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We could hear the deafening roar of the big water in the distance. As we neared the rapid, we noticed a young man standing on the far-left side of the river, frantically waving at us and pointing us to move towards the right side of the river. Bewildered and frightened by the horrifying sight of the massive class 5 rapid that suddenly loomed ahead, we started paddling hard towards our right. But it was too late. The strong current pushed us straight towards the waterfall that was plummeting right into a huge hole. Then, all of a sudden, everything went topsy-turvy as our raft fell headlong into an enormous hole. There was a big thud as I flew from the raft’s stern and crashed on top of Faisal, who had fallen on the bow of the boat. Before I could steady myself, our raft emerged from the first hole and fell backwards into another big one to its left. At that moment, I felt like I was being sucked into a deep watery abyss as tons of water came crashing down on us. As we surfaced, I could see Sanif and Sultan in the water, clinging to the side of the raft, struggling to haul themselves back in. I looked around desperately but couldn’t see Farman anywhere. Then I saw him come up from under a big wave and disappear under another huge one. I could see waves crashing all around him as the strong current swept him further away from us. And just when we thought we had some control over our raft, we were swallowed by yet another hole. A group of intrepid adventurers decide to raft down the length of the Mighty Indus to document how the ‘river of life’ is currently faring in face of environmental degradation and human intervention. This is the story of that journey... We were Expedition Indus, a six-member team that had set out to raft the entire course of River Indus in Pakistan and we were fighting for our lives, grappling with a huge rapid in the Indus, somewhere downstream from the town of Besham in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. We started our rafting expedition from Hamzigond in the Baltistan region and were heading south to Karachi, a challenge nobody had taken on before. Besides the three main members of Expedition Indus, including myself, ABM Faisal and Farman Ahmed, there were three other members who joined us in the northern leg of our journey. Sanif Jamal and Atif Amin, hailing from Karimabad in Hunza Valley, joined the expedition as river-rafting guides, while Sultan Karim from Ghulkin in Hunza was taken onboard as a white-water rescue expert because of his swimming prowess. River Indus, the untamed lion, the legendary Sindhu, as mentioned in the ancient script of Rig Veda, rises in the mountains of Tibet, and travels for a few hundred kilometres before it enters the Ladakh region in India-occupied Kashmir. It then makes its wild foray into Pakistan after crossing the Line of Control (LoC) close to the village of Olding in Baltistan. The Giglit-Batistan government had authorised us to start our expedition from the bridge on the River Indus close to Olding, about three kilometres from the LoC. But when we arrived at Hamzigond, about eight kilometres short of Olding, armed with a No-Objection Certificate (NOC), our spirits charged with excitement, we were stopped dead in our tracks at a military checkpost. The usual reasons of border sensitivity were cited and we were not allowed to proceed further. Flustered and indignant at this sudden intrusion in our plan and helpless in the face of rigid military procedures, we commenced our expedition from Hamzigond on the first day of March 2022. THE START AT HAMZIGOND Rafting through Kharmang in Baltistan region | Eyebex Films The villagers of Hamzigond, along with the local civil and military administration, gathered at the bridge on the Indus and sent us off with lots of cheers and prayers. As we started rolling down the river in our rubber raft, I deliberately threw myself into the river to check the efficacy of our wetsuits against the frigid waters. I climbed back into the raft shivering and disappointed. “Let’s make sure, we don’t capsize and fall into the river,” I cautioned my team but in a cheery voice. “These wetsuits offer very little protection. Guys, we have chinks in our armour.” Expedition Indus was not only an adventure and a challenge for us, but also a project where we could document the whole river, showcase its presence and gauge its well-being from various perspectives, like the impact of climate change, effluents, dams and other human interventions. We also wanted to look into the potential of the river from a tourism and transportation point of view. And, of course, to film and document the peoples, the history and biodiversity that thrives in and around the great river for posterity’s sake before the Lion River is devoured by the monsters of modernity and greed. The first day was full of excitement and apprehensions as we rafted the turbulent waters of the river, passing through the scenic Kharmang valley