2021 in review: The 10 Dawn stories that pulled the most readers in the outgoing year

From Pakistan's historic World Cup win over India to Covid vaccine updates, explore our most read stories of 2021.
Updated 30 Dec, 2021 08:28pm

Although it was a busy year like its predecessor, it would be fair to call 2021 a mixed bag on the news front.

While the coronavirus pandemic dominated a large part of the airwaves, the outgoing year saw a number of other events and developments of consequence across areas such as politics, healthcare, climate change, security, economy and sports.

After the deaths and destruction caused by the virus last year, the start of 2021 brought glad tidings in the form of Covid-19 vaccines, which led countries to gradually open up and allowed people to enjoy some normal experiences again.

But while we decided what we reported during the outgoing year, we had, as always, no control over what our readers wanted to read. It makes for an interesting analysis, therefore, to rely wholly on numbers to see which content our audience found the most captivating.

Below, we list the 10 stories — backed by data — published by Dawn through the course of 2021 that saw the highest digital traffic.

10. PTI makes substantial gains in Senate but suffers major setback in lslamabad

Published: March 3

It is rare for any election in Pakistan to be free of controversy and political wrangling, but this year's Senate elections especially stood out for their contentious nature and surprising elements.

Voting took place on March 3 through secret ballots after a long-drawn open ballot controversy kept the ruling and opposition parties engaged in a war of words as well as a legal battle before the Supreme Court.

PPP's Yousuf Raza Gilani shakes hands with PTI's Hafeez Shaikh after the former won the Senate election.
PPP's Yousuf Raza Gilani shakes hands with PTI's Hafeez Shaikh after the former won the Senate election.

The ruling PTI’s numerical strength in the Senate almost doubled to 25 seats, but in a blow to the government, the joint opposition candidate Yousuf Raza Gilani won the hotly contested general seat from Islamabad, beating PTI's Abdul Hafeez Shaikh.

Hours before polling commenced, the contest became even more controversial with the emergence of a video of Gilani's son Ali Haider explaining to certain lawmakers how to cancel their votes.

Related: PTI up in arms after video emerges of Gilani's son showing lawmakers how to cancel Senate vote

The government immediately cried foul, demanding that the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) declare Gilani ineligible after the emergence of the video that it said showed "votes being bought". It also filed a reference with the ECP seeking Gilani's disqualification for being involved in "corrupt practices".

Read our coverage of the closely watched elections for the upper house of parliament here.

9. US regulator issues alert about Pfizer, Moderna jabs

Published: June 27

With their high efficacy rates, the Pfizer and Mod­erna coronavirus vaccines are generally seen to be the most effective jabs to avoid severe illness due to Covid-19. So when a health scare was associated with the use of the two vaccines, concern was sure to spread across a global population weary of virus-related sickness and restrictions.

See: Global hits, local heroes: Covid-19 jabs around the world

In June, the US drug regulator added a warning to the literature that accompanies the Pfizer/BioNTech and Mod­erna Covid vaccines to indicate the rare risk of heart inflammation after their use.

Vials of Pfizer and Moderna vaccines seen in this illustrative image. — Reuters/File
Vials of Pfizer and Moderna vaccines seen in this illustrative image. — Reuters/File

For each jab, the fact sheets for healthcare providers were revised to inc­lude a warning that reports of adverse events suggest increased risks of myocarditis and pericarditis, particularly after the second dose and with onset of symptoms within a few days after vaccination.

But the risk was so low that as of June 11, around 1,200 cases of myocarditis or pericarditis were reported in the United States, out of about 300 million mRNA vaccine doses administered.

Know more about the alert issued by the US health authorities about the two vaccines here.

8. Pakistan make a mauka-ry of critics, beat India for 1st time in a World Cup fixture

Published: Oct 24

It is one match that fans anticipate more than the final, and it is Pakistan vs India.

But when the South Asian rivals met for their high-octane Twenty20 World Cup 2021 clash, the odds greatly favoured India, while Pakistan were the underdogs. As things stood, the Green Shirts had lost 12 straight World Cup matches to the Men in Blue.

