In Rawalpindi, 63-year-old drummer defies modernity to keep Ramadan suhoor spirit alive

Special In Rawalpindi, 63-year-old drummer defies modernity to keep Ramadan suhoor spirit alive
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In this picture taken on March 25, 2024, a Pakistani man Imam Buksh (C), 63, ‘Ramadan drummer’ beats his drum as he makes calls at doors “Wake up and eat your sehri morning meal” before their fasting during Ramadan at Satellite Town, a residential area, in Rawalpindi. Buksh is one of the few drummers who still perform the centuries-old duty of waking people up during Ramadan nights to eat their pre-dawn meals. (AN Photo)
Special In Rawalpindi, 63-year-old drummer defies modernity to keep Ramadan suhoor spirit alive
2 / 2
In this picture taken on March 25, 2024, a Pakistani man Imam Buksh (C), 63, ‘Ramadan drummer’ beats his drum as he makes calls at doors “Wake up and eat your sehri morning meal” before their fasting during Ramadan at Satellite Town, a residential area, in Rawalpindi. Buksh is one of the few drummers who still perform the centuries-old duty of waking people up during Ramadan nights to eat their pre-dawn meals. (AN Photo)
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Updated 28 March 2024
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In Rawalpindi, 63-year-old drummer defies modernity to keep Ramadan suhoor spirit alive

In Rawalpindi, 63-year-old drummer defies modernity to keep Ramadan suhoor spirit alive
  • Imam Buksh roams Rawalpindi streets at night during Ramadan, waking up believers for pre-dawn meals
  • Drummer says modern technology has threated the tradition but people still appreciate his suhoor wake-up calls

ISLAMABAD: The streets of Satellite Town, an old and upscale neighborhood in the Pakistani garrison city of Rawalpindi, reverberated with loud beats around 2am earlier this week as Imam Buksh pounded his colorful barrel drum with wooden sticks.
Houses and shops lit up behind the drummer and residents peeked out of their homes to catch a glimpse of the 63-year-old who daily roams the streets of Rawalpindi after midnight during the holy month of Ramadan, urging worshipers with his drum beats to wake up for the fast-keeping suhoor meal. 
For decades a Ramadan tradition, the nocturnal practice finds itself at odds with modernity as old neighborhoods in the vast garrison city have made way for more modern housing colonies, and the drumbeaters’ usefulness has been eclipsed by TV, mobile phones and alarm clocks.
But Buksh is resolved to preserve the practice and continues his daily drum pounding from 2:30am until the Fajr prayers throughout Ramadan. For him, it’s a way to earn Allah’s blessings.
“I have been doing this here for approximately 16 years, to awaken people [for suhoor] which pleases Allah,” Buksh, who moved to Rawalpindi from the nearby Jhang district to work as a drum-beater at weddings, told Arab News on Monday.
“I fulfill my duty for Allah during the holy month of Ramadan and after completing my daily duty, I return to my place for rest every day … I used to do drum-beating in Rawalpindi back when there were only a few houses, and people used to give a rupee or a few coins as reward.”
Ramadan marks the month in which the Qur’an was revealed on Prophet Muhammad. Fasting, by abstaining from food and water from sunrise to sunset, is one of the five pillars of Islam, a grueling routine the devout repeat every day for a month.
In much of the Muslim world, particularly the Middle East, suhoor drummers call for people to wake up. Often people offer them money for their services. 
“If someone gives something I accept it, otherwise I will keep going on my way as it makes me as well as people in the area happy,” Buksh said. “Many people are happy because of my drum-beating and request me from their rooftops to beat it more.”
He said he often got calls from people if he skipped a neighborhood. 
“Just the other day, I received a call from someone in a colony where I used to beat the drum last year,” he said. “They asked why I had stopped coming to their area, and I explained that I cannot travel as much now.”
Buksh has four sons who have all followed in his footsteps. Two are drummers in the southern port city of Karachi, while two work from their hometown of Jhang.
Asked about his future plans, he said he wished to perform Umrah or a pilgrimage to the Muslim holy sites.
“I wish that someone would help me go to Umrah or pilgrimage to the holy places,” he said. “Wherever they can send me, I will pray for them and ask for more blessings for them from Allah.”


Noose tightens around Imran’s Khan’s party as top leaders arrested in Islamabad

Noose tightens around Imran’s Khan’s party as top leaders arrested in Islamabad
Updated 28 sec ago
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Noose tightens around Imran’s Khan’s party as top leaders arrested in Islamabad

Noose tightens around Imran’s Khan’s party as top leaders arrested in Islamabad
  • PTI Chairman Gohar Khan and Secretary Information Raoof Hasan arrested from Islamabad secretariat 
  • PTI social media accounts show police cars and dozens of officers surrounding party’s Islamabad office

ISLAMABAD: Top leaders of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) of jailed former premier Imran Khan were arrested on Monday from the party’s Islamabad office, according to party officials and visuals widely shared on social media.