with towering mountains on either side, aflame with the blossoms of an early spring. The ever-smiling, hospitable Baltis with their great sense of humour gave us strength, hope and kept our spirits high every time we came ashore. “Where are you going?” they shouted at us. “Karachi,” we shouted back. “Take the road. It is much easier and faster.” Some of them advised us in earnest and others just laughed it off. ‘Yeah right, Karachi,’ they must have thought. Karachi did seem very far away at the time and we too wondered if we would be able to make it. The main villages that we passed on our way were Skardu, Prapaldo, Tolti, Mehdiabad and Gol. Before Gol, close to the village of Keris, is where River Shyok — which in Balti language means the ‘river of death’ — joins the river of life that is Indus. Along this stretch of the river, we thoroughly enjoyed the Balti hospitality as we were fed, housed and greeted by the beautiful Balti folks. In Skardu, we were greeted by a massive sandstorm and Ayaz Shigri. Ayaz is a local hotelier and a colourful character, who sports a mullet and a ribald sense of humour. We danced in his company under the ancient gaze of the Kharpocho Fort as a wind storm lashed at us with its full fury. After resting for a couple of days in Skardu, we rafted to the mouth of Rondu gorge where a week earlier, an earthquake had rained rocks on our van as we had sped through its narrow defile. We skirted the whole section of Rondu gorge due to its difficult terrain and the massive rapids that were beyond our capacity and expertise. Little did we know there would be other things beyond our capacity and expertise. I still get goosebumps when I recall that we almost drowned as it sucked us into its watery horrors. I can still feel the sadness of the moment when Sanif and Sultan finally managed to get into the raft and we all thought we had lost Farman. And then the joy when the raft finally drifted into the calm waters and we could see Farman floating on his back about 10 meters away from us. We threw the safety bag at him and hauled him inside the boat. He was unconscious but still breathing. Thankfully, within minutes he came back to life and started relating his ordeal under the water. We all breathed a sigh of relief and continued down the river towards Thakot. Gilgit-Baltistan into Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Cruising on a Zulu 1 near Kalabagh Our journey down the Indus was fraught with incidents and stories, filled with sights, sounds and people that you can’t visualise or encounter from the elevation of the Karakoram Highway that accompanies the river from Jaglot all the way down to the town of Thakot. At the confluence of River Gilgit and Indus, we witnessed the mountain ranges of the Karakoram, the Himalayas and the Hindukush coming together under the towering shadow of the Nanga Parbat massif. We were humbled in our raft at the awe-inspiring drama of the mighty mountains that unfolded right above us. The Kabul river at Jahangira looked so filthy that I didn’t want to wet my feet in its polluted waters. In one go, we could see the sewage holes, floating junk, and small streams of foul-looking chemicals from the marble factories being dumped into the river. Near the bridge of Astore, we were hailed by the Jalawaan, the gypsy gold panners of the Karakorams, who are among one of the least documented mountain tribes in the world. Living in tattered tents, in and along the gorges and banks of the Indus, these nomadic people thrive by panning gold from its shiny sands. The Jalawaan offered us goat milk and cautioned us about certain portions of the river that were too dangerous to negotiate. Further downstream, we were horrified to see the amount of sewage and trash being released into the river from the town of Chilas. The landscape around the site of the Diamer-Basha dam is an environmental disaster; with the mountain sides blasted out of heavens on either side of the river, their debris is constantly being dumped into the river. It is sad to note that, in this day and age, when the world has moved on to alternative energy sources such as solar and wind power, we are still stuck in the archaic notion of big dams that are known to adversely affect the environmental health of the rivers and their dependents. At Thakot, the river takes a smooth south-easterly turn and disappears behind the Black Mountains, once notorious for being a lawless tribal belt that was recently tamed and made part of the mainstream Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province and renamed as Torghar district. The stretch of Indus from Thakot to Darband is perhaps one of the most beautiful and pristine, as the encroachment of modernity has not spoilt this area. After avoiding a few dangerous sections of the river between Thakot and Shagai, we resumed our trip from the town of Judhba and started paddling in relatively serene water that spreads out and loses its depth in fairytale valleys like Judhba and Palosa. After