorities will use the additional powers to suppress criticism of government policies. The government denies this.
The National Command and Operation Center, a top federal body set up to oversee the government’s coronavirus mitigation efforts, has also set up a committee under the chairmanship of the interior minister to prepare a legal framework to help the government deal with “fake news” on social media platforms.
In February, the government approved, and then rolled back, new rules to regulate cyberspace after opponents said they could be used to stifle dissent. Social media companies have also largely shunned obliging to help law enforcement agencies access data and remove online content deemed unlawful.
Last year, the government’s plans to launch specialist media courts also sparked a furious backlash from media and rights advocates amid complaints of growing pressure on broadcasters and newspapers to avoid covering critics of the ruling administration, which the administration denies.
But Ghazali said the new digital wing was only meant to release informative videos and data-driven content to improve Pakistan’s image abroad and counter ‘propaganda’ against the country.
“We need to show the world through digital platforms that Pakistan is a peaceful and peace loving country, and we’ll be doing this to attract foreign tourists and investment,” he said.
Ghazali said his team’s first task would be to create official social media accounts of all government ministries, as only ten to twelve departments currently had a digital presence.
“This is the age of Internet and social media, so we have to boost our presence to connect with the public,” he said, adding: “We won’t be working for ministers or any government functionary, instead our role is to strengthen the overall digital media presence of the state.”
Nighat Dad, executive director of the Digital Rights Foundation, said it would be a challenge for the new digital media unit to be an impartial body that provided reliable news and didn’t push the government’s agenda.
“Its [the wing’s] TORs [terms of reference] should be made public as people deserve to know what their mandate is and what they are doing,” she said. “The officials of the digital media wing should be neutral, transparent and there must be an independent accountability system, so taxpayers money is not squandered.”