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Arab legacy lingers as Pakistan’s Gwadar grows from tiny fishing town into port city


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Many shopkeepers in Gwadar’s Shahi and other markets told Arab News on Tuesday, April 23, 2019 that they have displayed photos of the ruler of the Sultanate of Oman in their shops as a show of respect. (AN Photo by Hassam Lashkari)

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Several shops in Pakistan's coastal town of Gwadar are named Oman, which locals told Arab News on Tuesday, April 23, 2019 is a manifestation of the strong bond between the people of Gwadar and their old Arab rulers. (AN Photo by Hassam Lashkari)

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In this photograph taken on April 23, 2019, an Omani fort used for keeping inmates can be seen near Shahi Bazaar in Gwadar city (AN Photo by Hassam Lashkari)

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Pakistan bought Gwadar from Oman for Rs5.5 billion in 1958Thousands of Gwadar locals have dual Pakistani and Omani nationality, continue to live and work between the two countries

Updated 29 April 2019

NAIMAT KHAN

April 29, 2019 04:07

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GWADAR, Pakistan: One night, in the mid-1950s, a young fisherman, Muhammad Akbar, and his father pushed their boat into the sea near their village. Suddenly, they heard an explosion that sent sparkling fireworks into the air. They turned back, anchored their vessel, and ran toward their home.

It was Eid in the Omani city of Gwadar, and the blast was its official declaration.

 

Arab soldiers of Oman seen in a photo handout by Gwadar resident Nasir Raheem. 

“A few years later, when Gwadar became part of Pakistan, the ritual was no longer practiced. Yet, we continue do many things that are specific to the legacy of Arab rule in Gwadar,” recalled Akbar, now 78, while sipping his tea at the historic Kareemuk Hotel in Shahi Bazaar – or the royal market.

The hotel itself is the remnant of the bygone era when Oman ruled the territory. “It used to be a bakery owned by an Arab, Omar Mascuti, who gifted it to a local, Abdul Salam, who turned it into a tea shop.”

The culturally diverse city of Gwadar also has the ancestral neighborhood of Sadruddin Hashwani – chairman of the Hashoo Group, a conglomerate of hotels and resorts – where a large number of Ismaili Khojas live.

“This fishing village of a few thousand people, which grew into a city of nearly ninety thousand people, has a Hindu temple and an Ismaili jamaat khana,” Noor Mohsin, a resident of Gwadar, said, adding: “It’s a testament to the fact that Gwadar during and after the Arab rule was a diverse town. It still is today.”

Gwadar is situated on a natural hammerhead-shaped headland that forms two seamless, but naturally curved, semi-circular bays on both side – the east bay called Demi Zirr, and the west bay called Paddi Zirr. The city is situated on a tapered and sandy 12-kilometer-long strip that links the Pakistani coast to rocky outcroppings in the Arabian Sea known as the Gwadar Peninsula, or Koh-e-Batil.

In 1783, Taimur Sultan, the grandfather of Oman’s incumbent ruler, Qaboos bin Said al Said, ran away to Kalat Khanate after getting defeated where the ruler, Mir Noori Naseer Khan Baloch, granted him suzerainty over Gwadar. Sultan continued to rule over the territory even after reclaiming Muscat and appointed an administrator to Gwadar.

Three forts were built here during the Omani rule, while telegraph lines were also extended into the town at a later stage. On 8 September 1958, Pakistan purchased Gwadar from Oman for Rs5.5 billion (or US$ 3.89 billion in 2019).

This photo taken on Tuesday April 23, 2019 shows one of three Omani forts in Gwadar, which was part of the Sultanate of Oman until September 1958. (AN Photo by Hassam Lashkari)

With Pakistan’s ownership, the Arab era came to an end here. However, Gwadar’s journey, from a small fishing village to a port city, has not taken away the golden memories of that period from its residents.

“The cannons you see outside the old municipal office are not fired to announce the advent of Eid. Still we break our fast much like Arabs,” Akbar said.

This cannon displayed outside the old municipal office of Gwadar is one the two cannons which would fire explosives to announce the beginning of the religious festival of Eid before Pakistan purchased Gwadar from Oman in 1958, locals told Arab News on Tuesday, April 23, 2019 (AN Photo by Hassam Lashkari)

Unlike the rest of Balochistan, the people of Gwadar consume a substantial quantity of dates and lassi [a yogurt-based drink] during Ramadan and have their dinner after tarawih prayers. Sukoun, an Arabian dish, is also made and shared by residents of different neighborhoods among themselves. “Dates are softened in water and wheat flour is mixed with them. Women here in olden days started making it at noon and send it to neighbors hours before iftar,” told Nasir Raheem, a social activist, whose father Raheem Bux Sohrabi was one of nearly half a dozen influential personalities who campaigned for Gwadar’s accession with Pakistan.

Sakeena Bibi, 80, said that women had soaked up quite a few traditions from Arabs and still practiced them. “The women in Gwadar like to use oud scent,” she said. “Oud is put on flaming coals and the smoke is then spread in the wardrobes that result in excellent and long lasting fragrance.”