paddling laboriously for a few hours, we realised that, at this pace where the river was flowing at five km per hour, it would take a few days for us to reach the town of Darband. So, at Palosa, we opted for a quick remedy and hired one of the local ferry launches that run between Darband and Shagai to tow us all the way to Darband. At six in the evening, we were in Tarbela Lake, exiting from the muddy launch adda of Khalabat, close to the town of Haripur. As the river enters PUNJAB The raft caught in a wild rapid | Eyebex Films We said goodbye to Sanif, Atif, Sultan and our sturdy raft that we had christened “Hamzigond” over the course of the journey. “Hamzigond” had been good to us. It didn’t capsize even once and never failed us during our perilous northern leg of the journey. As they headed back to Hunza, we went home to Islamabad to rest and recoup for a couple of days and prepare for the southern stretch of the river. The cast of Expedition Indus changed when we left on April 21 from Islamabad. Now we were joined by Afia Salam, an eminent environment journalist who we eventually dubbed as our “Iron Lady” on account of her impeccable knowledge in her field and wonderful coordination skills that helped the expedition. Besides Afia, a whole bevy of Pak Navy Seals became part of the expedition as the Pakistan Navy had graciously come on board as our partners and lent us two Zulu boats, fitted with outboard motor engines. Lt Commander Babar Nisar Khan was leading this nine-member team. We had six commandos in the boats and the rest comprised our ground support team. We had planned to launch the rafts from the other side of the Tarbela spillways, from the town of Ghazi, but the water level was too low from Ghazi to Attock. So, with a sad heart, we drove to Jahangira in Nowshera District and put our boats in the water in River Kabul from Jahangira Bridge. As an ardent supporter of the expedition, Malik Amin Aslam, the minister for climate change at the time, rode on the raft with us from Jahangira to Malai Tola, a small town on the riverbank of the Indus, about an hour’s boat ride away from Jahangira. The Kabul river at Jahangira looked so filthy that I didn’t want to wet my feet in its polluted waters. In one go, we could see the sewage holes, floating junk, and small streams of foul-looking chemicals from the marble factories being dumped into the river. During our 20-minute ride from Jahangira to the confluence of River Kabul and Indus, our boat engines conked off about a dozen times. The Navy Seals sheepishly explained that their engines were used to seawater and were slowly warming up to the fresh waters of the rivers that have silt and other pollutants that choke the engine. It made sense. Sure enough, soon we were cruising through the Indus with Attock Fort looming into sight on the east bank of the river. After an hour, we crossed Malai Tola and reached a point where the Ghazi Barotha canal meets the river as it dramatically takes a sharp westwardly turn. This place is called the Indus Bend and this is where we dropped Malik Amin on a grassy knoll along the Indus. It was late in the day, so we decided to set up camp for the night. We had hardly settled down when a massive rainstorm with its gusting winds blew our tents away and sent us scrambling towards the nearest Wapda guest house, which was a few minutes’ drive away. From Ghazi Barotha, we travelled to Khushal Garh in Kohat, where we were joined by Aftab Rana, Dr Danish Mustafa and Dr Hassan Abbas. The former is a well-known ecologist, an Indus Blind Dolphin expert and the managing director of the government-run Pakistan Tourism Development Corporation (PTDC), while the latter are internationally renowned water experts who have worked in the fields of geography, hydrology and sociology. Their insights about water issues, big dams, alternative energy and the general health of River Indus added huge value to our expedition as we rafted through a diverse and interesting terrain on the run between Khushal Garh and Kalabagh. In Makhad, in Attock District, we stopped and wondered at the cool riverside caves the locals used as chilled air-conditioned rooms for sleeping on hot sweltering nights. We also visited the shrines of the Gillani pirs, walked through the bazaar, and sat by the ancient temple, gazing at the flowing waters of the river, while contemplating the religious and commercial history of this ancient town. We stayed in Kalabagh for a couple of days exploring the town and its culture. Azam Tariq, our behind-the-scenes expedition member and coordinator, and a veteran himself of a few rafting expeditions, drove from Islamabad and spent time with us, advising us on further travels down the river. The river widened as we exited from the Jinnah Barrage reservoir in Kalabagh and started rafting downstream. We brought along Mumtaz, a Sindhi fisherman resident of Kalabagh, to guide us all the way to Sukkur, as he was well familiar with the river on this stretch and had relatives all along