Fixer supreme?

FARAH Gogi, whose real name is Farhat Shahzadi, is the one reason why former prime minister Imran Khan’s shiny personal record is under much scrutiny. Touted as the BFF of ex-PM’s present wife Bushra Bibi, she is also considered a close friend of former Punjab chief minister Usman Buzdar’s wife. It’s said she’s the one who played a role in having Buzdar named the Punjab CM.

The plot thickens. However, it’s her alleged wheeling and dealing in supposedly having major posts in the Punjab government settled in exchange for financial favours, and exerting influence over Bushra Bibi as well as facilitating the sale of a bejewelled MasterGraff wristwatch gifted to ex-PM Khan by the Saudi crown prince, that has brought her humdrum life into much public scrutiny.

She came into the limelight when Aleem Khan and Maryam Nawaz rang the bell on her purported activities. Farah on her part has always denied such claims. Even the audio leak in which it is reported that she is claiming a diamond set from Malik Riaz for favours. The final nail was what has come to be known as the Toshakhana scandal, a blot on Imran Khan’s personality; the watch that told all. The gifted watch ended up in the hands of UAE-based businessman Umar Farooq Zahoor, who says he bought the precious timepiece from Farah Gogi after paying a hefty amount of $2 million.

The opposition claims Ms Farah did all of this at the behest of the ex-PM. In response to the allegations, Gogi threatened to sue the media outlets that alleged the allegations. Billions were discussed, still dwarfing the amount she is alleged to have taken.

Gogi sprinted out of Pakistan as soon as IK’s government was toppled and ever since she has been fighting her battles from Dubai.

Murder most foul

PAKISTAN has an unfortunate history of targeting journalists. And in 2022, the most shocking such case was the mysterious killing of anchor and journalist Arshad Sharif.

Mr Sharif was gunned down in Kenya in October, while in self-imposed exile, after being booked in sedition cases for allegedly criticising state institutions. According to Kenyan police, he was gunned down due to mistaken identity. However, Pakistani investigators contested the version put forth by the Kenyan police and observed that the “transnational roles of characters in Kenya, Dubai, and Pakistan” in this assassination cannot be ruled out.

Arshad Sharif was part of an investigative documentary titled Behind Closed Doors that highlights corruption of some elite Pakistani political figures and their families. It also looks into offshore leaks that revealed that politicians use the British financial system and offshore jurisdictions to launder, hide and reinvest their wealth into the global financial system.

The late journalist left behind a wife and five children.

A bit of joy

THE year 2022 saw the return of cinema after the Covid-induced hiatus. And while the expected international blockbusters like Top Gun Maverick met expectations, Pakistan’s very own The Legend of Maula Jutt (TLMJ) went beyond everyone’s wildest expectations.

A remake of a Pakistani classic, after multiple delays due to copyright infringement lawsuit filed by the producer of the original film and subsequent global lockdown due to Covid, TLMJ opened to great expectations in September 2022. It didn’t disappoint.

TLMJ went on to rake in more than $10m in its national and international release, an unprecedented number for an industry that has long been declared dead.

Meanwhile, Joyland became the first Pakistani movie to be shortlisted for an Oscar, despite the fact that it faced significant opposition from powerful local quarters due to its subject matter. Joyland was also recognised at Cannes.

The sweet song of victory

AROOJ Aftab may have been a known singer and musician, but after her win at the 2022 Grammys she’s reaching for the stars. The first Pakistani to win the prestigious Grammy Award in the Best Global Performance category for her song ‘Mohabbat’, the 37-year-old who has lived in New York for around 15 years, Arooj has been steadily gaining global attention for her work that fuses ancient Sufi traditions with inflections of folk, jazz and minimalism.

After receiving the award, a visibly stunned Arooj said onstage at the 64th Grammy Awards, “I think I’m [going to] faint ... should this be called the yacht party category”.

Vulture Prince, her third studio album, was released in 2021 to critical acclaim. But it was when former US president Barack Obama included the track ‘Mohabbat’ on his 2021 summer favourites list that it gained even more attention.

Arooj is the second Pakistani to be nominated for a Grammy award. Ustad Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan was nominated in 1996, but he didn’t win. After the award was announced, Pakistani social media was flooded with congratulatory messages for her. The Foreign Office felicitated the singer, tweeting: “She is the first Pakistani Singer to win at #GrammyAwards. We are proud of you!”

Heroes of Pakistan: Where cricket lost out to England and hockey disappeared completely, it was left to snooker, weightlifting and javelin (huh!) to keep the flame burning for Pakistani sports. Teenage sensation Ahsan Ramzan elevated his stature when he outpaced former runner-up Iranian Amir Sarkhosh 6-5 in an epic final to lay his hands on the International Billiards and Snooker Federation World Snooker Championship in Doha.

At the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, weightlifter Nooh Dastagir Butt won the gold medal for Pakistan with a record lift of 405kg. Then, at the same games, javelin thrower Arshad Nadeem cemented his status of a national hero as he rewrote record books to secure gold. Nadeem not only bagged gold but also became the first javelin thrower from the subcontinent to surpass the 90-metre mark at the Birmingham Games. His exceptional feat at the CWG ended a 56-year medal drought in track and field at the Games for the country.

Humayun’s foray: Humayun Saeed was already an established name in the Pakistani entertainment industry. However, in 2022 he really reached for the skies with his portrayal of Dr Hasnat Khan, the London-based Pakistani cardiac surgeon who was purported to be Lady Diana’s love interest.

In Season 5 of the Netflix series The Crown, he starred alongside Australian actress Elizabeth Debicki who is playing Lady Di. His performance won praise all across the globe. He even won over his female lead: “I absolutely adored Humayun — he was such a lovely actor, and such a beautiful person. You never know how that’s going to feel when you’re playing things like that with an actor. So I was very lucky to have him and I think he does such a beautiful job.”

A Cup to remember: Argentina won the World Cup while Qatar won the world. The month-long celebration of the most beloved sport in the world came to an amazing conclusion when Messi’s boys beat Les Bleus on penalties to lift their third and probably Messi’s only World Cup. The final itself cemented its place in history; it saw Frenchman Kylian Mbappé score only its second hat trick. The tournament ended on a high, though it was not plain sailing for Qatar. Ever since it won the rights to host the football World Cup in 2010, Qatar became the target of sustained media spotlight, most of it from the West. However, haters were largely drowned out when it became apparent that the small Gulf state had pulled off a class act.

Published in Dawn Yearender, January 1, 2023

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