Pakistan captain Babar Azam and Mohammad Rizwan run between the wickets during the Twenty20 World Cup match between India and Pakistan in Dubai. — AP/File
Pakistan captain Babar Azam and Mohammad Rizwan run between the wickets during the Twenty20 World Cup match between India and Pakistan in Dubai. — AP/File

On the evening of October 24, however, Pakistan not only made history by defeating India for the first time in a World Cup fixture, they inflicted a chastening 10-wicket defeat on Virat Kohli's men. It was the first time either side had beaten the other by 10 wickets in a limited-overs fixture.

Read: 'A beautiful day for Pakistan cricket': Fans ecstatic as Green Shirts achieve historic win vs India

Chasing 152, captain Babar Azam and Mohammad Rizwan batted from start to finish as they made India’s ‘world class’ bowling attack look ordinary for once. For many Pakistani fans, the World Cup had already come home.

Check out our live coverage and post-match report of the high-voltage game here.

7. Indian defence chief Bipin Rawat among 13 dead in Tamil Nadu helicopter crash

Published: Dec 8

It became global news instantaneously when reports emerged that India's top general was involved in a helicopter crash.

Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) General Bipin Rawat was on a visit to a defence staff college with his wife and other senior officers when the Russian-made Mi-17 chopper carrying them came down near its destination in the state of Tamil Nadu around noon on December 8.

Firemen and rescue workers stand next to the debris of an IAF Mi-17V5 helicopter crash site in Coonoor, Tamil Nadu, on December 8. — AFP
Firemen and rescue workers stand next to the debris of an IAF Mi-17V5 helicopter crash site in Coonoor, Tamil Nadu, on December 8. — AFP

Amid concern and uncertainty about the passengers' status, the Indian Air Force confirmed in the evening that Gen Rawat, his wife Madhulika Rawat and 11 other persons on board had died in the accident.

Gen Rawat, 63, was India's first chief of defence staff, a position that the government established in 2019, and was seen as close to Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

His death drew condolences from authorities at home and abroad, including from Pakistan Army Chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa.

Know more about how the incident unfolded here.

6. Javelin throw at Tokyo Olympics: Arshad Nadeem misses out on medal, finishes 5th

Published: Aug 7

So close yet so far. Arshad Nadeem rekindled hopes of Olympic glory for Pakistan when he qualified for the final of the men's javelin throw event at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

As millions of fans prayed for the athlete's success in the final, he came within touching distance of winning a medal for Pakistan but eventually missed out, finishing fifth.

Arshad Nadeem competes in the men's javelin throw final at the 2020 Summer Olympics, Aug 7, in Tokyo. — AP
Arshad Nadeem competes in the men's javelin throw final at the 2020 Summer Olympics, Aug 7, in Tokyo. — AP

The strapping 24-year-old thrower from Mian Channu, at one point in the competition, was placed as high as fourth before being surpassed by rival athletes.

See: Arshad Nadeem — from Mian Channu to Pakistan's hope for Olympic glory

Despite the medal eluding him, Pakistanis generously showered their praise on Nadeem, who reached the Olympic arena despite scarce facilities and proper training.

Read more about how Arshad Nadeem's Tokyo 2020 journey ended here.

5. Sialkot mob lynches Sri Lankan factory manager, burns corpse over blasphemy allegations

Published: Dec 3

It's a day that many Pakistanis wish had never dawned.

Acting on unsubstantiated allegations of blasphemy, a mob comprising hundreds of men and young boys in Sialkot tortured a Sri Lankan man, who was working as a manager at a local factory, to death before burning his body in early December.

Videos of Priyantha Kumara's gruesome killing were widely shared on social media, provoking horror and revulsion from Pakistanis from all walks of life who called on the government to take steps to curb extremism and mob violence in the country.

Prime Minister Imran Khan termed Kumara's lynching "a day of shame for Pakistan", while the Pakistan Army said "such extra-judicial vigilantism cannot be condoned at any cost."

Analyse: Lessons from the Sialkot tragedy

As the news reached global airwaves, Punjab police arrested dozens of suspects the same day and the government vowed to bring all perpetrators involved in the murder to justice.

Know more about the tragic incident here.

