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RAWALPINDI: For a few hours twice a month, young explorers and cultural enthusiasts follow Hassan Tauseef as he takes them through the narrow alleyways and forgotten streets of Rawalpindi to discover some of the most interesting and little-known aspects of Pakistan’s fourth-largest city. “I wanted to start giving people tours because there is so much hidden…

RAWALPINDI: For a few hours twice a month, young explorers and cultural enthusiasts follow Hassan Tauseef as he takes them through the narrow alleyways and forgotten streets of Rawalpindi to discover some of the most interesting and little-known aspects of Pakistan’s fourth-largest city.

“I wanted to start giving people tours because there is so much hidden in plain sight here,” Tauseef, a 20-year-old architecture student from capital Islamabad, told Arab News.

He has been arranging the Pindi Heritage Walks since January this year to discover and document Rawalpindi with other young people.

Neglected for decades despite its unique cultural and architectural heritage, Rawalpindi is back on the radar as young people seek to learn more about the centuries-old city, and retell stories that shaped the town’s history to what it is today.

Known as Islamabad’s twin city, Rawalpindi’s history is not widely celebrated, although it spans rich and diverse traditions. It falls within the bounds of the ancient kingdom of Gandhara, which stretched across parts of Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Its earliest settlement dates back to when Mahmud of Ghazni, the first independent ruler of the Turkic dynasty of Ghaznavids, destroyed Rawalpindi in the early 11th century.

During the Mughal era, Rawalpindi remained under the rule of the Ghakhar clan until it was captured in the 1760s by Sikh rulers, and then finally by the British East India Company, which transformed it into a commercial center and garrison city.

Today, Rawalpindi’s history is reflected in the unique, decaying beauty of its buildings and streets, which bear the signs of all the hands the city has passed through.

The Pindi Heritage Walks have quickly gained popularity as people come to find new treasures, but also to see some of the city’s famous religious (mainly Hindu) sites such as the Krishna Mandir, Kalyan Das Temple and the old temple in front of Narankari Bazaar, built in 1880 by Shirimati Devi in memory of her husband.

On a morning walk last Saturday, Tauseef said he had come across some remarkable new offerings — a statue of a deity atop a residential home, small Hindu and Sikh temples tucked away in alleyways, and centuries-old mosques.

“I hope with the tours we can build a wider acceptance of Rawalpindi as a religious tourist destination in Pakistan and do away with the erasure of the religious significance of the place,” Tauseef said.

His research into Rawalpindi’s architecture focuses on the buildings left behind by the religious communities that lived in the city before the partition of the Indian subcontinent, when Muslim Pakistan came into being in 1947.

Before that, the city was dominated by the Hindu community, which largely migrated to India. The homes Hindus left behind were then inhabited by Muslims who, in similar circumstances, had left India to settle in Pakistan.

Tauseef was inspired, he said, to look into communities “whose history has been lost” over the years.

“The city of Rawalpindi has a unique and diverse history that is unfortunately no longer known even to most of its residents,” Mariam Saleem Farooqi and Rida Arif wrote in a 2015 journal article titled ‘The Lost Art of Rawalpindi.’

“Even today, deep in the heart of Rawalpindi, families reside in original buildings dating back to the pre-partition era, many of which still carry remains of carvings and decoration put in place by the original inhabitants. These old buildings are now in a state of disrepair and need proper maintenance and upkeep.

“Encroachment, demolition, vandalism, extremism — there is no shortage of problems for heritage sites,” Farooqi and Arif wrote.

But Tauseef said interest in preserving Rawalpindi was picking up: “People want to preserve something which is ours.”

Shiraz Hassan, a journalist who often documents Rawalpindi and its history, said he believed the city’s heritage tourism could grow with proper investment.

“Narrow streets, beautiful doors and balconies and the architectural jewels of the city give us a glimpse of its rich history and culture,” he told Arab News. “Even today, many people living in the twin cities are unaware of the historical landmarks located in the old city.”

Tauseef said he was working with a friend to get access to documents, maps and details of historical sites to build a database.

“If we, with government support, can have access to the information, we can build a database so that others don’t have to go through what we did,” he said. “We can preserve the history here and build on the religious tourism already growing in the country.”

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Hostage policemen released by TLP religious party after government negotiations

PARIS: France is imposing entry restrictions on travelers from four countries — Argentina, Chile, South Africa and Brazil — in hopes of keeping out especially contagious coronavirus variants, the government has announced. The restrictions include mandatory 10-day quarantines with police checks to ensure people arriving in France observe the requirement.  Travelers from all four countries will…

PARIS: France is imposing entry restrictions on travelers from four countries — Argentina, Chile, South Africa and Brazil — in hopes of keeping out especially contagious coronavirus variants, the government has announced.