who kept him updated about the depth of waters in the river. Mumtaz, a well-built young fellow in his thirties, sat at the stern of Zulu 1 with a long bamboo pole in hand, dipping it in the river every now and then to ascertain the depth of the river and gesturing with his hand to the coxswains on what direction to take. During our journey downstream from Chashma Barrage, our rafts ran aground on sandbars countless times a day and we dragged them back out looking for deeper channels to float our boats. In Chachran Sharif, in Rahim Yar Khan District, we paid our respect at the shrine of Khawaja Ghulam Farid, the 12th century Sufi scholar and patron saint of the Indus in southern Punjab. On the stretch from Dera Ismail Khan to Layyah, we got lost in the river and exited at about 11pm not knowing where we were, as we had been going around in circles. Towards The Delta We spent Eid day in Mirpur Mathelo, in Sindh, with temperatures soaring up to 48 degrees Celsius. Our lives were made more miserable by the lack of electricity. In Sukkur, we witnessed the Indus Blind Dolphins, visited Sadhu Balo, the shrine of Zinda Pir, and counted numerous drains that were unloading their filth and waste from the cities of Sukkur and Rohri. Styrofoam and plastic bottles won the prize for being the top floaters in the Indus. Despite warnings about “darrials” (the Sindhi term for bandits) infesting the kacha areas, we completed the 108-kilometre run from Mohenjodaro to Dadu Moro without encountering any security issues. We spent two days in Sehwan visiting the shrine of Lal Shahbaz Qalandar, and took a trip to Manchar Lake. There, we were shocked to see the dwindling tribe of the Mohanas who live on their boats. Manchar is being polluted by the Right Bank Outfall Drain (RBOD), its fish and other resident life forms are dying, affecting the livelihood of its fisherfolk, who are forced to live below the poverty line and are leaving their fishing profession to go find work in the neighbouring towns. During our run between Sehwan and the town of Qazi Ahmad, darrials finally caught up with us and fired shots at our boats from the riverbanks a couple of times. We could see armed men training their guns on us and firing. But, fortunately, we dodged their bullets and sped along. Staggered and shaken by this near-death experience, we decided not to test our luck anymore and exited the river about six kilometres downstream from Amri Bridge, close to the town of Qazi Ahmed. To our shock and horror, the river ended at Kotri Barrage. There was no Indus beyond the barrage — just shallow ponds created by seepage water and a desert of silt and sand that sang the dirge of the once mighty roaring Indus. With heavy hearts, we drove to Kharochan, the delta point that used to welcome the river into its creeks and see it off into the waters of the Arabian Sea. But now the sea comes up the creeks of the delta looking for its long-lost friend, wondering what happened to that freshwater Dervish River that brought stories from the mythical plateaus of Tibet, the fabulous valleys of the Karakorams and the enchanting plains of Punjab. As we rafted through the winding labyrinths of the Indus Delta to Keti Bandar, we were overwhelmed by the emotions that had seeped into our beings during the 45 days of our rafting expedition. Journey of a lifetime We were thrilled to have completed a lifelong dream but, at the same time, we were also sad that we had witnessed some heartbreaking scenes along our journey. The unfettered pollution of the once pristine waters of the Indus, the death of the delta itself, the dwindling livelihoods of the Mohanas, the unresolved security issues making certain stretches of the river no-go areas, the near extinction of the Indus Blind Dolphins and the glaring apathy of the upper riparians towards the lower ones. We were happy that we were still alive. And that while we had negotiated the wild rapid and managed to struggle out unscathed from its terrifying fury, its astounding ferocity had not killed our resolve to raft the whole length of the river. And what made our hearts leap with joy was the fact that, despite all the ills and woes we have unleashed on the Indus by building dams along the river, by siphoning off its waters, by polluting it, and by curtailing its flow, the spirit of the Indus, its peoples and the cultures that thrive around it, is still intact and perhaps will never disappear. The writer is a television producer and an adventure travel filmmaker. He likes to read books and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

In what comes as a major setback, Pakistan’s star bowler Shaheen Shah Afridi has been ruled out of the T20 Asia Cup 2022 and the England home series, according to a press release issued by the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) on Saturday.
“Shaheen has been advised four to six weeks rest by the PCB Medical Advisory Committee and independent specialists following latest scans and reports,” the statement read.
