Pakistan’s central bank allows exchange companies to import US dollars

Pakistan’s central bank allows exchange companies to import US dollars
A foreign currency dealer counts US dollars at a shop in Karachi on May 19, 2022. (AFP/File)
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Updated 26 July 2023
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Pakistan’s central bank allows exchange companies to import US dollars

Pakistan’s central bank allows exchange companies to import US dollars
  • Officials of exchange companies say the measure will help the country address its dollar-liquidity issues
  • Exchange companies were allowed in the past to import dollars against the export of other currencies

KARACHI: Pakistan has allowed currency exchange companies to import 50 percent of dollars from abroad amid rapid depreciation of national currency after the government authorized clearance of import cargos stuck at various ports in the country.

The Pakistani rupee has been on a losing spree during the last eight trading sessions due to the growing demand for US dollars after the government lifted restrictions on the opening of Letters of Credit (LCs) that was imposed due to a shortage of dollar liquidity.

Given Pakistan’s overall financial situation, the central bank updated instructions for the import of dollars by the exchange companies on Tuesday.

“Exchange Companies, on need basis, may import cash US Dollars against the value of their export consignments of permissible foreign currencies within five working days, through reputed cargo security companies,” the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) informed currency dealers through a circular.

“This arrangement shall initially be in place till December 31, 2023 and will be subject to the condition that total cash US Dollars imported by an Exchange Company during this period shall not exceed 50 percent of the value of its export consignments.”

Pakistani currency dealers said they were continuously clamoring to import dollars against the export of other currencies.

“The dollar exchange rate against the Pakistani rupee was increasing despite inflows from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and the International Monetary Fund,” Malik Bostan, chairman of the Exchange Companies Association of Pakistan (ECAP), told Arab News on Wednesday.

He said the exchange companies export around $5-7 million worth of currencies on a daily basis which were imported through banking channels.

“This measure of the central bank will improve liquidity of dollar in the local market,” Bostan said, adding its impact had already started with the appreciation of rupee by around Rs2 against the greenback in the interbank and Rs1 in the open market after eight bad trading sessions.

The SBP has directed the exchange companies to include arrangement in their deal with the overseas entities.

“The system generated deal ticket shall also include particulars of the amount to be imported as cash US Dollars, if any, out of the total export consignment,” it directed.

The exchange companies are required to provide written intimation in advance before availing the option.

They will also provide original deal ticket of foreign banks or exchange companies, clearly showing the number of imported US dollars.

Other than that, the companies will ensure that all transactions related to the import of greenback are properly reflected in their books of accounts.

Bostan said the move would not only address the dollar crisis but also boost the value of the national currency in the coming days.

“The sale of dollar has almost stopped and only $500,000 have been traded today by noon,” Bostan informed, saying he anticipated the demand to decline further.
 


‘It takes two to tango,’  says Punjab’s top judge amid judiciary’s rift with Pakistan’s military

‘It takes two to tango,’  says Punjab’s top judge amid judiciary’s rift with Pakistan’s military
Updated 15 sec ago
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‘It takes two to tango,’  says Punjab’s top judge amid judiciary’s rift with Pakistan’s military

‘It takes two to tango,’  says Punjab’s top judge amid judiciary’s rift with Pakistan’s military
  • Tensions increased between the two institutions after judges accused a top spy agency of trying to influence their decisions
  • The situation also led to a ban on media reporting on court cases in Pakistan that was challenged by journalists’ associations

ISLAMABAD: Lahore High Court Chief Justice Shehzad Malik said on Friday the judiciary did not want to fight any institution, though he noted it took “two to tango” amid a rift between the judiciary and the country’s powerful military that led to a ban on media reporting of court cases.

Pakistan’s judiciary has been criticized in the past for playing a subdued role while dealing with the military by validating its overt seizures of power. Earlier this year, however, six out of eight Islamabad High Court (IHC) judges openly accused the country’s top spy agency, Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), of intimidating them to influence judicial decisions in politically sensitive cases.

The IHC also criticized the intelligence agencies and questioned their mandate in a case involving the disappearance of a Kashmiri poet, Ahmad Farhad, after his family accused the ISI of abducting him from his Islamabad residence for his social media posts that were critical of Pakistan’s powerful military.

Pakistan’s military has frequently denied such allegations, saying it remains apolitical and does not want to meddle in politics.

“We do not want any fight with any bar [association], any institution, any government, but it takes two to tango,” Justice Malik said at a ceremony at the Punjab Judicial Academy.

He noted the government’s respect would be there as long as the courts were respected.

He lamented the “law of the jungle” in the country, saying people had been deprived of their constitutional rights.

“Article 4 and Article 9 say that every Pakistani has the right to legal protection, but that right was denied,” he added.

Pakistan’s media regulatory body stopped television channels from airing news, opinions and commentaries related to ongoing court cases this week amid growing institutional tensions.

However, journalists’ associations covering Pakistan’s Supreme Court and the IHC have rejected the directive, saying they are in violation of the country’s constitution.


