In Karachi winters, both the peanuts and the cold, come from Quetta

Special In Karachi winters, both the peanuts and the cold, come from Quetta
A street vendor selling peanuts in Karachi Pakistan on December 4, 2023. (AN Photo)
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Updated 17 December 2023

In Karachi winters, both the peanuts and the cold, come from Quetta

In Karachi winters, both the peanuts and the cold, come from Quetta
  • Hundreds of vendors arrive in Karachi from Quetta to sell peanuts on pushcarts every winter
  • Arrival in Karachi of cold Siberian winds from Quetta usher in the city’s brief winter season

KARACHI: A crowd had gathered around Noor Ali last week as he mixed peanuts with his sickle in a potful of burning hot sand, the aroma of the roasted nuts spreading all around his pushcart parked on one of the busiest roads in the southern Pakistani port city of Karachi. 

There are other things like garbanzo beans and corn for sale but peanuts take center stage at Ali’s cart, marking the arrival in Karachi of cold Siberian winds from Quetta that usher in the city’s brief winter season each year. Indeed, you know winter has arrived in Karachi when peanut sellers like Ali appear on the streets and main roads, pushing their carts and selling nuts in paper cones recycled out of newspapers to everyone from school children to office workers.

“In the winter season, we come [from Quetta] and set up this pushcart,” Ali told Arab News on II Chundrigar Road, the city’s financial district. “This merchandise comes from Quetta [capital of Balochistan province], and so does the cold.”

Muhammad Yousuf Baloch, a customer standing next to Ali’s stall, agreed, saying Karachi’s winters weren’t “truly its own.”

“When cool winds from Quetta blow, these peanut sellers become more visible,” he said. “Its aroma, the aroma of its cooking, that entices the heart.”

Vendors like Ali sell peanuts from around midday to late into the night in the winter months. 

“I come at 3 in the afternoon, then I stand until 3 or 4 at night,” the seller said.

Another vendor, Muhammad Naseem, said sales lasted around three months, starting in November, which is how long Karachi’s winter lasts, barely.

“Our work is associated with the cold, the colder the wind, the better our work goes,” he said at his pushcart parked in Karahi’s Saddar bazaar. “So, we eagerly await the wind from Quetta. When the Quetta wind blows, our work begins.”

When the winter season ends, many peanut vendors go back home to Balochistan, doing odd jobs for most of the year, and buying up peanut supplies. Others find low-paying jobs at workshops or roadside restaurants and stalls in Karachi while they wait for the next winter.

“During cold spells in Quetta, Karachi experiences a temperature drop attributed to Siberian winds (cold air mass) traversing Balochistan and reaching Karachi and the coastal belt,” weather expert Muhammad Riaz, a former DG of the MET office, explained.

In the summer months, intense sea winds result from low atmospheric pressure over land. In winter, however, the atmospheric pressure pattern reverses, leading to winter rainfall caused by weather systems from the west.

“When this weather system extends to the extreme south of Balochistan, it creates the opportunity for rain in Karachi and the surrounding area,” Riaz said. “Cold air masses (winds) originating from Afghanistan, Russia, and Central Asian states follow a route through Quetta and Balochistan to reach Karachi. Hence, there is a belief that Quetta influences the weather in Karachi.”

And as the weather cools down, Karachites look out for the famed peanut sellers from the southwest.

“Neither Karachi’s winter is its own, nor is Karachi’s peanut truly its own,” said Shahid Mustafa Khan, who has been a customer of Noor Ali’s for 25 years, and prefers peanuts over other nuts due to their low price.

A kilogram of peanuts costs between Rs1,000 ($3.5) and Rs1,400 ($4.9) in Karachi. The price varies in other parts of the country.

Customer Muhammad Ikram said the low price and warm peanuts was a winning combination.

“It’s cheaper here and expensive [when bought] from shops,” Ikram said, at Naseem’s cart in Karachi’s Saddar area. “They serve it warm on the spot.”