It stated that the bowler is expected to return to competitive cricket in October with the New Zealand T20I tri-series, which will be followed by the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup Australia 2022.
Shaheen suffered a right knee ligament injury while fielding during the first Test against Sri Lanka in Galle last month.
“I have spoken with Shaheen and he is understandably upset with the news, but he is a brave young man who has vowed to come back strongly to serve his country and team,” the press release quoted PCB Chief Medical Officer Dr Najeebullah Soomro as saying.
“Although he has made progress during his rehabilitation in Rotterdam, it is now clear he will require more time and is likely to return to competitive cricket in October.”
He said the PCB’s Sports and Exercise Medicine Department would be closely working with Shaheen over the coming weeks to ensure his safe return to competitive cricket.
The press release added that the player will stay with the squad to complete his rehabilitation. “His replacement for the Asia Cup will be announced shortly.”

Actor Adnan Siddiqui happened to be in the same place at the same time as Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah and after hearing him voice his concern for an actor, decided to turn to him for help. Bringing up the case of former cricketer Zaheer Abbas who has hoisted Pakistan’s flag high nationally and internationally, he asked him to provide aid as a “moral obligation towards our hero”.
On Wednesday, the Mere Paas Tum Ho actor shared an old photo of Abbas on the field and a more recent one, side-by-side. “This is a fervent appeal to the Chief Minister of Sindh, Mr Syed Murad Ali Shah, whom I overheard telling someone to help an actor who’s going through financial trouble, at the Islamabad airport. Sir, my apology for inadvertently listening in on you but your concern for the industry really touched me. I request you to extend the same magnanimity to our cricketer Zaheer Abbas who is battling with pneumonia, kidney failure and liver malfunction at Hammersmith Hospital, UK for the last 2.5 months,” he wrote.
Siddiqui shed light on all that the sportsman has accomplished in his successful career. “It is painful to see that a player who brought global recognition to the country, famously addressed as Bradman of Asia, has been awarded the prestigious Pride of Pakistan and is a cross-generational inspiration, has not received any support from his home country.”
The Dum Mastam actor feels it to be a moral duty to be of his assistance. “I am sure the NHS must be providing necessary aid, him being a red passport holder. That, however, doesn’t absolve us from the responsibility of extending help. It is a moral obligation towards our hero,” he concluded.

DHAKA: Shakib Al Hasan on Saturday was named to return as Bangladesh’s Twenty20 international captain after he bowed to a Bangladesh Cricket Board ultimatum to scrap a deal with a betting site.
The all-rounder was given the nod to lead the side for the upcoming Asia Cup in the United Arab Emirates and the World Cup in Australia.

“Shakib realised his mistake,” BCB cricket operations chief Jalal Yunus told reporters as he announced the decision. “He is a very important player for us.”
Earlier this month Shakib announced a partnership with Betwinner News, a portal operated by a gambling firm based in the Dutch Caribbean island of Curacao.
He wrote on his social media pages that it was the “one and only source of sports news!”

Gambling is illegal in Bangladesh and he was forced to cancel the deal after the BCB president, Nazmul Hassan, issued an ultimatum ordering him to choose between the national team and Betwinner.
Shakib captained Bangladesh to seven wins and 14 defeats in 21 T20Is until he was banned for two years — one of them suspended — in 2019 after he failed to record corrupt approaches.
Shakib, who also returned as Test captain in July, replaces wicketkeeper-batsman Nurul Hasan as Bangladesh’s T20 skipper.

Nurul was retained in the Asia Cup squad despite undergoing surgery on a finger in Singapore last week in the hope that he would regain his fitness by the time the tournament starts on August 27 in Dubai.
“His stitches will be removed on August 21. Hopefully, the result will be positive,” said chief selector Minhajul Abedin.

Three-time Asia Cup finalists Bangladesh will face Sri Lanka and Afghanistan in Group ‘B’ of the competition, with two teams progressing to the next round.
Former captain Mushfiqur Rahim also returned to the side after being rested for the T20 series in Zimbabwe, where Bangladesh lost a series against the hosts for the first time.
Pace bowler Ebadot Hossain was handed a place in the T20 side for the first time after he impressed in Tests and One-day Internationals, while batsman Sabbir Rahman and all-rounder Mohammad Saifuddin returned after a long gap.

