ACB joins cricket community to mourn the tragic death of Aussie cricketer Philip Hughes

Syed Zafar Mehdi

The tragic death of Australian cricketer Philip Hughes, 25, has shocked the whole cricketing world. Hughes, who was struck on head by a lethal bouncer from Sean Abbott during Sheffield Shield match on Tuesday, succumbed on Thursday.

Expressing shock and grief over the tragic incident, Dr. Noor Muhammad Murad, CEO of Afghanistan Cricket Board (ACB) said his demise has left a deep void in world cricket.

“The news of Hughes’s loss has left all of us speechless. Hughes in his short innings wooed everybody around him with his charm and performance. He will always be remembered as an extremely proficient cricketer,” said Dr. Murad in a statement.

“On behalf of Afghanistan Cricket Board (ACB), I offer sincere condolences to Hughes’s family and friends,” he added.

Paying glowing tributes to the young cricketer, Dr. Murad said he became the youngest batsman to score two back-to-back centuries in only his second test. “Phillip Hughes touched million souls with his sportsmanship and he will remain alive in our hearts,” said Dr. Murad.

The 25-year-old star batsman was struck on the head during New South Wales’ first-class match against South Australia on Tuesday.

Australian captain Michael Clarke, a close friend of Hughes, read an emotional statement from the family at a news conference on Thursday. “We are devastated by the loss of our much-loved son and brother Phillip. It has been a very difficult few days, we appreciate all the support we have received from family, friends, players, Cricket Australia and the general public.”

The untimely and tragic death of Hughes has been mourned widely over the past two days. Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott led the tributes. “His death is a very sad day for cricket and a heart-breaking day for his family,” Mr. Abbott said in a statement.

“What happened has touched millions of Australians. For a young life to be cut short playing our national game seems a shocking aberration.”

The official twitter account of the South Australian Cricket Association paid tribute saying: “A remarkable talent gone too soon. From all at SACA – our thoughts are with the Hughes family and Phillip’s friends.”

Former Australia wicket keeper Adam Gilchrist tweeted: “No no no no no, RIP Phillip Hughes. For eternity the spirit of Cap No. 408 #RIPPhilHughes.”

Australian batsman Steve Smith said tweeted: “Rest in peace Hughesy. I am really going to miss you. You were one of the great blokes and I will never forget you. #408 will live on forever.”

Australia’s head coach Darren Lehmann also posted a message on Twitter.“RIP you little champ, we are all going to miss you ! Love, prayers to all the Hughes family xxxx.”

Born in Macksville, New South Wales, Hughes made his Test debut against South Africa in Johannesburg in 2009 and became the youngest player to score two centuries for Australia in only his second test.

He played 26 Test matches, 25 one-day internationals and one T20 international.



Afghan Zariza turns one: The joy of reaching a milestone

Syed Zafar Mehdi

There is something extraordinary about celebrating anniversaries, especially the first one. The joy of surviving and sticking together for 12 long months is unparalleled. It is like reaching a milestone, conquering a mountain, crossing the English Channel, winning an Oscar. Perhaps, it is more difficult and demanding than that. The challenge lies in overcoming odds and carrying the torch forward.

For journalists, survival is a constant struggle. Every morning, we wake up to break a story, to expose a scandal, to smell the dirty socks. Stronger the smell; better is the story. In a place like Afghanistan, it is not always hunky dory though. It is like a tightrope walk without any protective gear.

Afghan Zariza, our labor of love, turned one this month. It has been a terrific year of journalism, a wonderful learning curve for all of us. In November 2013, we launched our first issue after 15 grueling months of reading, writing, analyzing and reviewing. We announced our arrival after meticulous research and market analysis, borrowing ideas from all the leading magazines of the world.

It was unarguably a path-breaking initiative, but it was also a big gamble. While electronic media in Afghanistan has taken rapid strides in recent years, the print media remains far from robust. Afghan Zarizawas born to fill that vacuum. We decided to explore uncharted territory and test our limits. A world of limitless possibilities was awaiting us.

A bunch of young, bright Afghans – reporters, researchers, designers and editors – got together to give shape to their ideas, dreams and desires. They were not trained journalists but they were passionate and determined to translate their dreams into reality. They wanted to make a telling statement. They wanted walk the extra mile. They wanted to be the voice of voiceless.

Most of the news flowing in and out of Afghanistan is based on half-truths, conjectures, fabrications and propaganda. Afghan Zariza was born to give insider’s perspective with more clarity and precision to both Afghan and international readers. It sought to become the voice of ordinary Afghans and tell their untold stories to the outside world. The young Afghans decided to become the story tellers.