Pakistanis among hundreds of foreign students flee Kyrgyzstan after mob attack

Pakistanis among hundreds of foreign students flee Kyrgyzstan after mob attack
Updated 24 May 2024
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Pakistanis among hundreds of foreign students flee Kyrgyzstan after mob attack

Pakistanis among hundreds of foreign students flee Kyrgyzstan after mob attack
  • Hundreds of Kyrgyz men stormed a hostel in Bishkek on May 17 and attacked foreign students because of an earlier brawl
  • The Pakistani government has arranged extra flights leaving daily from Bishkek and many students are using the opportunity

BISHKEK: Students from Pakistan and other Asian countries are leaving Kyrgyzstan by the hundreds after an angry mob attacked their living quarters this month, although some hope to return when the situation calms down.
Hundreds of Kyrgyz young men stormed a hostel in capital Bishkek in the early hours of May 17 and attacked foreign students there because of a brawl that happened between several Kyrgyz men and foreigners a few days earlier.
Police, although present, were unable to stop the violence.
“They invaded our... hostel and it was a terrifying moment for all of us and it was the worst nightmare,” said Imran Yousaf, a pathologist at the International University Kyrgyzstan.
He said that despite the students’ attempts to barricade entrances and hide, the attackers beat up and assaulted several students including some women.
“We were very much surprised and we were so much mentally traumatized at that time when people came in,” Yousaf said. “I don’t know what kind of provocateur is responsible for that kind of hatred among them.”
The government of Pakistan has arranged extra flights leaving daily from Bishkek and many students are using the opportunity to return home, at least temporarily.
Medical schools of Kyrgyzstan have over the last few decades become popular among aspiring doctors from India, Pakistan and some other Asian and Arab countries, in part thanks to relatively affordable fees and living expenses.
The Kyrgyz government has sought to allay foreign students’ fears and held meetings with their leaders, said Yousaf, who expressed hope that those who are leaving will return in a few months. Police have detained more than a dozen of the suspected attackers.
“The government of Kyrgyzstan has taken beautiful steps,.. our student council was invited to the parliament of Kyrgyzstan, along with the President, there was a one-on-one meeting, and I hope, Inshallah (God willing), with hope in my eyes and logic on my back, that this situation will dampen in the days to come,” Yousaf said.
“I am saying to all my friends, don’t think that Kyrgyzstan is bad,” said another student, Hamza Yasin.


Pakistan welcomes Ireland, Spain, and Norway’s recognition of a Palestinian state

Pakistan welcomes Ireland, Spain, and Norway’s recognition of a Palestinian state
Updated 24 May 2024
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Pakistan welcomes Ireland, Spain, and Norway’s recognition of a Palestinian state

Pakistan welcomes Ireland, Spain, and Norway’s recognition of a Palestinian state
  • Ireland, Spain and Norway have said will formally recognize Palestinian state from May 28
  • This followed recognitions by Barbados, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago and the Bahamas

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan on Friday called on the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) to grant Palestine full membership of the world body and welcomed Ireland, Spain and Norway’s announcement they would recognize a Palestinian state on May 28.
The prime ministers of the three countries made the announcement on Wednesday, following recent recognitions by Barbados, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago and the Bahamas. The additions have brought the total number of countries recognizing the Palestinian state to nearly 150.
Speaking at a weekly press briefing, Mumtaz Zahra Baloch, a spokesperson for the Pakistani foreign office, said her country welcomed the recent announcements on recognition for Palestine as a state.
“The State of Palestine is now recognized by an overwhelming majority of UN member states,” she told reporters in Islamabad. “Time has therefore come to accord full membership to the State of Palestine at the United Nations and other international organizations as called for by the UN General Assembly in its recent resolution.”
Baloch reiterated Pakistan’s call to the UN Security Council to “move positively in that direction.”
Pakistan does not recognize the state of Israel and calls for an independent Palestinian state based on “internationally agreed parameters” and the pre-1967 borders with Al-Quds Al-Sharif as its capital.
In recent months, the South Asian country has repeatedly raised the issue of Israel’s war on Gaza, launched last October, at the United Nations through its permanent representative, Ambassador Munir Akram.
“These recent announcements serve as another milestone in the decades-long quest of the people of Palestine for their right to self-determination,” she said.
“The Gaza genocide and the entire humanitarian situation there have underlined the urgency of moving toward the establishment of an independent and sovereign Palestinian state with Al-Quds Al-Sharif as its capital.”
The statement came as the top UN court was due to rule on a plea to halt the offensive in Gaza over accusations of a “genocide,” amid continuing Israeli military offensive.
Israel launched its war on Gaza after Hamas’s unprecedented attacks on October 7 that resulted in the deaths of more than 1,170 people, mostly civilians. Militants also took 252 hostages, 121 of whom remain in Gaza.
Israel’s retaliatory offensive has since killed at least 35,800 people in Gaza, mostly women and children, according to the Palestinian health ministry.
UAE INVESTMENT

