Pakistan’s free remittance initiative to help boost payments from Middle East

A man counts Saudi Riyal banknotes in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, in this October 18, 2017 photo. (Reuters)
Updated 02 October 2019

Pakistan’s free remittance initiative to help boost payments from Middle East

  • Last year, the country received $5 billion from Saudi Arabia, $4.35 billion from the UAE, $2.1 billion from other GCC countries
  • Pakistan Post has extended its free remittance service to 240 post offices in cities and villages to benefit the maximum number of people

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s free foreign remittance service for overseas nationals will help boost payments from Middle Eastern countries, especially Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates where a chunk of the country’s diaspora lives and works in different sectors, Pakistan Post officials said.
“The basic purpose of this scheme is to abolish the business of hundi and hawala [illegal transfer mechanisms] and increase foreign remittances and foreign exchange reserves through legal channels,” Arif Mahmood, Assistant (Money Remittance) at the Pakistan Post told Arab News in an interview this week.
The initiative has recently been extended to more than 240 post offices in all major cities of the country from 35 from where people can receive foreign remittances without the hassle and any charges. The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government launched the pilot project in June this year with an aim to expand the facility to 12,000 post offices across the country.
“Saudi Arabia and the UAE are our main focus for secure and legal foreign remittances as a majority of our countrymen live and work there,” Mahmood said.
The country has the sixth largest diaspora population in the world, with approximately 7.6 million Pakistanis living abroad.
Pakistan received $21.8 billion in remittances in 2018, or almost 7 percent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product. Islamabad received $5 billion from Saudi Arabia alone. This was followed by the UAE with $4.35 billion while remittances from other Gulf Cooperation Council countries, including Bahrain, Qatar, Oman, and Kuwait, stood at $.2.1 billion in the last fiscal year.
“We are committed to carrying remittances of overseas Pakistanis to their hometowns in villages and cities through a legal network of Pakistan Post,” he said.
Mahmood continued that more than 40 remittance companies were operating in the country, but Pakistan Post would beat them due to the presence of its large network of post offices even in far-flung areas.
“This will be hundred percent secure payment through biometric system,” he informed, adding that Pakistan Post had made around 125 transactions so far since June, and this would “increase exponentially in the coming months” with the start of the service in all post offices.
The official said that the system would be fully functional by the end of this month and then Pakistan Post would start marketing the initiative abroad. “The overseas workers are our asset, and we want them to contribute to the national economy by sending their funds through legal channels only,” he added.

India’s Magsaysay award winner says ‘democracy is in danger’

Updated 07 October 2019

India’s Magsaysay award winner says ‘democracy is in danger’

  • Kumar is pained by the decline of independent institutions that have upheld the flags of democracy for more than seven decades

NEW DELHI: Ravish Kumar is nervous about the “danger that Indian democracy is facing today” and how “a systematic attempt is being made by the ruling establishment in Delhi to suppress all the dissenting voices in the country.

“Journalism prepares you to face the unknown everyday, so I was not really surprised when I got the call from the (Magsaysay) award committee,” Kumar said.

“The problem was that I was asked to keep it a secret until they had made a public announcement. It was painful to keep quiet for almost a month,” he told Arab News with a smile.

“When the news became public, I realized what I had been bestowed with. I feel the award is a vindication of trust in good journalism. People felt as if the award had been bestowed on them,” he added.

It is this concern for democracy and its institutions that earned Kumar the prestigious Magsaysay award for 2019.

Instituted in 1957, it is awarded every year by the Philippine government in memory of its former president Ramon Magsaysay for “integrity in governance, courageous service to the people and pragmatic idealism within a democratic society.”

Kumar, who works as a managing editor of India’s leading bilingual TV channel, NDTV, has created a niche for himself in the world of journalism with his daily primetime show, which draws huge audiences from across India. 

At a time when most mainstream TV channels and newspapers have stopped questioning the government and challenging its narrative, Kumar’s reporting takes a critical approach to the lawmakers.

For this constant critique of the ruling Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP), the government does not send any of its spokespersons on his show or the channel.

He laments that a large section of the Indian media has become “an extended arm of the government and the mouthpiece of the establishment.”

For his outspoken attitude, Kumar and his family have received threats from “people who are subsidized by the ruling party.”

“I don’t have any hope for the media. It is dead in the country. Just a few are holding the placard of fearless journalism,” he said, adding that “the death of independent media has affected true reporting from Jammu and Kashmir.

“The situation in the region is so bad that after the abrogation of its special status, even the significant moderate voices in India have been pushed to the militant camps,” he said.

Describing the government’s policy on Kashmir as “brazen,” he questioned the “audacity of the government to hold local body elections in the valley when there is a complete lockdown.

Kumar is pained by the decline of independent institutions that have upheld the flags of democracy for more than seven decades, adding that he was aghast at the Supreme Court’s silence on the abrogation.

“Why is it taking so long for the apex court to intervene on the issue of the internet lockdown in the Kashmir valley? Can you imagine the American Supreme Court behaving the way the Indian judiciary is acting on such a crucial issue?” He asked.

He said that the decline of independent institutions such as the media, judiciary and election commission is gradually creating a democratic imbalance.

Kumar understands the award has given an extra responsibility on him and that he felt “burdened with expectations.” So great are those expectations, he has not ruled out entering politics.

“Politics is a good thing. I tell everyone to join politics,” he said, adding that his current responsibility is to “warn people about the danger that is lurking in Indian society.”