Basking in blessings: Pakistanis among celebrities sharing joy ahead of Hajj

Basking in blessings: Pakistanis among celebrities sharing joy ahead of Hajj
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The collage of images created on June 13, 2024 shows Pakistani celebrities Nida Yasir (left) and Reema Khan performing Hajj. (Instagram)
Basking in blessings: Pakistanis among celebrities sharing joy ahead of Hajj
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UFC lightweight champion Islam Makhachev at the Grand Mosque in Makkah. (Supplied)
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Updated 13 June 2024
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Basking in blessings: Pakistanis among celebrities sharing joy ahead of Hajj

Basking in blessings: Pakistanis among celebrities sharing joy ahead of Hajj
  • High-profile figures performing Hajj this year include former Indian professional tennis player and doubles world No. 1 Sania Mirza
  • Malaysia-based public orator Zakir Abdul Karim Naik, Pakistani TV host Nida Yasir and Pakistani actress Reema Khan also performing Hajj

RIYADH: Every year Muslims from across the world gather in the holy cities of Makkah and Madinah ahead of the Hajj pilgrimage, a once-in-a-lifetime spiritual journey for many.

With Hajj beginning on Friday, June 14, pilgrims will congregate in the tent city of Mina, near Makkah.

Among the worshippers will be celebrities taking time out of their busy schedules to connect with their faith.

High-profile figures performing Hajj this year include former Indian professional tennis player and doubles world No. 1 Sania Mirza; UFC lightweight champion Islam Makhachev; New Zealand heavyweight boxer and former professional rugby player Sonny Bill Williams; Malaysia-based Indian Islamic public orator Zakir Abdul Karim Naik; Pakistani television host and former actress Nida Yasir; and Pakistani actress, film director and producer Reema Khan.

Mirza took to social media to express her hopes and preparations for this “transformative experience,” one of the five pillars of Islam.

In a message on X, she sought “forgiveness for any wrongdoings and shortcomings,” saying that her heart is “filled with gratitude for this chance to seek redemption and spiritual renewal.”

She added: “I pray that Allah accepts my prayers and guides me on this blessed path. I am deeply fortunate and feel immensely grateful. Please keep me in your thoughts and prayers as I embark on this journey of a lifetime. I hope to come back as a better human being with a humble heart and stronger Imaan.”

Mirza will be accompanied by her sister Anam, a fashion curator, entrepreneur and vlogger, and Anam’s Indian cricketer husband Mohammad Asaduddin, son of cricketing legend Mohammad Azharuddin.

Taking to Instagram, Anam wrote: “As I embark on the most significant journey of my life, the pilgrimage to Hajj, I wanted to share a few words with you. This journey is not just a physical one, but a deeply spiritual experience that I’ve been preparing for, both in heart and mind. It’s a time for reflection, repentance, and renewal of faith.”

Makhachev, just days after defeating Dustin Poirier in their UFC title clash, said that he and his family are heading to Makkah to perform Hajj.

Hasib Noor, a scholar with Islamic Relief UK, posted a photo with the fighter on X, writing: “In Madinah — The City of True Humanly Brotherly Love. Allah uses him for the benefit of Islam & Muslims, guides others through him.”

Sonny Bill Williams posted a video message on X with the caption: “I’ve been invited to perform Hajj, Alhamdullilah.”

Williams is only the second person to represent New Zealand in rugby union after first playing for the country in rugby league, and is one of only 43 players to have won the Rugby World Cup twice.

Naik, the founder and president of the Islamic Research Foundation and Peace TV, praised the Hajj arrangements.

In a message posted on X on Tuesday, he said that his family were invited by Tawfiq Al-Rabiah, Saudi Arabia’s Hajj minister.

It added: “Dr. Zakir Naik landed in Jeddah this morning. Alhamdulillaah 3 officials were there to receive him. On entering the VIP lounge he completed immigration & came out of the airport in less than a minute. Never did Dr. Zakir Naik experience such a fast and prompt service in his life & that too during Hajj.”

Pakistani television host Nida Yasir wrote on Instagram as she departed for Saudi Arabia: “Duaon me yaad rakheaga (remember me in prayers). Leaving for Hajj. Kaha suna mauf (Apologies for any wrongdoings).”




Pakistani television host Nida Yasir embarking on Hajj. (Supplied)

Pakistani actress Reema Khan was in Madinah ahead of Hajj.

Sharing a picture of herself on Instagram, she wrote: “Allhumdullilah arrived in Madinah on Friday morning.”