‘Stars of tomorrow’: Pakistan forum provides a canvas to small-town, minority artists

‘Stars of tomorrow’: Pakistan forum provides a canvas to small-town, minority artists
Updated 32 sec ago

‘Stars of tomorrow’: Pakistan forum provides a canvas to small-town, minority artists

‘Stars of tomorrow’: Pakistan forum provides a canvas to small-town, minority artists
  • Imtisal Zafar launched Pakistan Art Forum in 2014 to bring Pakistani art to collectors and enthusiasts globally 
  • PAF holds third annual Stars of Tomorrow show, spotlighting lesser known artists from remote Pakistani towns 

LAHORE: When Imtisal Zafar launched the Pakistan Art Forum, a gallery and what has become the country’s largest digital space for contemporary art, he envisioned a platform that would bring the work of Pakistani artists to collectors and enthusiasts around the world.

Last week’s ‘Stars of Tomorrow’ show hosted by PAF in Lahore did just this and more: it brought to Lahore - the country's cultural and art hub - the work of 28 up-and-coming artists, many of them from remote parts of the country and a number belonging to religious minorities. 

One of these artists was Ghaffar Mesih, who worked as a painter and truck artist for years until he realized he needed formal training to hone his craft.

“I got a 100% scholarship at BNU [Beaconhouse National University in Lahore] where I graduated on the Dean’s Honour List,” Mesih, a Christian from the southern city of Hyderabad, told Arab News at the PAF exhibition on Saturday.

Mesih, whose work invokes Christian stained-glass art found in churches, uses oil on canvas and had already sold a few paintings before the show opened, something Zafar, 38, is extremely proud of. 

“The focus this year has been putting together artists from smaller cities and far-flung areas,” Zafar told Arab News at the third annual Stars of Tomorrow show. “We have artists from Vehari, Chitral, Sargodha, Sialkot… and also religious minorities.

“We want to give them visibility. I prefer artists who are from lesser-known art institutes because they get less visibility and exposure.”

Zafar, who set up PAF in 2014, said a lot of established galleries didn’t give newer artists solo shows, but PAF had been consistently doing that for years.

“We pride ourselves on discovering new artists,” he said. “In the last two years, we have launched several lesser-known artists and given them solo shows, they’ve all gone on to make a name for themselves.”

The show has definitely done that for Sheva Ram Jogi, a Hindu artist from the remote desert region of Tharparker in Sindh, who said Stars of Tomorrow was the biggest art collective he had attended to date.

“Basically, I am from Umerkot,” Jogi told Arab News. “I have had offers for my pieces. They are based on optical illusions which is a bit different to everyone else here. But this has been great to get people from other cities to see my work.”

Tahir Zaman from Chitral, paints the idyllic northern regions of Pakistan with their pastoral beauty, valleys and quietude, and said his work had been well-received by the audience.

“I know nature is not that much in fashion in contemporary art, but this is what I grew up with, what I know best,” he said.   

Half the works displayed during the show were already sold by Saturday evening and more orders were coming in, Zafar said. 

Two of the artists, including Zarnab Baloch, had sold their entire collection.

“These are the biggest platforms my work has ever had,” said Baloch, who has also exhibited her work in past Stars of Tomorrow collections.

Nadia Batool, who teaches at the National College of Arts (NCA) Rawalpindi, said it was difficult for aspiring artists from regions like Gilgit-Baltistan, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and northern Punjab to get into art shows, but Stars of Tomorrow was a “step in the right direction.”

“When you're not from one of the bigger schools in the country, NCA, BNU, IVS (Indus Valley School), then you have a harder time [getting exposure] unless you're connected to somebody within the market,” she told Arab News. 

“Platforms like Pakistan Art Forum giving people from lesser-known institutes a chance is great for the art world. We could do with many more of these shows.”

Pakistan’s finance minister expects remittances to increase to $29 billion this year

Pakistan’s finance minister expects remittances to increase to $29 billion this year
Updated 22 April 2024

Pakistan’s finance minister expects remittances to increase to $29 billion this year

Pakistan’s finance minister expects remittances to increase to $29 billion this year
  • Workers’ remittances bring billions of dollars annually to Pakistan and are crucial for country’s fragile economy
  • Finance Minister Aurangzeb says IMF “very receptive” in agreeing to a larger and longer financial assistance program 

ISLAMABAD: Finance Minister Muhammad Aurangzeb expects Pakistan’s remittances from overseas citizens will increase to $29 billion this fiscal year, English-language newspaper The National reported on Monday. 