The restrictions include mandatory 10-day quarantines with police checks to ensure people arriving in France observe the requirement.  Travelers from all four countries will be restricted to French nationals and their families, EU citizens and others with a permanent home in France.

France previously suspended all flights from Brazil. The suspension will be lifted next Saturday, after 10 days, and the new restrictions “progressively” put in place by then, the government said. 

The flight suspension for Brazil will be lifted followed by “drastic measures” for entering France from all four countries, plus the French territory of Guiana, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said.

The four countries “are the most dangerous in terms of the number of variants that exist and in the evolution of the pandemic in these countries,” Le Drian said Saturday on the France 3 television station.

The list of countries subject to tougher border checks could be extended, he said.

Under the new restrictions, travelers must provide an address for where they plan to observe the 10-day confinement period and police will make visits and fine those who are found in violation, the government said.

Along with the mandatory quarantine, France is requiring more stringent testing for the coronavirus. 

Travelers must show proof of a negative PCR test taken less than 36 hours instead of 72 hours before they boarded a flight, or a negative antigen test less than 24 hours

France has reported the deaths of 100,00 people in the COVID-19 pandemic.

A variant first identified in England spread to continental Europe and is now responsible for about 80 percent of the virus cases in France, while the variants first seen in Brazil and South Africa make up less than 4% of French infections, Health Minister Olivier Veran said last week.

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UEFA says will ban clubs who take part in breakaway ‘European Super League’

LONDON: Chelsea ended Manchester City’s quest for a historic quadruple of trophies as Hakim Ziyech’s goal earned a 1-0 win to take the Blues into the FA Cup final on Saturday. A damaging day for City also saw them lose Kevin De Bruyne to an ankle injury just over a week away from the League Cup…

LONDON: Chelsea ended Manchester City’s quest for a historic quadruple of trophies as Hakim Ziyech’s goal earned a 1-0 win to take the Blues into the FA Cup final on Saturday.

A damaging day for City also saw them lose Kevin De Bruyne to an ankle injury just over a week away from the League Cup final, where they face Tottenham, and the first leg of their Champions League semifinal against Paris Saint-Germain.

Chelsea were good value for another impressive win under Thomas Tuchel and will be favorites for the German’s first silverware in English football when they face Leicester or Southampton May 15.

Tuchel could land an even bigger prize in the Champions League just months after replacing the sacked Frank Lampard in January.

His side showed they can get the better of City in what could be a dress rehearsal for the Champions League final should the English clubs see off PSG and Real Madrid in the last four.

The physical demands of City’s bid for a clean sweep of trophies was shown as Pep Guardiola made eight changes from the side that beat Borussia Dortmund in midweek with goalscorers Phil Foden and Riyad Mahrez among those rotated.

Tuchel made just three changes and Chelsea looked the far less disjointed side in a bright start.

Timo Werner’s cross was swept home by Ziyech after just six minutes, but the goal was ruled out for offside against the German international.

That proved to be the only shot on target of a cagey first 45 minutes that did little to whet the appetite of a potential reunion in Istanbul for European club football’s greatest prize on May 29.

Despite the number of changes, the ease with which Chelsea were able to spring quick counter-attacks will be of concern to Guardiola with the fearsome duo of PSG’s Kylian Mbappe and Neymar to come.

From one slick break, Chelsea’s wing backs combined but Ben Chilwell could only slice Reece James’s cross wide.

City got to half-time without any damage on the score line, but suffered a potentially huge blow to their hopes of still clinching a treble of trophies early in the second half.

Just 11 days before the first leg of the PSG tie, De Bruyne appeared to roll his ankle in a challenge with N’Golo Kante and was replaced by Foden.

City were still reeling from the loss of the Belgium attacker when they were finally caught out by the Chelsea counterattack.

Guardiola’s decision to retain Zack Steffen in goal for domestic cup competitions backfired as the American was caught in no man’s land when Werner raced in behind and once again squared for Ziyech to roll into an empty net.

Steffen made some measure of amends moments later to deny Ziyech a second when the Moroccan was clean through.

City took until the final 20 minutes to get going, but their best chance of sending the game to extra time came from a corner as Ruben Dias headed over from close range.

Instead, it was Chelsea who found the net again through Christian Pulisic in stoppage time only for the offside flag to again come to City’s rescue.