Heavy rainfall deluges Pakistan’s cultural capital, Lahore, as authorities ramp up relief efforts

Heavy rainfall deluges Pakistan’s cultural capital, Lahore, as authorities ramp up relief efforts
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Heavy rainfall deluges Pakistan’s cultural capital, Lahore, as authorities ramp up relief efforts

Heavy rainfall deluges Pakistan’s cultural capital, Lahore, as authorities ramp up relief efforts
  • Pakistan’s disaster management body has forecast heavy rains and flash floods for the next two days
  • Lahore division’s top administration official visited different parts of the city to monitor the situation

ISLAMABAD: Heavy rainfall lashed Pakistan’s eastern city of Lahore on Friday, said a senior district administration official, as provincial authorities stepped up relief efforts to manage the aftermath of the intense downpour.

Known as the cultural capital of Pakistan, Lahore is famed for its historical buildings and a blend of old and new localities. The city has experienced significant flooding in the aftermath of heavy rains in the past, with people complaining of waterlogging in streets and heavy traffic congestion.

“Today maximum of 247mm [millimeter] rain is recorded while dozens of Lahore areas received more than 120mm rain in a very short period,” Lahore Commissioner Zaid Bin Maqsood was quoted by his office in a social media post. “All machinery and human resources are working in full swing [to clear rainwater].”

The post added that he visited various areas of the city to monitor the water removal efforts by the Water and Sanitation Agency (WASA).

Earlier in the day, Pakistan’s National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) warned of heavy rains and flash floods in the upper and central parts of the country for the next two days.

The NDMA cautioned about urban and flash flooding in local water streams and river tributaries if the rainfall exceeds 50-100 millimeters, urging residents of Lahore and other cities to take precautionary measures and directing local authorities to closely monitor the situation.

According to WASA, the first spell of rainfall in Lahore occurred from early morning until the afternoon, recording 315mm of rain in Tajpura, 170mm at Lakshmi Chowk, 162mm at Nishter Town, 155mm at Chowk Nakhuda and 153mm in Samanabad.

Earlier this year in April, heavy rains triggered landslides and flash floods across Pakistan, resulting in 92 deaths and 116 injuries.

Punjab province reported 21 deaths from lightning and roof collapses, while Balochistan province reported at least 15 deaths from torrential rains.


Ex-PM Khan demands election commissioner’s resignation after landmark Supreme Court verdict

Ex-PM Khan demands election commissioner’s resignation after landmark Supreme Court verdict
Updated 12 July 2024
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Ex-PM Khan demands election commissioner’s resignation after landmark Supreme Court verdict

Ex-PM Khan demands election commissioner’s resignation after landmark Supreme Court verdict
  • Court says ECP misconstrued election symbol judgment and forced PTI candidates to contest Feb. 8 polls independently
  • Imran Khan calls for treason charges against people who ‘disenfranchised millions’ of his party voters and supporters

ISLAMABAD: Former prime minister Imran Khan on Friday demanded Chief Election Commissioner Sikandar Sultan Raja and his top team to resign, following a Supreme Court decision criticizing them for misconstruing one of its verdicts and forcing candidates of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party to contest the Feb. 8 polls independently.
The apex court upheld the Election Commission of Pakistan’s (ECP) decision to strip the PTI of its electoral symbol, the cricket bat, for holding intra-party elections that were deemed to be flawed and not in keeping with its constitution.
Subsequently, the ECP rejected the nomination papers of PTI candidates, who were listed as independents with individual electoral symbols.
The court decision that came just weeks before the general elections significantly impacted PTI’s ability to present a united front and contest the national polls with full preparation.
“I have repeatedly raised concerns about the prejudice exhibited by the Chief Election Commissioner of Pakistan against me and PTI,” Khan said in a social media post. “Today’s Supreme Court decision – establishing the ECP’s bias and malafide against PTI – reinforces our stance.”
“We demand criminal proceedings under Article 6 of the Constitution [that deals with treason] against all those responsible for disenfranchising millions of voters and supporters of Pakistan’s largest political party,” he continued. “Sikandar Sultan Raja and the ECP members must resign immediately!”