Bangladesh will play a tri-nation tournament in New Zealand in October involving the hosts and Pakistan before they travel to Australia for the T20 World Cup.
Bangladesh squad: Shakib Al Hasan (captain), Anamul Haque, Mushfiqur Rahim, Afif Hossain, Mosaddek Hossain, Mahmud­ullah Riyad, Mahedi Hasan, Mohammad Saifuddin, Hasan Mahmud, Mustafizur Rahman, Nasum Ahmed, Sabbir Rahman, Mehidy Hasan, Ebadot Hossain, Parvez Hossain, Nurul Hasan and Taskin Ahmed.

Same time last year, javelin thrower Arshad Nadeem had lost out on a medal at the Olympics but won hearts. This year, he has managed to win both at the Commonwealth Games (CWG), ending a 56-year medal drought in track and field for the country.
Arshad was one of Pakistan’s leading hopes for a medal going into the Games, but without a coach and with a heavily taped throwing elbow due to an injury, odds were against him.
However, the 25-year-old from Mian Channu was resilient and resolute in his aim to bring his country glory.
On Sunday evening when he improved on his personal-best throw of 86.38metres thrice, Arshad’s first effort was 86.61m. He was setting the distance to beat for the rest of the field and it was a question of whether it would be enough for gold.
A foul on his second attempt didn’t matter as Arshad imp­ro­ved his personal best again with a throw of exactly 88m.
Each effort, however, ended with Arshad grimacing in pain and immediately reaching out to feel his right elbow — which he’s been nursing after last year’s Tokyo Olympics where he had finished fifth — but in the lead halfway through the final, he could still afford a smile.
Arshad’s fourth throw landed just beyond the 85-metre mark but with two rounds remaining. He was still in the lead.
It was in the penultimate round when Arshad finally trailed — Peters launching the javelin to 88.64m. Peters celebrated as if it was enough for gold but his joy was short-lived. This was Arshad’s gold to win and he immediately threw over the sport’s ‘holy grail’ mark of 90m.
Doing so, he became only the second Asian to cross that mark after Taiwan’s Chao-Tsun Cheng (91.36m). He also broke the Games record of 88.75m by South African Marius Corbett that stood since 1998.
Peters, who threw over 90 metres to win at the world championship in Oregon, tried with his final throw to overhaul Arshad but it wasn’t to be. He ended with silver with Kenya’s Yego picking up bronze with a best throw of 85.70m.
Arshad, who delivered gold in a record-smashing style after a monster 90.18-metre throw, sank to his knees and prostrated after coming at the top.
That brought Pakistan’s first athletics medal at the Games since 1966 and a first javelin gold for the country, bettering Mohammad Nawaz’s silver at the inaugural edition of the quadrennial multi-sport spectacle in 1954 and Jalal Khan’s second-placed finish in 1958.
It was Pakistan’s second gold in Birmingham and the first was also won with a Games record when Nooh Dasagir Butt triumphed in the +105kg weightlifting competition.
Leaving behind first love for javelin
Arshad's journey from his small village in a wheat and cotton-producing area of Punjab to claiming gold at the CWG has been anything but easy.
With sons and daughters put to work early, 1.87m-tall Arshad had little time for his first love of cricket, while facilities and proper training were scarce.
Despite the difficulties, Arshad shone as an all-rounder. “I was good,” he said in an interview earlier this year.
He was an exceptionally versatile athlete in his early school years. Though he dabbled in all the sports on offer in his school — cricket, badminton, football and athletics — his passion was cricket and he soon found himself playing it at district-level tape-ball tournaments.
Upon entering grade seven in school, Arshad caught the eye of Rasheed Ahmad Saqi during an athletics competition. “One day, I received a letter in school and thought I’d secured a job,” he told Dawn EOS last year. “It was from Rasheed sahib. He had asked me to meet him, and soon took me under his apprenticeship. He had a history of developing sportspeople in the division and I was very proud to be training under him.”
But after a couple of years, Arshad had to choose between cricket and athletics. The third oldest among five brothers, Arshad took inspiration from his elder brothers, both of whom were athletes at the divisional level, and decided to pursue athletics after a thorough discussion with his coach.