Workers’ remittances bring billions of dollars annually from overseas Pakistanis to the South Asian country and are vital for its fragile economy. These inflows bolster foreign exchange reserves, stabilize balance of payments and support the Pakistani currency.

Aurangzeb has been in Washington since Apr. 13 to participate in spring meetings organized by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank. His tour is an important one for the South Asian country as Pakistan’s ongoing nine-month, $3 billion loan program with the global lender expires this month.

When asked about the World Bank estimating that remittances would globally drop this year, Aurangzeb said the “reality is it’s the other way round.”

“So, I think we closed the year at about $28 billion last fiscal year and we expect to close at $29 billion this year,” Aurangzeb said. “So, the remittances have not only been holding up, actually during this fiscal year they will actually go up.”

The Pakistani minister had confirmed last week that Islamabad was seeking a “larger and longer” multi-billion-dollar loan program from the IMF and discussions were underway with the Fund’s officials. 

“We have had very constructive discussions with the managing director and her very senior team,” Aurangzeb said. “And given that we are successfully completing this program, the Fund has been very receptive in terms of agreeing to consider a larger, longer program.”

On China, which has invested heavily in Pakistan through a multi-billion-dollar road and infrastructure project known as the China–Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), Aurangzeb said Pakistan “missed a trick” by taking too long to monetize projects. 

Since its initiation in 2013, CPEC has seen tens of billions of dollars funneled into massive transport, energy and infrastructure projects. But the undertaking has also been hit by Pakistan struggling to keep up its financial obligations as well as attacks on Chinese targets by militants.

“We have been slow over the last few years,” he said. “We are going to move forward with Phase Two so that we can get going with the revenue generating part of the of CPEC.”

Pakistan’s PM urges world to be ‘ecologically more conscious’ on Earth Day

Pakistan’s PM urges world to be ‘ecologically more conscious’ on Earth Day
Updated 22 April 2024

Pakistan’s PM urges world to be ‘ecologically more conscious’ on Earth Day

Pakistan’s PM urges world to be ‘ecologically more conscious’ on Earth Day
  • Earth Day is an annual celebration that raises awareness to protect planet’s natural resources
  • Pakistan is consistently ranked among world’s worst-affected countries by climate change

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Monday called on the international community to join hands and strive to be “ecologically more conscious” as Pakistan joins the world in commemorating Earth Day today. 

Earth Day is an annual celebration on April 22 that honors the achievements of environmental movements and raises awareness of the need to protect Earth’s natural resources for future generations. The day serves as a platform to highlight various environmental issues, such as climate change, pollution, deforestation, and conservation of natural resources.

In a message on social media platform X, Sharif said Earth Day reminds the world of its shared responsibility to protect the planet. 

“Let us strive to be ecologically more conscious in our endeavors and fostering a greener approach in our daily life,” he wrote. “Let us resolve to reduce our carbon and environmental footprint.”

Pakistan produces less than one percent of the world’s carbon footprint but, according to the Global Climate Risk Index, has lost nearly ten thousand lives and suffered economic losses worth $3.8 billion due to climate change throughout the years 1999 to 2018.

The country is also ranked consistently among the world’s worst-affected countries due to climate change. Pakistan witnessed one of the deadliest monsoon floods in June 2022, blamed on climate change, which killed more than 1,700 people, affected nearly 33 million and caused over $30 million losses.

In recent years, Pakistan has also experienced frequent forest fires in its northwestern and southwestern regions.

Sharif’s message came as the South Asian country reels from heavy rains in its northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) and southwestern Balochsitan provinces and Punjab. Lightning strikes, heavy rains and floods in the three provinces have killed more than 90 people since April 12. 

As T20 World Cup looms, injuries become headache for Pakistan yet again

As T20 World Cup looms, injuries become headache for Pakistan yet again
Updated 22 April 2024

As T20 World Cup looms, injuries become headache for Pakistan yet again

As T20 World Cup looms, injuries become headache for Pakistan yet again
  • Star batter Muhammad Rizwan was pulled out of Sunday’s match against New Zealand after he felt discomfort in his hamstring
  • Pakistani wicketkeeper batter Azam Khan has been ruled out of the New Zealand series after he suffered a tear in his right calf muscle 

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) said on Sunday that star batter Muhammad Rizwan had been pulled out of the third T20I fixture against New Zealand in Rawalpindi after he felt discomfort in his hamstring, raising fears that the 2009 champions may once again be plagued by injuries before the mega T20 tournament kicks off in June. 