The former PM, who remains incarcerated on a number of charges since his arrest last August, reiterated that he wanted Chief Justice Qazi Faez Isa to distance himself from all the cases involving him or his party.
The Supreme Court delivered a landmark 8-5 verdict, saying the PTI party was eligible for these seats in parliament.
The short order made it clear the denial of the election symbol did not affect in any way PTI’s right to be a political party or participate in elections.
Reading portion of a minority verdict, Chief Justice of Pakistan Qazi Faez Isa noted the ECP had ‘misinterpreted’ the court’s earlier verdict related to PTI’s election emblem.
“The ECP by misinterpreting the judgment of this Court dated 13 January 2024, which was regarding non-holding [of] intra-party elections in PTI, wrongly mentioned the said candidates of the PTI as independents in Form 33 of the Election Rules,” he said. “The ECP had no authority to declare validly nominated candidates of a political party to be independent candidates.”
The PTI is currently entitled to around 23 reserved seats in the National Assembly, which does not affect the parliamentary majority of the Sharif-led coalition administration.
Political parties are allocated a total number of 70 reserved seats, including 60 for women and 10 for non-Muslims, in proportion to the number of seats won in general elections. This completes the National Assembly’s total 336 seats.
A simple majority in Pakistan’s parliament is 169 out of 336 seats.


Pakistani Taliban deny plans to attack public places during Muharram amid security alerts

Pakistani Taliban deny plans to attack public places during Muharram amid security alerts
Updated 12 July 2024
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Pakistani Taliban deny plans to attack public places during Muharram amid security alerts

Pakistani Taliban deny plans to attack public places during Muharram amid security alerts
  • Spokesperson Mohammad Khorsani says striking public places neither permissible nor aligned with TTP’s objectives
  • The TTP claimed responsibility for several deadly attacks in the past, including the massacre of 134 school children

ISLAMABAD: A proscribed militant network, Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), on Friday responded to recent security alerts issued by state agencies about its plans to launch attacks during Muharram, the first month of the Islamic calendar, saying that targeting public places was neither permissible nor aligned with its objectives.

The TTP, also known as the Pakistani Taliban, claimed responsibility for some of the deadliest attacks in Pakistan since its formation in 2007, including the massacre of 134 children in a school attack.

Pakistan has accused the interim Taliban administration in Kabul of providing sanctuary to TTP leaders and facilitating their attacks. Although the two groups are not directly affiliated, the Pakistani Taliban owe allegiance to their Afghan counterparts.

Pakistan has historically experienced sectarian violence during Muharram, a significant month for Shia Muslims who observe mourning rituals to commemorate the martyrdom of the Prophet Muhammad’s (PBUH) grandson in the Battle of Karbala.

“We consider it necessary to clarify that not only during Muharram but at any time, we do not consider it permissible to attack public places nor is it among our goals,” TTP Spokesperson Mohammad Khorasani said in a statement on Friday.

“Such fake threats and statements attributed to us have nothing to do with us,” he added, referring to the security alerts circulated by Pakistani law enforcement agencies.

Khorasani blamed the state for spreading fear among people by saying the TTP wanted to launch attack in Muharram.

“Our objectives are clear and pre-announced, which do not include targeting any group, sect or individual based on religious and intellectual differences,” he added.

Since 2007, Pakistan has conducted multiple military operations against the TTP, yet the militant network continues its attacks, primarily targeting the two western provinces bordering Afghanistan.

These attacks have surged since November 2022, following the collapse of a fragile truce brokered by the Afghan Taliban between Islamabad and the TTP.


Pakistan flour millers’ strike over withholding tax enters second day, threatening shortages

Pakistan flour millers’ strike over withholding tax enters second day, threatening shortages
Updated 12 July 2024
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Pakistan flour millers’ strike over withholding tax enters second day, threatening shortages

Pakistan flour millers’ strike over withholding tax enters second day, threatening shortages
  • Budget for fiscal year 2024-25 imposed 5.5% withholding tax on sales of flour mills 
  • Around 1,600 flour mills employing some 4,000 workers are shut across Pakistan