4. Power restored in most parts of the country after major breakdown

Published: Jan 9

The weekend turned sour for tens of millions of Pakistanis at the start of the year when a major power breakdown plunged the entire country into darkness.

A general view shows Karachi during a power breakdown early on January 10. — AFP
A general view shows Karachi during a power breakdown early on January 10. — AFP

The blackout took place after the Guddu power plant developed a fault late on January 9, causing the country’s high transmission lines to trip.

It was reported by citizens on social media from across the country, including major urban centres such as Karachi, Islamabad, Lahore and Multan — besides becoming the fodder for countless memes and humorous posts.

See: 'The fault in our taars': Pakistanis' humour lights up Twitter as country faces massive power breakdown

Electricity supply was restored in most cities and towns by the next evening.

Get details of the breakdown that affected people across the country here.

3. Efforts on to celebrate Eid same day in Pakistan

Published: May 11

It has become normal in recent years for different regions within Pakistan to celebrate Eidul Fitr on different days, with local clerics often disagreeing with the government's announcement about Shawwal moon sighting.

Taking a proactive approach this year, members of the official Ruet-i-Hilal Committee approached and tried to persuade the clerics who had publicly opposed the announcement related to Eid moon sighting by the national body in the past, so that the festival was celebrated across the country simultaneously.

— File photo
— File photo

A senior official of the committee said at the time that discussions had been held with clerics in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa to ensure they respected the committee’s decision and they had extended assurance in this regard.

It was perhaps due to these efforts by the government that Eid was observed the same day in all regions of Pakistan this year.

Know more about the talks held between stakeholders about the issue here.

2. All you need to know about Covid vaccines in Pakistan

Published: May 14

If 2020 was the year of the pandemic, 2021 was the year of coronavirus vaccines.

A health worker receives a dose of Sinopharm's Covid-19 vaccine at a vaccination centre in Karachi. — Reuters/File
A health worker receives a dose of Sinopharm's Covid-19 vaccine at a vaccination centre in Karachi. — Reuters/File

Developed by scientists at a pace much faster that many had expected, vaccines — some more effective than others — have been seen as the current panacea for Covid-related sickness, death and other misery.

Keeping their importance in view, Dawn.com earlier this year compiled a comprehensive guide regarding Covid-19 vaccines in Pakistan.

Also read: How Pakistan can tackle Covid-19 vaccine hesitancy

The all-you-need-to-know piece features a question-and-answer session with Dr Bushra Jamil, a professor and pro bono adviser to the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) on the Covid-19 pandemic, regarding the vaccines, as well as general information and guidelines about the jabs approved in Pakistan.

Learn more about the life-saving vaccines by reading the piece here.

1. Explainer: How to get your Covid vaccination certificate and what to do in case of a mistake

Published: June 24

As Pakistani authorities considered stringent measures to encourage citizens to get the coronavirus vaccine, including stopping salaries of unvaccinated government employees and blocking SIM cards, people scrambled to obtain a proof of their vaccination.

A screengrab of the NIMS portal.
A screengrab of the NIMS portal.

Such certificate is also required to travel internationally or enter public establishments. This might explain why so many readers clicked on the simple guide put together by Dawn.com about the process to get a vaccination certificate and what to do if something goes wrong.

See: Punjab govt decides to block SIM cards of people refusing vaccines

The step-by-step explainer details how one can apply for the government-issued certificate, change information on their certificate, and how to get corrections done.

Read our guide that was the most read piece on Dawn.com in the outgoing year here.


Our top 11-15

The next five most read Dawn pieces of 2021 (numbers 11-15) are:

11) Education institutes in 7 Punjab cities to close for 2 weeks from March 15

  • Page views: 181,172

12) Schools in Covid hotspots to remain closed for grades 1 to 8 until April 28: Shafqat

  • Page views: 180,397

13) Geo issues statement after taking Hamid Mir off air

  • Page views: 178,597

14) Punjab govt orders closure of educational institutes, offices on Mondays to mitigate effects of smog

  • Page views: 166,069

15) 'Shameless and unacceptable': Shoaib Akhtar quits PTV, walks off show after being 'insulted' by anchor

  • Page views: 163,404

Header illustration by Mushba Said

Compiled by Adeel Ahmed