Destiny by design: COVID-19 a ‘blessing in disguise’ for Pakistani truck artist

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Siyar Khan's ornamental work on lanterns, kettles and teacups is on display at his workshop in Sarband on the outskirts of Peshawar. (AN photo)
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Siyar Khan at his shop in Sarband on the outskirts of Peshawar. (AN photo)
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Updated 19 October 2020

Destiny by design: COVID-19 a ‘blessing in disguise’ for Pakistani truck artist

  • Forced out of work by pandemic, Siyar Khan says one of his life-changing orders came from the house of Peshawar commander, which he was asked to decorate with truck-art motifs

PESHAWAR: A truck artist from northwestern Pakistan, who was put out of business after the coronavirus disease outbreak, has seen his prospects change with a little bit of artistic innovation.

For 25 years, Siyar Khan was one of many artisans painting the traditional bright trucks that add color and humor to Pakistani roads.

But when the pandemic came, and virus-related restrictions ensued, small workshops like his were forced to shut down — and Khan was forced to look beyond the canvas of trucks. 

“Coronavirus almost ruined my small earnings when the truck stands closed,” Khan told Arab News at his small shop in Sarband, on the outskirts of Peshawar.

“During that very hard time, one day, I painted teacups, a kettle and also children’s shoes and posted on social media. I got immense response and orders.”

One of the orders came from the home of the Peshawar Corps’ commander, where Khan was asked to decorate the walls of a guest hall with truck-art motifs.

Recently, the artist completed an assignment at Peshawar’s Pearl Continental Hotel, and is now receiving requests to decorate other properties.

Middlemen have also started to approach Khan for projects in Islamabad and Lahore.

“I recently painted a rickshaw for an American restaurant and a motorcycle for a German diplomat, a bicycle for another customer and dozens of kettles. More orders are pending” he said.

“I can paint each and everything that exists in this world.”

Khan learnt the traditional craft when he quit school after the seventh grade, and his uncle brought him to a truck artist’s store on Peshawar’s Ring Road.

“For nine years, I was an apprentice with the truck artist, and then, with his permission, I began my own truck art profession in a small shop,” he said.

“For years, I was earning a meagre amount, and I would paint a truck every two or three days.”

For each truck, Khan used to earn about 4,000 rupees ($25). But with his new projects, he said, he can make up to 10,000 rupees in a single day, which allows him to pay for his children’s school.

For Khan, the pandemic came as a blessing in disguise.

“It was an opportunity in the toughest challenge. I coped successfully, and now I am very happy ... and also very busy.”


Navy chief who supervised bin Laden mission says he voted for Biden

Updated 21 October 2020

Navy chief who supervised bin Laden mission says he voted for Biden

  • He declared his support for many of the key issues Biden is running on
  • More than 500 retired US military leaders have endorsed Biden in recent months

NEW YORK: The former US Navy Seal who oversaw the 2011 operation that resulted in the death of Osama bin Laden has revealed that he voted for Democratic challenger Joe Biden in the presidential election.
In an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal, retired Adm. William McRaven was scathing about the record of the Trump administration and its “transactional approach to global issues.”
Without referring to the president by name, he said America’s global influence is diminishing as other countries see the most powerful nation in the world “tear up our treaties, leave our allies on the battlefield and cozy up to despots and dictators. (They) have seen an ineptness and a disdain for civility that is beyond anything in their memory.”
He also rejected Trump’s assertion that the US is now held in high regard as a result of his leadership. McRaven, who was commander of US Special Operations Command from 2011 to 2014, said that the world no longer trusts America to “stand up to tyranny, lift up the downtrodden, free the oppressed, and fight for the righteous.”
He stressed his traditional conservative values, including opposition to abortion and a tough stance on defense matters. But he also declared his support for many of the key issues Biden is running on, including support for racial equality and the Black Lives Matter movement, a fair path to citizenship for immigrants, a return to America’s founding ideals of diversity and inclusion, and the need to take action on climate change.
More than 500 retired US military leaders have endorsed Biden in recent months, including four former chairmen of the Joints Chiefs of Staff. However, McRaven has been particularly forceful in his criticism since the president took office, describing Trump as unfit for the office of commander-in-chief. In numerous interviews and op-eds he has accused him of eroding American values and undermining US democratic institutions.
He described Trump’s attacks on the media as “the greatest threat to democracy in my lifetime.” And in an op-ed for the Washington Post in February, he said he fears for the future of his country if Trump remains in power.
“As Americans, we should be frightened,” he wrote. “(When) good men and women can’t speak the truth, (when) integrity and character no longer matter, when presidential ego and self-preservation are more important than national security — then there is nothing left to stop the triumph of evil.”
In another scathing op-ed, published by the New York Times in October 2019, McRaven said the American republic is “under attack” from the man in the Oval Office.
Trump previously dismissed the criticism, claiming in 2018 that McRaven had been a supporter of Hillary Clinton during the 2016 presidential election, and questioning why bin Laden was not killed sooner.
In response, McRaven said: “I did not back Hillary Clinton or anyone else.”
On one occasion when asked to comment on the criticism from the retired admiral, Trump said he did not know who he was.
In his latest op-ed — titled “Biden will make America lead again” — McRaven restated the need for an American leadership driven by “conviction and a sense of honor and humility.”
He concludes with a warning that echoes one given by former President George H.W. Bush in the 1998 book “A World Transformed:” “If we remain indifferent to our role in the world, if we retreat from our obligation to our citizens and our allies and if we fail to choose the right leader, then we will pay the highest price for our neglect and shortsightedness.”