- FM Bilawal Bhutto Zardari meets Meta’s Nick Clegg on sidelines of UNGA.
- Meta affirms interest in continued engagement with Pakistan.
- Clegg says Meta’s Pakistan team comprises entirely of Pakistani professionals.
Minister for Foreign Affairs Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has asked a high-ranking Meta official to open their company’s office in Pakistan in a bid to facilitate communication between the local authorities and the social media giant.
Facebook is now called Meta, the company announced last year, in a rebrand that focuses on building the “metaverse,” a shared virtual environment that it bets will be the successor to the mobile internet.
The foreign minister met Meta’s Global Affairs President Nick Clegg on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly’s (UNGA) 77th session, where he is part of the delegation representing Pakistan.
The foreign minister, talking about the opportunities available in Pakistan, said that the country has a tech-savvy young population (64% below the age of 30), high teledensity, massive digitisation of the economy, and a business-friendly regulatory regime.
“Pakistan’s IT sector has registered strong growth in the recent past opening new opportunities for platforms like Meta to expand its operations in Pakistan”, the foreign minister told the social media company’s official.
Clegg said that Meta’s Pakistan team comprises entirely of Pakistani professionals. He briefed the foreign minister on Meta’s ongoing connectivity and capacity-building programmes in Pakistan.
Clegg reaffirmed Meta’s interest in continued engagement with Pakistan to explore modalities of further strengthening collaboration in digital space.
In October last year, the government introduced Removal and Blocking of Unlawful Online Content (Procedure, Oversight and Safeguards) Rules, 2021, directing social media platforms to register themselves with the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA). However, it has borne no fruit so far.
FM Bilawal also thanked Meta for donating Rs125 million for humanitarian assistance to Pakistan in the wake of the deadly floods.
“These are testing times for Pakistan and this donation would be helpful for our flood relief operations,” FM Bilawal noted.
The foreign minister said after the floods, the task of full recovery, rehabilitation, and reconstruction cannot be accomplished without the support of the private sector.
In response, Clegg expressed his solidarity and sympathy with Pakistan on the devastation caused by unprecedented floods.
Record monsoon rains and glacial melt in northern Pakistan triggered the flooding that has impacted nearly 33 million people in the South Asian nation of 220 million, sweeping away homes, crops, bridges, roads and livestock in damages estimated at $30 billion. Scientists say the disaster was exacerbated by climate change.
Hundreds of thousands of people displaced by the floods are living in the open and as flood waters spread over hundreds of kilometres (miles) start to recede — which officials say may take two to six months — stagnant waters have led to diseases like malaria, dengue fever, skin and eye infections and acute diarrhoea.
In what UNICEF described as a situation “beyond bleak,” it said an estimated 16 million children have been impacted by the floods, and at least 3.4 million girls and boys remain in need of immediate, lifesaving support.
The government says GDP growth will likely drop to 3% from a previous estimate of 5% for the 2022-23 financial year.
India cannot deny visas to Pakistani cricket fans as per ICC laws: FM Jilani
- Interim FM says PCB to take up matter of fans’ visas with ICC.
- “There is absolutely no question of CPEC being rolled back”.
- Jilani says Pakistan’s policy on Palestine-Israel remains same.
Caretaker Foreign Minister Jalil Abbas Jilani has stressed that India cannot deny visas to Pakistani cricket fans as the International Cricket Council (ICC) rules bind the host countries to cater to the demand.
It is pertinent to mention here that a delay in the issuance of visas for the national cricket squad and staff by India had put Pakistan’s participation in the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup 2023 — starting October 5 — in jeopardy as the Men in Green couldn’t travel to the neighbouring country until last night.
It also affected the Pakistan team’s schedule ahead of the showpiece event as they couldn’t gather in Dubai for a “team-bonding trip”.
“As per ICC rules, providing visas to the fans is mandatory,” the foreign minister made the remark during a press conference in Islamabad on Thursday.
He added that Pakistani fans must get Indian visas and the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) will take up the matter with the ICC.
Travel between the two arch-rivals is usually an issue for players as well due to the diplomatic tensions between the governments.
Pakistan and India haven’t played bilateral series in any format since 2012-13. Pakistan last toured India for the ODI and T20I series.
‘Pakistan enters second phase of CPEC’
While answering a question about the progress of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), FM Jilani said that Pakistan has entered the second phase of the mega developmental programme, which is a very transformational and important project for the country.
