Pakistani workers forging new careers out of COVID-19 pandemic meltdown

Special Pakistani workers forging new careers out of COVID-19 pandemic meltdown
The collage of photos shows Sundar Waqar (L), Mehr F Hussain (2L), Saadia Ahmed (3L) and Jasir Shahbaz. (Social media)
Short Url
Updated 09 October 2021

Pakistani workers forging new careers out of COVID-19 pandemic meltdown

Pakistani workers forging new careers out of COVID-19 pandemic meltdown
  • While global economic collapse caused by health crisis has cost millions of jobs, for some it has provided new opportunities

RAWALPINDI: Saadia Ahmed worked for years as an entertainment journalist for an online magazine until the publication shut down soon after the start of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic last year.

The 35-year-old correspondent was devastated as she saw massive job losses around the world. But rather than wait for the business to pick up again, she decided to change direction.

“At first, I thought I should start writing a book, but then I felt too depressed to work on a project such as that,” she told Arab News from her base in Perth, Australia.

“Ultimately, I decided to take the advice of a friend who suggested that I should launch my own YouTube channel.”

Armed with a selfie stick and her intuition, Ahmed started making and uploading videos three times a week, focusing on developments around the world and discussing rights issues on a channel called “My Two Cents.”

“Since then, there has been no looking back,” said Ahmed, who was selected for a master of philosophy degree program on the basis of her broadcasts.

The global economic collapse caused by the COVID-19 outbreak has put the futures of millions of people in doubt.

“Sometimes you need to burn the boats. I wasn’t courageous enough to do that on my own, but the shutting down of the magazine did it for me. If you can, you must go for it too,” she added.

Several other Pakistanis have made similar choices.

Journalist Mehr F. Hussain said: “I was standing outside my door one night, staring at the bolted gate, and I told myself, ‘this is it; this is all it takes to strip us of our lives.’”

After many years of finding Pakistan’s publishing industry frustrating, Hussain took the reprieve offered by the pandemic to “jump off the proverbial cliff” and launch her dream project, an independent publishing platform called Zuka Books.

“It was an act of creative resistance to what was happening around me. It was a move for liberation from the old guard. Basically, it was a massive farewell to the pre-pandemic life I led,” she added.

Hussain’s business has published a fashion coffee table book, a graphic novel, and a book of poetry, among others.

“I wish I had taken this decision earlier. I wish I had been more proactive before the pandemic, but it takes a journey to get to a destination. I feel I made the right decision at the right time, and I am lucky to have done so,” Hussain added.

The pandemic also gave 30-year-old corporate executive Sundar Waqar a second lease of life, making her abandon a nine-to-five job at a corporate firm and establish a business selling allergen-free food and baked items.

Waqar, who was diagnosed with celiac disease which prevented her from consuming gluten, realized during the pandemic that she could do something for others with dietary restrictions similar to hers.

“I have been making food for myself for years and have met people who faced difficulties in finding gluten-free food, so I decided to start this,” she said, adding that the pandemic was the catalyst to devoting herself fully to launching a gluten-free food business in Karachi.

“I am so glad I did it. I cannot stress enough that if you want to change something in your life or career, no matter how drastic, you should take the plunge. It is scary and has its own challenges, but it is definitely worth it.”

Financial consultant Jasir Shahbaz, 26, who left his job to teach economics, said: “When you are working from home, it is just you and what you do to make a living. That’s also when you begin to ask yourself if the work you do is what you truly imagined for yourself. Without this time to reflect, I would have continued in that job for a long time.”

He pointed out that the pandemic had forced him to reckon with uncertainty and let go of all the hang ups that had hindered him from pursuing teaching as a career.

“There has always been this negative perception about teaching in Pakistan, that it is not the most preferred career trajectory for men. I decided to let it go,” he added.

A year on, Shahbaz said he felt “great” about his new job, which was a “stark contrast” to the previous one in terms of his sense of fulfilment.

Hussain said: “If the pandemic has done anything it is to make us realize how important it is to live a better and more conscious life.”


Man charged with new woman’s killing on streets of London

Man charged with new woman’s killing on streets of London
Updated 57 min 39 sec ago

Man charged with new woman’s killing on streets of London

Man charged with new woman’s killing on streets of London
  • Jordan McSweeney, 29, is charged with the murder of 35-year-old Zara Aleena
  • He spoke only to confirm his name and details during a brief hearing at the Thames Magistrates' Court

LONDON: A man was remanded in custody Wednesday after appearing in a London court charged with the murder and attempted rape of a woman who had been walking home alone in east London.
It was the latest in a string of similar incidents that have heightened concern over the safety of women and girls on the British capital’s streets.
Jordan McSweeney, 29, is charged with the murder of 35-year-old Zara Aleena, who was attacked after a night out in Ilford in the early hours of Sunday.
McSweeney, who is also charged with attempted rape and robbery, spoke only to confirm his name and details during a brief hearing at the Thames Magistrates’ Court.
In a statement, Aleena’s family mourned her death and called for an end to violence against women. They highlighted the killings of other women who were targeted by strangers in London and elsewhere.
The family expressed sympathy to the families of Sarah Everard, Sabina Nessa and others who were killed in recent months and whose deaths prompted widespread protests calling for more protection for women and girls.
The family said Aleena, a law graduate who was training to become a lawyer, “walked everywhere” and “believed that a woman should be able to walk home.”
“Sadly, Zara is not the only one who has had her life taken at the hands of a stranger. We all know women should be safe on our streets. She was in the heart of her community, 10 minutes from home,” their statement said.
Police said Aleena suffered serious head injuries, confirmed in a post-mortem examination.
McSweeney was denied bail and remanded in custody until he is due to appear at London’s Central Criminal Court on Jul. 27.
A march remembering Aleena is planned in Ilford on Saturday.