Rizwan, who was instrumental in Pakistan’s win in the second T20I over New Zealand on Saturday, was pulled from the match after scoring only 22 runs from 21 balls on Sunday. The PCB later released a statement saying the batter felt discomfort in his right hamstring, and that he would not take part in the rest of the match. 

If injured, Rizwan would add to a mounting list of Pakistani players who have suffered injuries in recent times. Wicketkeeper batter Azam Khan was ruled out of the New Zealand series last week after radiology reports confirmed a grade one tear in his right calf muscle. 

“Azam will now depart from the Pakistan men’s cricket team and report to the National Cricket Academy, where he will commence his rehabilitation process under the supervision of the PCB medical panel,” the PCB said in a statement on Sunday. 

Express Pakistani pacer Ihsanullah has also been out of action since he made his ODI debut for Pakistan in April 2023. Ihsanullah was initially sidelined with an elbow injury which, according to media reports, turned into a significantly more serious as it was misdiagnosed by the PCB’s medical team. 

PCB Chairman Mohsin Naqvi said on Sunday that the cricket body had decided to constitute an independent board “to analyze if Ihsanullah’s medical case was handled properly by PCB medical support team.”

The South Asian team suffered a massive blow last year when right-arm pacer Naseem Shah, a regular member of the Pakistan cricket team in all three formats of the game, suffered a serious shoulder injury and was ruled out of the 50-over World Cup in India months before it was scheduled to take place. Pakistan ended up not qualifying for the semifinal stages of the tournament on account of their poor bowling and batting performances. 

PM Sharif says results of Pakistan by-elections reflect people’s confidence in ruling party

PM Sharif says results of Pakistan by-elections reflect people’s confidence in ruling party
Updated 22 April 2024

PM Sharif says results of Pakistan by-elections reflect people’s confidence in ruling party

PM Sharif says results of Pakistan by-elections reflect people’s confidence in ruling party
  • Local media reports, quoting unofficial results, showed ruling PML-N leading in nearly two dozen constituencies 
  • Former PM Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party rejects results of by-polls, accuses authorities of rigging 

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Monday congratulated Pakistan’s newly elected legislators, saying that the results of Sunday’s by-polls reflected ​people’s confidence in the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) party. 

Pakistan conducted by-polls across 21 national and provincial constituencies on Sunday. In Punjab, polls were held on 12 provincial and two National Assembly seats while in Pakistan’s northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) province, by-polls were held on four seats. Elections were also held on two seats in Pakistan’s southwestern Balochistan province while one National Assembly seat in Sindh was also up for grabs.

Quoting unofficial and preliminary results, Pakistani news website said Sharif’s party succeeded in winning electoral contests in four out of 12 provincial seats in Punjab while it also won a provincial assembly seat in Balochistan and one National Assembly seat in Pakistan’s eastern city of Lahore. 

“The victory of the newly elected members of the Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) in the by-elections is a manifestation of the people’s confidence,” the PML-N quoted Sharif as saying on X. “We assure the public that we will spare no effort in serving them.”

The Pakistani premier said the PML-N candidates’ success is a public recognition of the government’s efforts to restore the economy, reduce inflation and improve foreign relations.

“With further economic improvement and increase in relief for the masses, the public’s opinion will change further in the coming days,” he said.

Meanwhile, jailed former prime minister Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party rejected the results of the by-polls, alleging that they were heavily rigged in favor of the ruling party. 

“Congratulations to you and your party for such a victory in which the election was stolen in broad daylight by trampling on the people’s opinion,” the PTI wrote to Punjab Chief Minister and PML-N Vice President Maryam Nawaz Sharif on X. 

In another post on the social media platform, the PTI accused authorities of helping PML-N candidates win via force. It saluted voters for “forcing the system to its knees.”

The polls were held amid suspension of cellular services in Balochistan and specific districts of Punjab. On Saturday, the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA), which regulates Internet in the country, said the decision to keep cellular services suspended was taken on the interior ministry’s directions.

“This decision has been taken to safeguard the integrity and security of the electoral process,” the regulator said in a statement.

The federal government authorized the deployment of civil armed forces and Pakistan Army to assist the ECP in peaceful conduct of by-polls.