“There is absolutely no question of it being rolled back,” he added.
The second phase of the mega project, the interim foreign minister said, would involve the upgradation of railways and agriculture, technical cooperation, information technology (IT) cooperation and many other areas.
He stressed that “only progress” will be seen in CPEC in days to come.
While talking about the Pakistani delegation’s visit to the United States, Jilani said that Caretaker Prime Minister Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar made a key address at the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) and attended various significant sessions, including a meeting on the epidemic diseases.
The FM said that the caretaker PM also had a busy schedule on his New York visit, during which he presented his stance on the issue of Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK).
“We told the world clearly about the right of self-determination of Kashmir and human rights violations going on there,” he added.
‘Absolutely no change in policy over Palestine’
Moving on to the Palestinian conflict, the interim FM said that major human rights violations are taking place in Palestine. “The Palestinian issue should be resolved as per the wish of Palestinian people.”
He also said that there is no change in Pakistan’s foreign policy as far as Palestine is concerned and the maintains the same position on the matter. “Pakistan will not imitate other countries on Israel but will protect its own interests.”
He added, “We want the establishment of a free and independent state of Palestine.”
Responding to a question about Afghanistan, the foreign minister said that not only Pakistan but the entire world has concerns about the terrorist attacks that took place in the past few weeks.
He said that the good thing is that there is a dialogue going on with the Taliban government and Islamabad has emphasised that Afghanistan is responsible for stopping the attacks on Pakistan originating from Afghan soil.
Media defenders seek parties’ commitment to press freedom ahead of polls
- Media organisations call for freedom of expression, protection of journalists.
- Impunity for crimes against journalists, media is very high in Pakistan, they say.
- PPP, PML-N, PTI, JI among other parties that were delivered joint letter.
ISLAMABAD: As the general elections approach, media organisations in Pakistan Tuesday launched an appeal to the key mainstream and regional political parties involved in the election campaign to commit to concrete measures in favour of press freedom.
Pakistan’s leading press clubs, national and provincial unions of journalists, Paris-based global media watchdog organisation Reporters Without Borders (RSF), and RSF’s Pakistan partner Freedom Network called on heads of contesting parties to pen their commitment to defending the freedom of expression and protection of journalists in their party manifestos.
“Impunity for crimes against journalists and media is very high in Pakistan, which was among the five countries included in a pilot project of the UN Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity,” said the joint letter on Thursday.
Freedom Network’s Annual Impunity 2022 report stated that there were “no convictions in 96% of journalist killings in the past 10 years,” the letter added.
“Such a high percentage of impunity for crimes against media practitioners and assistants is alarming and puts journalists in extreme danger for practising journalism, thus, denying citizens of Pakistan their right to know and access information – the two fundamental rights enshrined in the 1973 Constitution of Pakistan, guaranteed by Articles 19 and 19A.”
Karachi Press Club, Lahore Press Club, Quetta Press Club, National Press Club, Islamabad, Peshawar Press Club, Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists, Karachi Union of Journalists, Punjab Union of Journalists, Balochistan Union of Journalists, Khyber Union of Journalists, Rawalpindi-Islamabad Union of Journalists, Digital Media Alliance of Pakistan (DigiMAP), Pakistan Journalists Safety Coalition (PJSC)-Federal chapter, Association of Electronic Media Editors and News Directors (AEMEND), Freedom Network, Reporters Without Borders and TV journalist Hamid Mir co-authored this joint letter.
“In the run-up to elections, the ball is now in the court of the political parties as regards defending press freedom, as well as journalistic independence and pluralism, as fundamental guarantees of a functioning democracy. Pakistan’s press clubs along with journalists’ unions, press freedom organisations and editors bodies for electronic media, call on the leaders of the main political parties to make a concrete commitment to our proposals, starting with the search for legislative guarantees for the protection of journalists and the fight against impunity for crimes of violence against them,” it mentioned.
The statement recalled that traditionally, political parties were strong supporters of freedom of expression and press freedom in Pakistan. “Journalistic institutions such as press clubs and unions of journalists remained steadfast in upholding the constitutional rights to freedom of expression, of which journalism is an important tool used to exercise the right,” the statement said.
“We ask these federal and regional political parties to take our call into consideration and state unambiguously that they will support press freedom, the right to reliable information and the defence of journalists, that they will end impunity for crimes against media through Pakistan’s legal framework and that they will bring to justice the perpetrators of crimes against journalists,” they emphasised.
Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N), Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam Fazl (JUI-F) Jamaat-e-Islami (JI), Awami National Party (ANP), Muttehida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P), Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP), Baluchistan Awami Party, Baluchistan National Party (Mengal group), Qaumi Watan Party, Pakistan Muslim League (PML-Q), Hazara Democratic Party and National Party were delivered this joint letter to seek their commitment to defending press freedom if they are elected to national and provincial parliament in the forthcoming general elections.
Pakistani biryani: a spicy recipe for delectable debate
Karachi: Eying each other across a stream of traffic, rival Pakistani biryani joints vie for customers, serving a fiery medley of meat, rice and spice that unites and divides South Asian appetites.
Both sell a niche version of the dish, steeped in the same vats, with matching prices and trophies commending their quality.
But in Karachi, where a biryani craze boomed after the creation of Pakistan, it is the subtle differences that inspire devotion.
“Our biryani is not only different from theirs but unique in the world,” says restaurateur Muhammad Saqib, who layers his “bone marrow biryani” with herbs.
“When a person bites into it he drowns in a world of flavours,” the 36-year-old says.
Across the road, Muhammad Zain sees it differently.
“We were the ones who started the biryani business here first,” the 27-year-old claims, as staff scoop out sharing platters with a gut-punch of masala.
“It´s our own personal and secret recipe.”
Both agree on one thing.
“You can´t find biryani like Pakistan´s anywhere in the world,” says Saqib.
“Whether it´s a celebration or any other occasion, biryani always comes first,” according to Zain.
British colonial rule in South Asia ended in 1947 with a violent rupture of the region along religious lines.
Hindus and Sikhs in newly created Pakistan fled to India while Muslim “Mohajirs” — refugees — went the other way.
India and Pakistan have been arch-rivals since, fighting wars and locked in endless diplomatic strife. Trade and travel have been largely choked off.
Many Mohajirs settled in Karachi, home to just 400,000 people in 1947 but one of the world´s largest cities today with a population of 20 million.
For Indian food historian Pushpesh Pant, biryani served in South Asia´s melting-pot cities such as Karachi is a reminder of shared heritage.
“Hindus ate differently, Nanakpanthis (Sikhs) ate differently, and Muslims ate differently, but it was not as if their food did not influence each other,” he told AFP from the city of Gurugram outside Delhi.
“In certain parts of Pakistan and certain parts of India, the differences in flavours and foods are not as great as man-made borders would make us think.”
Every Karachi neighbourhood has its own canteens fronted by vendors clanking a spatula against the inside of biryani pots.
The recipe has endless variations.
The one with beef is a favourite in Islamic Pakistan, while vegetarian variants are more popular in largely Hindu India.
Chicken is universal. Along coastlines, seafood is in the mix.
And purists debate if adding potatoes is heresy.
“Other than that, there is Pulao Biryani which is purely from Delhi,” says 27-year-old pharmacist Muhammad Al Aaqib, describing a broth-stewed variation.
“My roots lead back to Delhi too so it´s like the mother of biryanis for us.”
“Perhaps every person has a different way of cooking it, and their way is better,” says 36-year-old landlord Mehran Khoso.
´No secret ingredient´
The origins of biryani are hotly contested.
However, it is generally accepted the word has Persian roots and it is argued the dish was popularised in the elite kitchens of the Mughal Empire, which spanned South Asia between the 16th and 19th centuries.
In spite of that pedigree, its defining quality is permutation.
Quratul Ain Asad, 40, spends Sunday morning cooking for her husband and son, Mohajir descendants of a family that arrived in Karachi from the Indian town of Tonk in 1948.
But at the dinner table, they feast not on an heirloom recipe but a TV chef´s version with a cooling yoghurt sauce and a simple shredded salad.
Asad insists on Karachi´s biryani supremacy.
“You will not like biryani from anywhere else once you´ve tasted Karachi´s biryani,” she says.
“There is no secret ingredient. I just cook with a lot of passion and joy,” she adds. “Perhaps that´s why the taste comes out good.”
Cooked in bulk, biryani is also a staple of charity donations.
At Ghazi Foods, 28-year-old Ali Nawaz paddles out dozens of portions of biryani into plastic pouches, which are delivered to poor neighbourhoods on motorbikes.
A minute after one of those bikes stops, the biryani is gone, seized by kids and young adults.
“People pray for us when they eat it,” says Nawaz. “It feels good that our biryani reaches the people.”
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