PTI official social media accounts shared videos of dozens of policemen surrounding the party’s Islamabad secretariat on Monday morning, while visuals of party Information Secretary Raoof Hasan being led away by police were widely distributed on social media. 

Zulfi Bukhari, Khan's key advisor on media, confirmed to Arab News that Hasan and PTI Chairman Gohar Khan had both been arrested. 

A lawyer for the PTI also said Gohar Khan was under arrest.

“I have just received a call from the party office that 300/400 police have come to the office and arrested Chairman PTI Barrister Gohar and Secretary Information Raoof Hasan,” Ali Ijaz Buttar said, calling the development a display of the “law of the jungle.”

It was unclear what the charges are against Hasan and Gohar but their arrests come after those of several other PTI members in the last few days, including the party’s top media manager Ahmed Janjua. 

The federal government of PM Shehbaz Sharif last week announced plans to ban the PTI and moved the country's top court to press treason charges against Khan. 

Khan came to power in 2018 and was ousted in 2022 after what is widely believed to be a falling out with Pakistan's powerful military, which had helped propel him into office. The army denies political interference.

Since his ouster, the PTI founder and his party have faced an ever-widening state-backed crackdown and Khan himself has been in jail since August last year. He was acquitted earlier this month in one of the last standing convictions against him but was not freed after authorities issued new orders to arrest him in another case involving riots by his followers in May last year. 

Khan, arguably the country’s most popular politician, says all legal cases are motivated to keep him out of politics and dent the popularity of the PTI. 

The convictions against him had ruled him out of Feb. 8 general elections, which all candidates from his party were forced to contest as independents after the election commission denied the party its iconic symbol of a cricket bat on technical grounds. Despite the setbacks, Khan-backed candidates won the most seats in the polls but could not form the government, which is now being led by Sharif's PMLN party in coalition with other parties. 


Pakistan captain Babar Azam says ‘always learning’ from batting greats Kohli, Root

Pakistan captain Babar Azam says ‘always learning’ from batting greats Kohli, Root
Updated 22 July 2024
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Pakistan captain Babar Azam says ‘always learning’ from batting greats Kohli, Root

Pakistan captain Babar Azam says ‘always learning’ from batting greats Kohli, Root
  • Pakistan skipper Babar Azam speaks to former South African batting icon AB de Villiers
  • Azam says he does not think much about the future, focuses on living in the moment 

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s T20 captain Babar Azam recently said he seeks guidance from international batting greats and colleagues Virat Kohli, Joe Root and Kane Williamson to learn about their mindset and how they approach different situations in cricket to improve his own performance. 

Azam is counted among one of the world’s best batters in modern-day cricket. The right-handed batter has scored 3,898 runs from 52 Test matches, 5,729 runs from 117 ODIs and 4,145 runs from 123 T20Is. Azam has also scored 31 centuries for Pakistan in all three international formats and is frequently compared with top batters around the world such as Kohli, Williamson, Root and others. 

Former South African batter AB de Villiers interviewed Khan for his YouTube channel in June before the T20 World Cup kicked off. However, the South African icon shared the full interview on Saturday in which he spoke to the Pakistani captain about his goals, achievements and how he handles pressure situations. 

“When overseas players come [to Pakistan], youngsters engage them and learn because international players are playing lots of leagues and they share that experience with everyone,” Azam told de Villiers. 

“When I was young, I always talked with you, learn from every single player. I am always talking to Kane [Williamson], [Joe] Root, Virat [Kohli],” he added. 

The Pakistani captain said he tries to learn how these players approach the game, what is their routine and how they manage their self-belief.

“So when you speak to good players they give you good advice that helps you a lot,” Azam explained. 

When asked what his goals and dreams for the future were, Azam said he was living in the moment mostly. 

“Honestly, I’m just thinking day by day,” he said. “I’m not thinking about where I am going. I’m just playing my game and enjoying myself every single time. I just love to play cricket.”

 The Pakistani captain, however, has been heavily criticized recently by fans and critics alike for Pakistan’s lackluster performance in the T20 World Cup 2024. The green shirts, under Azam’s leadership, failed to beat minnows USA and India, crashing out of the World Cup in the group stages of the tournament last month. 

Former cricketers and cricket commentators have asked Azam to resign as captain, with some even calling for his ouster from the international T20 squad. 
 