But there was no saving a bid for history for Guardiola’s men as they cannot now better Manchester United’s treble of Champions League, Premier League and FA Cup from 1998/99.

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Gaza man winning hearts by donating traditional food to the poor

BEIRUT: Controversial Lebanese judge and Mount Lebanon state prosecutor Ghada Aoun carried out a second raid on a money exchange in northern Lebanon on Saturday in defiance of a senior judiciary decision dismissing her from an investigation into possible currency export breaches. Aoun was accompanied by several activists from the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) during…

BEIRUT: Controversial Lebanese judge and Mount Lebanon state prosecutor Ghada Aoun carried out a second raid on a money exchange in northern Lebanon on Saturday in defiance of a senior judiciary decision dismissing her from an investigation into possible currency export breaches.

Aoun was accompanied by several activists from the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) during the raid on the money exchange in the Awkar district in northern Lebanon.

Less than 24 hours earlier she raided the office with members of the security services.

Aoun remained in the money exchange for several hours on Friday in protest at her dismissal by the the discriminatory Public Prosecutor, Judge Ghassan Oweidat, a decision that caused widespread anger among the Lebanese public.

Caretaker Justice Minister Marie-Claude Najm held an emergency meeting on Saturday with Oweidat as well as Supreme Judicial Council head Judge Suhail Abboud and Judicial Inspection Authority head Judge Borkan Saad.

After the meeting Najm voiced her anger at the situation regarding the judiciary, saying that she refuses to be “a false witness to the decay of the judiciary and the fall of the fig leaf in this state.”

Najm said the events involving Aoun are an indication of “the failure of state institutions.”

Lebanon is facing a political and economic crisis amid disputes between state officials, a deadlock that has led to the collapse of the national currency.

However, critics accuse Aoun of a lack of respect for due process.

HIGHLIGHT

Caretaker Justice Minister Marie-Claude Najm held an emergency meeting on Saturday with Oweidat as well as Supreme Judicial Council head Judge Suhail Abboud and Judicial Inspection Authority head Judge Borkan Saad.

There are six criminal cases and 28 complaints against her before the Judicial Inspection Authority — the largest number of cases filed against any judge in the history of the Lebanese judiciary.

Aoun was investigating the Mecattaf money exchange company and Societe Generale Bank for allegedly withdrawing dollars from the market and shipping the funds abroad.

The Supreme Judicial Council dismissed Aoun along with two other judges who had previously been suspended by the Disciplinary Council for Judges.

Judge Oweidat on Friday asked the Director-General of State Security, Maj. Gen. Antoine Saliba, to suspend the officers who accompanied Aoun on the exchange office raid.

People in Lebanon on Friday watched on TV as Aoun requested that the money exchange office be sealed because the owner, Michel Mecattaf, refused to provide her with details of currency transfers on behalf of banks.

Earlier, Mecattaf’s agents informed Aoun that she had been dismissed from the case.

Aoun remained alone for hours inside the office after state security personnel left. A medical team checked on her after her blood pressure rose, and she left the premises soon after. Later she stepped on to the balcony of her home to wave to FPM supporters, who gathered outside to offer support.

After Aoun’s second raid on Saturday, the head of the Mecattaf financial company accused her supporters of “breaking into private property by force.”

Mecattaf described the case as “eminently political,” saying that he is “a witness and not a convict.”

Najm described the events as “unacceptable.”

“I am not in a position to please this political party or that team. We want an effective and independent judiciary. The problem is not the laws — oversight and accountability have been absent for years,” she said.

Najm also said that “the judiciary is incapable of fighting corruption,” and called on judges to “rise up against this reality.”

She added: “There is a lack of confidence in the judiciary, and this is a major insult.”

Retired General Prosecutor Hatem Madi told Arab News: “Judge Oweidat’s decision shows that some judges are working independently, but things must be put to rights. Regardless of whether Oweidat’s decision was right or wrong, the public prosecution offices in Lebanon must be an integrated unit.”

The decision to dismiss Aoun revived a political dispute between the FPM and the Future Movement, the two parties in conflict over the formation of the government.

The FPM, headed by MP Gebran Bassil, said that it will “continue to expose every file related to the fight against corruption,” saluting “every judge who rightfully performs their duties despite the injustice to which they are sometimes exposed.”

The Future Movement said that “mourning for judges after encouraging them to violate laws and asking them to open discretionary files for opponents is a matter that no longer fools any of the Lebanese people.”

 

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