“When someone in Oman or other Gulf countries inquire about our gift choices, we ask them to send us oud,” she told Arab News.

Sakeena is aged but still remembers her Arab friends, Shadi and Kana’an. “The women in Gwadar and Makran chant the same way as Arab women while we are happy. This is what we have adopted from them.”

On April 23, 2019, Sakeena Bibi, 80, recalled "the golden days" of Gwadar before Pakistan purchased the town from the rulers of Oman in 1958 (AN Photo by Hassam Lashkari)

But it’s not just the food or fragrance: The people of Gwadar have also copied Arab dances. “Leva is an African and Arab dance. A man in center beats a drum and people dance around it,” Raheem said.

“The strong bond,” he continued, “is not confined to few customs. Many people in Gwadar are dual nationals and say that they belong to both Pakistan and Oman. A large number of people from Makran serves in Oman’s army. A good number is part of the Bahraini police. A large number works in Oman, Qatar, UAE and Bahrain and send remittances to families in Pakistan. Those are permanently settled there provide financial support to their relatives here.”

“My brother works in Oman. My sister is an Omani national. It’s the story of every second household and it connects us to the Arab world,” he told Arab News.

Akbar says there are several similar wedding rituals among Arabs and Baloch. “There had been intermarriages as well. Some people here still wear kandura on special occasions like weddings, Eid and Jumma prayers,” Akbar said.

Dad Karim, a fisherman who like many old residents have still kept his parents’ old passport of 1900, said there were people who could tolerate criticism of Pakistan rulers, “but there are others who get annoyed when someone says something against the rulers of Oman.”

Dad Kareem, a fisherman who has kept the old Omani passport of his father, told Arab News on Tuesday, April 23, 2019 that the people of Gwadar have a special love for Arabs (AN Photo by Hassam Lashkari)

The date palms of the coastal Makran district were also contributed by Arabs, including some preachers from Saudi Arabia, who brought date seeds with them that benefitted us for centuries, Karim said.

The Shahi Bazaar and three forts also reminds people of Gwadar about the Omani rule. One of them has been turned into a museum after the ministry of heritage and culture of the Sultanate of Oman restored it on the directives of Sultan Qaboos bin Said during his state visit to Pakistan in 2001. It was officially inaugurated by General (r) Pervez Musharraf on March 20, 2007.

This photo taken on Tuesday April 23, 2019 shows a Omani fort in Thana Ward in Gwadar, which has now been converted into museum.  (AN Photo by Hassam Lashkari)

“Arabs are great people. When someone from a foreign country rules another population, the locals begin to despise them. Ours is a special case. There is love and only love,” Karim said.

  

 

 

 

Topics: GWADAR PAKISTAN EDITOR’S CHOICE

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Tension palpable as thousands hit Paris for May 1 rallies

More than 7,400 police and gendarmes deployed with orders from President Emmanuel Macron to take an “extremely firm stance” if faced with violenceAuthorities had warned this year’s marches would likely spell trouble

Updated 01 May 2019

AFP

May 01, 2019 13:04

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PARIS: Paris riot police fired teargas as they squared off against hard-line demonstrators among tens of thousands of May Day protesters, who flooded the city Wednesday in a test for France’s zero-tolerance policy on street violence.
Tensions were palpable as a heady mix of labor unionists, “yellow vest” demonstrators and anti-capitalists gathered in the French capital, putting security forces on high alert.
Ahead of the main march, the city was on lockdown with more than 7,400 police and gendarmes deployed with orders from President Emmanuel Macron to take an “extremely firm stance” if faced with violence.
Clashes briefly erupted on Montparnasse Boulevard, where hundreds of anti-capitalist “black bloc” activists pushed to the front of the gathering crowd, hurling bottles and other projectiles at police, who fired tear gas and stingball grenades, an AFP correspondent said.
Used at ground level, the grenades release scores of rubber pellets that cause an intense stinging to the legs.
Authorities had warned this year’s marches would likely spell trouble, coming barely a week after leaders of the yellow vest anti-government movement angrily dismissed a package of tax cuts by President Emmanuel Macron.
And with some agitators vowing on social media to turn Paris into “the capital of rioting,” the government moved to deploy security on an “exceptional scale” throughout the capital.
Last year, officials were caught off guard by some 1,200 troublemakers who ran amok in Paris, vandalising businesses and clashing with police.
By early afternoon, thousands had flocked to the Montparnasse area, many wearing the hi-visibility jackets that gave the name to the yellow vest protesters.
Since November, the city has struggled to cope with the weekly yellow vest protests, which have often descended into chaos with a violent minority smashing up and torching shops, restaurants and newspaper stands.
Across the city on Wednesday, streets were barricaded and shops had boarded up their windows, with police ordering the closure of all businesses along the route of the main march.
“We are not afraid of the union marches but of the black blocs,” local restaurant owner Serge Tafanel told AFP.
Interior Minister Christophe Castaner said several groups on social media had urged protesters to transform Paris into “the capital of rioting,” with police gearing up for the arrival of up to 2,000 activists bristling for a fight.
Many are anti-capitalist youths, often known as black blocs, who dress in black and wear face masks.
Nearly 200 motorcycle units have been deployed across the capital to respond quickly to flare-ups of violence, and drones are being used to track protesters’ movements.
Castaner said police would carry out pre-emptive searches of anyone planning to march, a new tactic allowed under a security law passed recently in response to the yellow vest violence.
From the early hours of Wednesday, several dozen police officers could be seen at the city’s main train stations, carrying out bag random searches, AFP journalists said.
By midday, police said 88 people had been detained for questioning.
Last Thursday, in a major policy speech aimed at calming the yellow vest anger, Macron promised a string of reforms including tax cuts worth five billion euros ($5.5 billion).
The yellow vests rejected it as too little, too late, pledging to keep up the protests, which began last year over rising taxes on fuel and pensions but have since morphed into a wider movement.
Although the numbers have steadily fallen, the rallies have remained in the headlines, largely over disorder by a handful of violent protesters along the Champs-Elysees.
Following a particularly violent demo in March, the government adopted a “zero-tolerance” approach, passing an “anti-rioter” bill which included making it a criminal offense to wear a mask at a protest.
France’s powerful labor unions are also hoping to use the traditional May Day march for workers’ rights to raise their profile after finding themselves sidelined for months by the grass-roots yellow vest movement.
Like the yellow vests, the unions were also disappointed by Macron’s speech.
“We must be careful not to lose the meaning of this day,” warned Philippe Martinez, secretary general of the CGT, one of France’s biggest unions.
“It is a day of mobilization which deserves our full attention after Emmanuel Macron’s announcement in which he said: ‘I hear you and I’m not changing anything’.”