Residents of southwestern Pakistani border town end months-long protest against strict visa policy

Residents of southwestern Pakistani border town end months-long protest against strict visa policy
Updated 22 July 2024
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Residents of southwestern Pakistani border town end months-long protest against strict visa policy

Residents of southwestern Pakistani border town end months-long protest against strict visa policy
  • Traders, residents were protesting against Pakistan’s strict passport and visa policy at Chaman crossing with Afghanistan since Nov. 2023
  • Balochistan official says protesters have accepted the government’s passport and visa policy, however, protest spokesperson says otherwise 

QUETTA: A body of local tribesmen and traders on Sunday called off its nine-month-long sit-in protest against the government’s strict visa policy in the southwestern Chaman town bordering Afghanistan, with its spokesperson saying the decision had been taken after the government accepted its demands and released detained protesters. 

Pakistan’s interim government last year tightened its travel policy for citizens of all neighboring countries following deadly attacks in the country’s northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) and southwestern Balochistan provinces. Pakistan shares a 2600-kilometer porous border with Afghanistan which lies through KP and Balochistan. The Chaman border crossing is one of the key border crossings between the two countries in Pakistan’s Balochistan that connects with Afghanistan’s Kandahar province. 

Since Pakistan’s independence from British India, Islamabad has been practicing a relaxed travel policy for residents living in border towns on either side. Local tribesmen and traders in Pakistan’s border areas could previously cross into Afghanistan through Chaman by showing their National Identity Cards. Afghan nationals in Kandahar, meanwhile, were allowed to enter Pakistan after showing their Afghan national identity document, also known as “Tazkira.”

But the Pakistani government in October 2023 announced a strict policy that allows only residents of Chaman and Kandahar to cross the border by showing their proof of residence. The rest of the citizens from both countries were required to have passports and visas to travel across the border. Furious traders in Pakistan had opposed the move, saying the strict policy would hamper their economic activities as daily over 15,000-20,000 people use the border crossing to travel between the two countries. They staged a sit-in protest for nine months at the border crossing, causing trade between the two countries to remain at a standstill. 

Raja Athar Abbas, Chaman district’s deputy commissioner, said organizers of the sit-in protest had agreed to follow the government’s visa policy. 

“There will be special areas for laborers depending on daily wages through the border trade and only they can travel with their National Identity Cards,” he told Arab News on Sunday.

Malik Inayat Kasi, former Balochistan home minister and tribal elder who addressed the protesters on Sunday, said the government had succeeded in addressing a key issue of the province. 

“The protesters have accepted the passport and visa policy at the Chaman border that was announced by the Government of Pakistan,” he told Arab News. 

However, Olas Yar, the spokesperson of the protesters, said the sit-in had been called off after the provincial government had accepted all of their demands and released detained protesters who were charged with various crimes. 

“Today we have ended our protest after Mr. Kasi assured us that the government has accepted all of our demands,” Yar told Arab News. 

He said the protesters will observe the situation during the next two days, warning that if the government does not allow them access to border markets in Afghanistan under the previous conditions, they will protest again. 

Pakistan has been witnessing an uptick in militant violence in its northwestern and southwestern regions, particularly after the Pakistani Taliban called off their fragile truce with the government in November 2022. The militant group, which is said to have sanctuaries in neighboring Afghanistan, is separate from but a close ally of the Afghan Taliban.

The recent attacks also prompted authorities in Pakistan last year to ask all illegal immigrants to leave the country by November 1, 2023. Islamabad says it has so far deported over 620,000 Afghan nationals who were living in the country illegally and has vowed to continue doing the same. 


Pakistan concludes post-Hajj operations for over 160,000 pilgrims

Pakistan concludes post-Hajj operations for over 160,000 pilgrims
Updated 22 July 2024
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Pakistan concludes post-Hajj operations for over 160,000 pilgrims

Pakistan concludes post-Hajj operations for over 160,000 pilgrims
  • Pakistan’s religion ministry says it facilitated pilgrims in food, transportation and accommodation
  • Ministry says it introduced new measures this Hajj such as Pak Hajj app and free SIM cards for pilgrims

Islamabad: Pakistan successfully concluded its post-Hajj operations 2024 on Sunday, the religion ministry said, during which over 160,000 pilgrims from the country performed the annual Islamic pilgrimage this year. 

Out of Pakistan’s total quota of 179,210 pilgrims, around 160,000 from the country performed Hajj this year through both the government scheme and private tour operators. The annual Islamic pilgrimage was held from June 14-19 during which millions of pilgrims from all parts of the world arrived in Saudi Arabia. 