Over the past one year, we explored uncharted territories, created controversies, exposed political and financial scandals, highlighted issues related to women’s rights, reported extensively on administrative corruption and scourge of unemployment, paid tribute to rich history of arts and culture, and strived to redefine journalism in this war-weary country. We also made mistakes and tried to learn from those mistakes.

I am immensely proud of my young team for walking the extra mile to tell the untold stories. It is not one of the safest places for journalists, but we have pledged to pursue free, fair and fearless journalism. Our aim is to provide cutting-edge reportage, be the watchdog of society, custodian of public interest and stimulus of political and social change in this war-weary country.

Our first anniversary special issue hit stands earlier this month, with a recap of some of the best stories our reporters have done over the past 12 months. It feels immensely great to have survived for one long year, but there is still long way to go. We will continue to inform, educate and engage our readers, because we believe in the lofty ideals of free and independent media. Truth, for us, is sacred.

I would like to take this opportunity to express my heartfelt gratitude to all of you for your unconditional support and encouragement over the past one year. Afghan Zariza is here to stay.


It’s finally official: Afghan elections set for Abdullah-Ghani run-off


Syed Zafar Mehdi

After weeks of intense speculation and guesswork, it is finally official now: The Afghan Presidential elections are going to second round, and the two leading candidates, Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai, will take on each other in the ultimate political showdown.

Announcing the final results at a press conference in Kabul on Thursday afternoon, Ahmad Yousuf Nooristani, the Chief of Independent Election Commission (IEC), said the run-off will be held on June 14. “It cannot be held in two weeks time, there is lot of work to be done,” said Mr. Nooristani.

No candidate managed to touch the magic figure of 50 percent votes, the clear majority required to form the government. Abdullah Abdullah, who was already leading the race, ended up with 45 percent votes, followed by his arch rival Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai with 31.6 percent votes.

Among other candidates, Zalmai Rassoul managed 11.4 percent votes, Abdul Rab Rassoul Sayyaf got 7 percent votes, Qutbuddin Helal got 2.8 percent votes, Gul Agha Sherzai got 1.6 percent votes, Daud Sultanzoi got 0.5 percent votes, Amin Arsala ended up in the last place with 0.2 percent votes.

Meanwhile, the members of both Mr. Abdullah and Mr. Ahmadzai’s campaign team are not happy with today’s final results announced by IEC

Mr. Rassoul and Mr. Sherzai have already endorsed the candidature of Dr. Abdullah, which has brightened his chances in Kandahar province, the traditional bastion of Pashtuns. Dr. Abdullah, who is of mixed Tajik and Pashtun ancestry, will face the tough challenge from Mr. Ahmadzai, who is likely to woo his Pashtun vote-bank in Kandahar and other provinces.

Mr. Nooristani said there were a total of 20,168 polling stations across the country in the first round. A total of 64 percent male and 36 percent female voters participated in the elections, which saw the unprecedented voter turnout.

Voters will be using the same registration card in the second round, said the head of IEC.

Earlier there were complaints of fraud and rigging in the elections. A total of 100 complaints were officially lodged after the announcement of preliminary results. “We handed over the documents to Independent Electoral Complaints Commission (IECC) for investigations and they sent back the findings of their investigations,” said Mr. Nooristani.

He said IEC has documentary evidence of who was involved in the fraudulent acts. “They will be dismissed,” he said. According to reports, at least 3,000 employees of IEC are likely to face action for indulging in fraud and irregularities.

The government, he said, must stay neutral in the second round of elections to ensure transparency.

Noor Mohammad Noor, Spokesman of IEC, said there will be challenges for IEC in the run-off. “But we will spare no effort to ensure the security measures are tightened and fraudsters are kept away,” he said. He expressed confidence that the security personnel will be able to provide security in the second round as well.

The two candidates will begin their election campaign on May 22. From May 25 onwards, the IEC will send the election material to various provinces. The run-off will be held on June 14 amid tight security measures, he said.

Meanwhile, the members of both Mr. Abdullah and Mr. Ahmadzai’s campaign team are not happy with today’s final results announced by IEC. Hamidullah Farooqi, a member of Mr. Ahmadzai, said the IEC did not segregate the legitimate votes from fraud votes. “We accept the result announced by IEC, but we are not happy with it,” said Mr. Farooqi.

Syed Agha Fazil Soncharaqi, a member of Mr. Abdullah campaign team, said IEC lacks technical expertise. The IEC officials, he said, did not fulfill their responsibilities well.

(First published in Afghan Zariza)