“Leaving cricket behind was not easy, but it turned out to be one of the best decisions of my life. My father was a labourer, we didn’t have the required resources or contacts to make it pro in cricket. My school’s PT [physical training] teachers Ajmal and Zafar looked after me well and helped me adjust to the change.”
Arshad then pursued shot-put, discus and javelin throw in athletics. But in the coming years, he also dropped discus and shot-put and began to focus solely on javelin. Gold medals in successive Punjab Youth Festivals and an inter-board meet propelled him on to the national stage, bringing offers from all the leading domestic athletics teams, including Army, Air Force and Wapda.
The 2015 National Championships were just around the corner, so Arshad had to decide quickly. “Rasheed sahib had been a father figure to me, he had always helped me with key decisions. Naturally, I went to him to help me decide. However, before we had decided, the championships were delayed. The inter-department championships of Wapda were coming up next and I decided to appear in their trials,” Arshad recalled.
The gradual rise
In the Wapda trials, Arshad managed a throw of 56m. The scouts on duty dismissed him, claiming he would never be a 60m+ athlete. But one man saw potential in him and decided to take him on in the training camp for the championships. Within a month, Arshad had won gold in the inter-department championship with a throw of 69m, and the man who had inducted him into the camp, Fiaz Hussain Bokhari, became his permanent coach.
At the rescheduled National Championships, representing Wapda, Arshad was fifth going into his final throw, but broke the 70m barrier for the first time on his last try. The 70m distance was widely regarded as good enough for international selection then and, indeed, it proved a distance too great for the other competitors. At 18, Arshad was the national champion and had booked his place in the South Asian Games (SAG) 2016 squad. In the wake of this victory, Wapda offered him a permanent job.
The trip to Guwahati, India, for SAG 2016 provided Arshad with his first exposure of international competition, and his first meeting with Neeraj Chopra, then an 18-year-old upcoming athlete like Arshad himself. The competition was close, Chopra winning gold in a games record distance, while Arshad was pipped to the silver medal by Sri Lankan Sumeda Ranasinghe in the final round of throws. However, it was an extremely successful trip for him, and he returned home with a bronze medal and a new national record of 78.33m.
Two more bronze medals followed in the 2016 Asian Junior Athletics Championships in Vietnam and the 2017 Islamic Solidarity Games in Azerbaijan. At the 2018 Commonwealth Games in Australia, Arshad broke his own national record in the qualifying round, but injured himself in the process. He recalled the tournament with a tinge of sadness. “I was in good form. I was throwing 80m-plus in training. In qualifying, I was ahead of Neeraj and the Indian coaching staff looked scared. But I wasn’t able to perform to my maximum in the final due to the injury.”
After a few months, however, Arshad was back on the podium with a bronze in the 2018 Asian Games held in Jakarta, improving the national record to 80.75m in the process. Chopra won gold in both the Commonwealth and Asian Games.
The golden ticket
Arshad Nadeem was already a four-time national champion and had broken the national record three times, but 2019 proved to be the most successful year in his career. The then 23-year-old had the honour of being the sole representative of Pakistan at the World Athletics Championships in Doha, where he narrowly missed out on qualification to the final despite breaking the national record with an 81.52m throw. At the 33rd National Games a month later, he defended his title with another national record, this time managing 83.65m.
Arshad went into the 2019 South Asian Games in Kathmandu, Nepal as the overwhelming favourite because of an injury to Chopra. And he delivered. On December 7, 2019, history unfolded as Arshad smashed the national record with a throw of 86.29m, clinching gold and eclipsing Chopra’s games record set in 2016 by four meters.
In April 2021, Arshad achieved his personal-best throw of 86.38m during his gold medal run at the Imam Raza Athletics Cup in Iran.
The same year, he became the first Pakistani athlete to qualify directly for the Olympics in decades. He finished fifth in the competition.
See: 'A new hero is born': Pakistanis all praise for Olympic finalist Arshad Nadeem
He had finished at the same position at last month’s World Championships javelin final in Oregon, becoming the first Pakistani athlete to achieve a top-eight finish.

BIRMINGHAM: Pakistan’s wrestling team had two golds within its reach at the Commonwealth Games on Friday. In the end, they had only two silver medals to show for their efforts.