In a statement on Sunday, Dr. Mirza Ali Mehsood, senior joint secretary of the Ministry of Religious Affairs (MoRA) congratulated Pakistani pilgrims on their safe return and completion of Hajj rituals. He thanked the MoRA staff, Hajj Moavineen or assistants, and the Pakistani Hajj Medical Mission for their relentless efforts in facilitating pilgrims during the post-Hajj phase. 

 “Moavineen and ministry staff, comprising officials and officers of grade 7-21, are deployed to serve these guests of Allah in the Holy lands of Makkah and Madinah,” Dr. Mehsood said. “They are required to take care of guests of Allah. We should shun our arrogance, status, and authority while serving the Guests of Allah.”

The MoRA official said the duty to serve pilgrims must be taken as a “rank-less” assignment, adding that one does not know when they would ever be blessed with such an opportunity again hence they should make the most of it. 

Zia Ur Rehman, the director of Hajj in Madinah, praised the operation’s success, saying that MoRA facilitated Pakistani pilgrims in food, accommodation and transportation. 

“He noted that due to demolition and new construction, it was very difficult to get accommodations in Markazia Madinah, but with our efforts, we arranged all accommodations for Pakistani pilgrims in Markazia, a significant achievement,” MoRA said. Rehman shared that 66,000 Pakistani pilgrims had visited the Riaz ul Jannah, the area between the pulpit and the grave of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) in Madinah. 

MoRA said it had introduced several new initiatives this Hajj, which included the launch of the Pak Hajj app, free SIM cards for pilgrims, and the appointment of Hajj Moavineen who qualified after passing the National Testing Service (NTS) exam. He said these initiatives greatly assisted Pakistani pilgrims throughout their holy journey.

“Jamil-ur-Rehman, Assistant Director, praised the Pak Hajj app as a successful and unique initiative that kept pilgrims in constant contact with the ministry,” the statement said. “The app provided access to complaints, training materials, accommodation details, flight schedules, and other services, greatly aiding pilgrims throughout their journey.”

Mushtaque Asghar, another MoRA official, said 36,900 complaints were received through the Pak Hajj app out of which 34,979 were successfully resolved. 

PIA CONCLUDES OPERATIONS

Pakistan’s national airline also announced in a statement it had concluded its post-Hajj operations on July 21. The Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) said its Hajj operations kicked off on May 9 and continued till June 11 while the post-Hajj operations commenced from June 20 and lasted till July 21. 

“A total of 143 flights were operated in the post-Hajj operations out of which 61 went to Jeddah and 82 to Madinah,” the airline’s spokesperson said in a statement. “A total of 34,663 pilgrims returned to their pilgrims after performing their rituals.”

Of these, 19,278 were pilgrims who had performed the Hajj through the government scheme and 14,754 through the private tour operators, the airline said. 
 


Turkmenistan foreign minister arrives in Islamabad today amid Pakistan trade push

Turkmenistan foreign minister arrives in Islamabad today amid Pakistan trade push
Updated 22 July 2024
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Turkmenistan foreign minister arrives in Islamabad today amid Pakistan trade push

Turkmenistan foreign minister arrives in Islamabad today amid Pakistan trade push
  • There has been a flurry of visits, investment talks and economic activity between Pakistan and Central Asian states recently
  • Pakistan hopes to enhance its role as pivotal trade and transit hub connecting landlocked Central Asia to the rest of the world

ISLAMABAD: Foreign Minister of Turkmenistan Rasit Meredow will arrive in Pakistan on a three-day visit today, Monday, Pakistani state media reported, amid Islamabad’s efforts to boost trade with Central Asian states.

Pakistan hopes to leverage its strategic geopolitical position and enhance its role as a pivotal trade and transit hub connecting the landlocked Central Asian republics with the rest of the world.

In recent months, there has been a flurry of visits, investment talks and economic activity between Pakistan and Central Asian states, including meetings with leaders from Uzbekistan and Azerbaijan.

FM Meredow will hold extensive talks with Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Ishaq Dar and call on Pakistani leadership during the visit, the state-run Radio Pakistan broadcaster reported on Sunday.

“Talks between the two sides will cover all aspects of bilateral relations,” the report read. “They will also exchange views on regional and global developments.”

Located in a landlocked but resource-rich region, Central Asian countries need better access to regional markets including Pakistan, China, India, and the countries of West Asia.

Islamabad is seeking to bolster trade and investment relations with allies to stabilize its fragile $350 billion economy as it faces an acute balance of payment crisis amid soaring inflation and surging external debt.

The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor project, under which Beijing has pledged around $65 billion in energy, infrastructure and other projects in Pakistan, also presents a strategic opportunity for Central Asian states to transport their goods more easily to regional and global markets.