  

 

 

 

Topics: PARIS MAY DAY YELLOW VESTS

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Pakistan says has no objection to UN blacklisting of Jaish-e-Mohammed founder

“We’re going to enforce this decision forthwith,” Faisal said, referring to a travel ban and freeze on Azhar’s assets resulting from the blacklistingIslamabad has accused India of attempting to use the UN committee in an unfair way

Updated 01 May 2019

SIB KAIFEE

May 01, 2019 21:59

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ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s Foreign Office said on Wednesday it has no objection to the decision by a UN Security Council committee to blacklist Masood Azhar, the head of the militant group Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM).
Azhar’s Pakistan-based group is accused of carrying out several high-profile attacks in India and Western powers for years have been calling for him to be sanctioned. China, a staunch ally of Pakistan, has repeatedly opposed the moves but dropped its objection to the blacklisting on Wednesday, ending a long diplomatic impasse.
“The listing in question has been under consideration of the Sanctions Committee for almost a decade,” said Mohammed Faisal, a spokesman for Pakistan’s Foreign Office. “Previous proposals did not meet the technical criteria as they included factors unrelated to the listing rules and were thus rejected.
“The recent listing proposal was presented on the basis of considerations beyond the listing parameters. As a result, a technical hold was placed by China to bring it in line with the listing criteria.”
Faisal said Islamabad had agreed to the blacklisting after it removed references to an attack on Feb. 14 in the Indian city of Pulwama, for which JeM claimed responsibility, and references linking it to the insurgency in Indian-controlled Kashmir, which Pakistan considers a struggle for self-determination.
“We’re going to enforce this decision forthwith,” Faisal said, referring to a travel ban and freeze on Azhar’s assets resulting from the blacklisting.
Islamabad has accused India of attempting to use the UN committee in an unfair way.
“Pakistan has always advocated the need for respecting these technical rules and regulations and has opposed the politicization of the Sanctions Committee,” he said. “Earlier proposals were aimed at maligning Pakistan and the legitimate struggle of the people of Indian-occupied Jammu and Kashmir.”
Five previous attempts to blacklist Azhar were blocked by China, which is a permanent member of the Security Council and wields the power to veto any “substantive” resolution.
Azhar’s continued freedom in Pakistan has been a sore point in the relationship between Western countries and Islamabad. The latest attempt to sanction him began in February, when the US, Britain and France asked the Security Council’s Islamic State and Al-Qaeda Sanctions Committee to impose an arms embargo and travel ban on the JeM founder and freeze his assets. The move by the 15-member committee, which operates by consensus, was once again blocked by China.
The three nations stepped up their efforts in March by proposing a resolution that would have needed nine votes in favor and no vetoes to pass. After further negotiations, they submitted a new sanctions request to the committee on Sunday, which was agreed on Wednesday.
“We support the listing issue being settled...through dialogue and consultation,” said Geng Shuang, a spokesman for China’s Foreign Ministry, on Tuesday, while the decision was still being discussed.
Following the attack in February in Kashmir, India carried out an aerial bombing mission in Pakistan, the first of its kind since the war between the countries in December 1971. Pakistan responded with an aerial bombardment the following day, and the two countries fought a brief dogfight in the skies over Kashmir. Tensions began to ease when Pakistan, amid pressure from global powers, returned an Indian pilot whose plane was shot down over Pakistan-controlled Kashmir.
Islamabad subsequently vowed to crack down on anti-India militants and other violent groups operating on its soil. It has shut down some madrassas linked to such organizations, and has placed relatives of Azhar in “protective custody.”



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