After the country’s leading hope Mohammad Inam faltered in the much-hyped Indo-Pak clash for the +86kg title, Zaman Anwar was pinned in the +125kg final at the Coventry Arena.
Their silver medals added to the bronze won in the ring by compatriot Inayatullah earlier in the +65kg competition, increasing Pakistan’s medal tally to five so far at the Games.
There might be another medal for Pakistan on Saturday if Shajar Abbas makes it to the podium in the men’s 200m final. The 22-year-old sprinter booked his spot in the final after a third-place finish in his semi-final at the Alexander Stadium on Friday.
Weightlifter Nooh Dastagir Butt has delivered the only gold for Pakistan and there were high hopes that Inam would add another winners’ medal.
But the 33-year-old, who was imperious at the previous edition of the Games in Australia, couldn’t repeat that feat when he lost 3-0 to Indian rival Deepak Punia in the final.
Inam looked far from his best throughout the duel against Punia, 10 years his junior, as he was booked for passivity early before the Indian successfully pushed his opponent out of the ring to take a 2-0 lead.
Both wrestlers were largely defensive in the bout but Inam did make a last effort to make a comeback despite clearly gasping for breath, only for Punia to easily thwart the same and get on top of him.
Inam had won his opening quarter-final bout against Australian Jayden Lawrence on points (8-3) before recording a come-from-behind 5-3 semi-final win over Edward Lessing of South Africa.
Zaman was easily outdone by Canada’s Amarveer Dhesi in their final. Dhesi raced into a 7-0 lead and after Zaman had clawed back two points, the Canadian pinned him down to win the gold.
It was anticlimax for Zaman, who had pinned both his opponents enroute to the final — first winning against Kensley Anthony Marie in the quarters before overwhelming home hope Mandhir Kooner in their last-four clash.
Inayat was the only Pakistan wrestler who failed to make the final.
Inayat won by technical superiority against Malta’s Adam Vella in the round-of-16 and then won on points against Nigerian Amas Daniel but went pointless during his semi-final loss against Lachlan McNeil of Canada.
He, however, rebounded in the bronze medal match and triumphed by technical superiority against Scotland’s Ross Connelly.
On the track, Shajar did not disappoint. With the top two in each of the three semi-finals advancing alongside the two who posted the best times, the 22-year-old made it through in the latter category after clocking 20.89 seconds.
Earlier at the National Exhibition Centre Hall, Pakistan’s table tennis hope Fahad Khawaja made a storming start to his round-of-32 singles tie against sixth-seeded Paul Drinkhall of England.
Fahad won four of the first five points of the match but never hand an answer when Drinkhall found his range, losing 6-11, 5-11, 3-11, 4-11.
At the University of Birmingham Squash centre, Pakistan’s campaign came to an end with Nasir Iqbal and Tayyab Aslam losing their doubles round-of-16 tie against Scottish second seeds Greg Lobban and Rory Stewart.
Having lost the first game 4-11, Nasir and Tayyab levelled the match when they won the second 11-10 but the Lobban and Stewart secured progress when they won the deciding game 11-3.

The Commonwealth Games, an international multi-sports event that runs every four years, are currently in session and Pakistan’s flag has already been hoisted high by weightlifter Nooh Dastagir Butt and judoka Shah Hussain. On the sixth day of the competition in England, the duo’s efforts ensured Pakistan got its first gold and bronze medals, and netizens are ecstatic over the wins.

After Hussain ended Pakistan’s medal wait, Butt sma­shed the Common­wealth Games record. The 23-year-old obliterated the field in the clean and jerk session, finishing with a total of 405kg. He bettered the record of 403kg set by New Zealander David Andrew Liti four years ago.

Pakistani Twitter applauded the duo, saying they made the nation proud. Pakistani cricket team captain Babar Azam, international cricketer Naseem Shah, and singer Faakhir Mehmood were among their well-wishers.
If Butt’s father isn’t proud yet, the rest of the nation sure is!
Netizens congratulated Pakistan for its first gold medal.
The clips of their wins are circulating on the internet and many netizens wish the government would support the endeavours of such talented sportspeople better.
Just one of those moments — history made.
Congratulations to Butt and Hussain for making Pakistan and everyone in it proud!

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