Japan’s Kishida backs Sweden’s NATO bid

Japan’s Kishida backs Sweden’s NATO bid
Updated 8 min 46 sec ago

Japan’s Kishida backs Sweden’s NATO bid

Japan’s Kishida backs Sweden’s NATO bid
  • Japan hopes to strengthen its relations with Sweden further as partners sharing basic values, Kishida added.

MADRID: Japanese Prime Minister KISHIDA Fumio on Wednesday expressed support for Sweden’s bid to join NATO in a meeting with his Swedish counterpart, Magdalena Andersson, on Wednesday.
“We support (Sweden’s) historic decision. We also express our respect for its efforts,” Kishida told Andersson.
NATO, which opened a two-day summit in Madrid on Wednesday, is expected to grant membership to Sweden and Finland after Turkey switched to support their participation.
Kishida said that Japan and Sweden will hold the presidency of the Group of Seven major powers and the European Union, respectively, next year.
Japan hopes to strengthen its relations with Sweden further as partners sharing basic values, Kishida added.
Andersson expressed gratitude for Japan’s strong action against Russia in response to its invasion of Ukraine.

* This article originally appeared on Arab News Japan, click here to read it.


Russian court lets opposition figure’s jail term stand

Russian court lets opposition figure’s jail term stand
Updated 29 June 2022

Russian court lets opposition figure’s jail term stand

Russian court lets opposition figure’s jail term stand
  • The decision by the Moscow City Court came one day after Ilya Yashin was sentenced

MOSCOW: A court in Moscow on Wednesday rejected a prominent Russian opposition figure’s appeal of the 15-day jail sentence he received on charges of failing to obey police.
The decision by the Moscow City Court, the capital’s highest municipal judicial body, came one day after Ilya Yashin was sentenced.
Yashin, who has publicly criticized Russia’s military campaign in Ukraine, was detained late Monday in a Moscow park. Police said he grabbed an officer by his uniform and insulted police, which Yashin denied.
In May, Yashin was ordered to pay 90,000 rubles ($1700) on charges of discrediting the Russian military.
Russia has cracked down on critics of its “special military operation” in Ukraine, A well-known dissident, Vladimir Kara-Murza, was arrested in April and remains jailed while awaiting trial on charges of spreading false information about the military. The offense carries a potential sentence of up to 15 years.


NATO invites Sweden and Finland to join the alliance, Madrid summit statement says

NATO invites Sweden and Finland to join the alliance, Madrid summit statement says
Updated 29 June 2022

NATO invites Sweden and Finland to join the alliance, Madrid summit statement says

NATO invites Sweden and Finland to join the alliance, Madrid summit statement says
  • The alliance also agreed on a new strategic concept

MADRID: NATO has invited Sweden and Finland to become members of the military alliance, a commununique published by the NATO summit in Madrid on Wednesday said.
“The accession of Finland and Sweden will make them (the allies) safer, NATO stronger and the Euro-Atlantic area more secure,” the communique said, adding that the alliance also agreed a new strategic concept.
The communique described Russia as the “most significant and direct threat to the allies’ security,” a reaction to the massively deteriorated relationship to Russia since its invasion of Ukraine.
The alliance pledged further help to Kyiv and agreed a package of support aimed at modernizing the country’s defense sector.
At the same time, NATO decided to significantly strengthen its own deterrence and defense.
“Allies have committed to deploy additional robust in-place combat-ready forces on our eastern flank, to be scaled up from the existing battlegroups to brigade-size units, where and when required underpinned by credible available reinforcements, prepositioned equipment, and enhanced command and control,” the communique said.
In the communique, the alliance described China as a challenge to NATO’s interests, security and values, and as a country that is seeking to undermine the rules-based international order.


EU proposes ban on flavored heated tobacco products

EU proposes ban on flavored heated tobacco products
Updated 29 June 2022

EU proposes ban on flavored heated tobacco products

EU proposes ban on flavored heated tobacco products
  • A recent commission study showed a 10% increase in sales of heated tobacco products in more than five member nations
  • The ban would cover devices using heated tobacco to produce emissions containing nicotine inhaled by users

BRUSSELS: The European Union’s executive branch on Wednesday proposed a ban on the sale of flavored heated tobacco products as part of its plan to fight cancer.
The European Commission said its proposal comes in response to a significant increase in the volume of such products sold across the 27-nation bloc.
A recent commission study showed a 10 percent increase in sales of heated tobacco products in more than five member nations, while heated tobacco products exceeded 2.5 percent of total sales of tobacco products overall across the region.
The ban would cover devices using heated tobacco to produce emissions containing nicotine inhaled by users. E-cigarettes may contain nicotine, but not tobacco. With traditional cigarettes, users inhale smoke from burning tobacco.
“With nine out of 10 lung cancers caused by tobacco, we want to make smoking as unattractive as possible to protect the health of our citizens and save lives,” said Stella Kyriakides, the commissioner for health and food safety.
According to EU figures, cancer is the second cause of death in the bloc of 450 million residents. There are about 1.3 million cancer deaths and 3.5 million new cases annually in the EU.
An estimated 40 percent of EU citizens will face cancer at some point in their lives, with the annual economic impact estimated at around 100 billion euros ($120 billion).
The European Commission previously said it wanted to ensure that less than 5 percent of the EU population uses tobacco by 2040.
The proposed ban now goes to member nations and European Parliament lawmakers for review.