ISLAMABAD: A strike by Pakistani flour millers due to a dispute with the government over the imposition of new taxes on sales entered its second day on Friday, threatening flour shortages in parts of the South Asian country.
Hundreds of mills across Pakistan went on strike on Thursday on a call by the Pakistan Flour Mills Association (PFMA), which represents over 900 mills, against a new 5.5 percent withholding tax imposed on the sales of flour mills in the federal budget for fiscal year 2024-25, which came into effect on July 1. 
The PFMA says the government has also directed flour mills to collect another 2.5 percent withholding tax on the sale of essential commodities to retailers (non-filers) and 2 percent from wholesalers (non-filers). The association says millers also now have to collect 0.5 percent withholding tax on the sale of flour from retailers (filers) and 0.10 percent tax from wholesalers (filers).
“We are observing a nationwide strike against the government for imposing taxes and making flour millers tax collection agents,” Javed Yusuf, a former PFMA chairperson, told Arab News. 
“Our strike will continue till the government accepts our demand of withdrawal of all taxes levied in the budget.”
Yusuf said around 1,600 flour mills, which directly employed some 4,000 workers, were shut across Pakistan:
“We cannot collect taxes on behalf of the FBR, it’s not our job,” he added.
The strike takes place as Pakistan navigates a tricky path to economic recovery amid double-digit inflation and a deepening macroeconomic crisis. The South Asian country has been scrambling to secure foreign investment from friendly nations and a bailout from the IMF in a bid to keep its fragile $350 billion economy afloat. 
The tax-laden budget with a tax revenue target of Rs13 trillion ($46.66 billion) for the current fiscal year, up about 40 percent from the previous one, has been rejected by almost all major trade bodies and opposition parties. Pakistan’s government has taken the unpopular measures amid negotiations with the IMF, which has made tax reforms and increasing revenue a major precondition for a fresh loan program.
There are 1,725 flour mills in Pakistan and the daily national flour consumption stands at around 45,000 tons, according to the PFMA.
The ongoing strike has already halted flour supply to grocery stores across Punjab, the country’s most populous province, and market stocks are expected to last only one week.


Pakistan says ‘deeply values’ cooperation with Afghanistan as ties sour over deportations, militancy

Pakistan says ‘deeply values’ cooperation with Afghanistan as ties sour over deportations, militancy
Updated 12 July 2024
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Pakistan says ‘deeply values’ cooperation with Afghanistan as ties sour over deportations, militancy

Pakistan says ‘deeply values’ cooperation with Afghanistan as ties sour over deportations, militancy
  • Pakistan says Kabul not doing enough to tackle militant groups using Afghan territory to target Pakistan, which it denies
  • Over 600,000 Afghans expelled since November last year when Islamabad launched deportation drive against illegal foreigners

PESHAWAR: Pakistani Federal Minister for States and Frontier Regions, Amir Muqam, discussed bilateral ties with Afghan’s Charge d’Affaires, Sardar Ahmed Khan Shakib, on Friday, saying that his country “deeply valued” its cooperation with Afghanistan in addressing the issue of refugees.

Relations between Islamabad and Kabul have soured in recent months amid a surge in militant attacks that Pakistan blames on Afghanistan, saying its Taliban rulers were not doing enough to tackle militant groups using its territory to target Pakistan, which they deny.

The Pakistani Taliban have stepped up attacks against Pakistan security forces in recent months, with daily assaults on army and paramilitary posts and targeted killings of police and government officials.

“Pakistan deeply values its longstanding friendship and cooperation with Afghanistan,” Muqam was quoted as saying in a statement released by his office after his meeting with Shakib in Islamabad.

The Pakistani minister said the people of the two countries had made immense sacrifices, adding that restoring peace was essential for their well-being.

“We encourage Afghanistan to focus on ensuring the welfare and integration of its citizens residing in Pakistan, with an emphasis on their return as a long-term solution,” he said.

The Afghan diplomat thanked Pakistan for extending the deadline of UNHCR-issued Proof of Registration (PoR) cards for almost 1.5 million Afghan refugees for one year.

Islamabad launched a deportation drive last year against illegal foreigners residing in the country after a spate of suicide bombings which the Pakistan government, without providing evidence, said were carried out by Afghan nationals. Islamabad has also blamed them for smuggling, militant violence and other crimes.

A cash-strapped Pakistan navigating record inflation, alongside a tough International Monetary Fund bailout program last year, had also said undocumented migrants had drained its resources for decades.

Until the government initiated the expulsion drive last year, Pakistan was home to over four million Afghan migrants and refugees out of which around 1.7 million were undocumented, as per government figures.

Afghans make up the largest portion of migrants, many of whom came after the Taliban took over Kabul in 2021, but a large number have been present since the 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.

Islamabad insists the deportation drive is not aimed specifically at Afghans but at all those living illegally in Pakistan.

In October 2023, Pakistan announced phase one of the “Illegal Foreigners’ Repatriation Plan” with a 30-day deadline for “undocumented” aliens to leave the country or be subject to deportation, putting 1.4 million Afghan refugees at risk. Over 600,000 Afghans have been expelled under this phase.

In phase two, Afghans holding Pakistan-issued Afghan citizenship cards (ACCs) will be expelled while phase three is expected to target those with UNHCR-issued PoR cards.