Baloch also spoke about the United Arab Emirates (UAE) on Thursday committing $10 billion to invest in promising economic sectors as Pakistan pushes for foreign investment in a bid to shore up its $350 billion economy, which has struggled with high inflation and low growth as it navigates a tough reforms mandated by the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
“Prime Minister Muhammad Shehbaz Sharif paid an official visit to the United Arab of Emirates] yesterday [Thursday] at the invitation of the President of the UAE His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan,” Baloch told reporters.
“The prime minister held a bilateral meeting with the president and held meetings with UAE investors and entrepreneurs.”
She said the two leaders underscored the importance of “galvanizing cooperation and strategic partnership,” particularly in the fields of information and communication technologies, artificial intelligence, renewable energy and tourism. 
“They reaffirmed their commitment to ensure meaningful implementation of investment cooperation agreements in the area of energy, port operation projects, wastewater treatment, food security, logistics, minerals, banking and financial services, signed in November 2023,” Baloch added.
“His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan assured UAE’s support in all circumstances and made commitment of investing $10 billion dollars in multiple sectors in Pakistan.”


Government runs awareness campaign as Pakistan in grips of ‘severe’ heat wave

Government runs awareness campaign as Pakistan in grips of ‘severe’ heat wave
Updated 24 May 2024
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Government runs awareness campaign as Pakistan in grips of ‘severe’ heat wave

Government runs awareness campaign as Pakistan in grips of ‘severe’ heat wave
  • First wave to last till May 30, second to begin from June 7-8 followed by third one in last week of June 
  • Heat wave to persist in Sindh province until June 3, to break in Punjab after June 4, Met office says

ISLAMABAD: The federal government is running an awareness campaign in collaboration with the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) amid an ongoing heat wave this month, state-run media reported as the Pakistan Meteorological Department predicted day-time temperatures to “remain above normal” in June also. 
Pakistan has been experiencing severe climatic changes due to global warming in recent years which has led to frequent heat waves, untimely rains and droughts.
On May 21, authorities had urged people to stay indoors ahead of a heat wave which is expected to last until the end of the month. An estimated 18 million students are also unable to attend classes because Pakistan’s most populous province Punjab ordered shutting down schools this month due to rising temperatures.
Chief Meteorologist Dr. Sardar Sarfaraz has also warned that the heat wave would “intensify” from May 23 onwards.
“Ministry of Climate Change and the NDMA are spreading mass awareness for the public through adopting preventive measures and to reduce its impacts through issuing adviseries, public service messages, ring back tone and awareness campaigns through television, radio and social media platforms,” Radio Pakistan reported.
Addressing a press conference, the Prime Minister’s Coordinator on Climate Change Romina Khurshid Alam said 26 districts of the country were in the grips of a heat wave since May 21. 
Alam said the first wave would last till May 30, the second would begin from June 7-8 and the third one in the last week of June. 
May and June were recorded as the “hottest and driest” with higher monthly average temperatures, she added, appealing to the masses, especially children and elderly, to adopt preventive measures.
She noted that the severity of heat waves had increased rapidly during the past few months with 13 districts of Sindh, nine of Punjab and four districts of Balochistan experiencing “severe heat.”
“Global warming is impacting the entire world, and we are seeing its effects in the form of these frequent and intense heat waves,” the official said, blaming deforestation and unsustainable environmental practices for the harsh weather conditions. 
“Public awareness campaigns through various media outlets are ongoing to educate people on the health risks and preventive measures.”
Alam said heat waves were accelerating the process of glacier melting and the risk of forest fires, advising the public to remain cautious in national parks, avoid discarding cigarette butts, leave vehicle windows slightly open, and ensure access to drinking water.
“NO RESPITE”
The NDMA is also urging people to stay hydrated and wear light-colored clothing to minimize the effects of heat and farmers to carry out agricultural activities keeping in mind the prevalent weather conditions. 
Met Department data showed Jacobabad, Dadu and Mohenjo Daro as the hottest places across the country, with temperature in these cities surging from 49°C on Wednesday to 50°C on Thursday. 
“The cities of Jacobabad, Dadu and Mohenjo Daro are known to have 50°C in May. Jacobabad had 52°C in April in 2022,” the chief meteorologist said.
“Harsh weather is likely to persist at least till June 3. There is no possibility for respite, at least for Sindh. The heat spell may break in parts of Punjab but that, too, after June 4.”
Climate change-induced extreme heat can cause illnesses such as heat cramps, heat exhaustion, heatstroke, and hyperthermia. It can make certain chronic conditions worse, including cardiovascular, respiratory, and cerebrovascular disease and diabetes-related conditions, and can also result in acute incidents, such as hospitalizations due to strokes or renal disease.
According to the Global Climate Risk Index, nearly 10,000 Pakistanis have died while the country has suffered economic losses worth $3.8 billion due to climate change impacts between 1999 and 2018. A deadly heat wave that hit Pakistan’s largest city of Karachi, the capital of Sindh, claimed 120 lives in 2015.
In 2022, torrential monsoon rains triggered the most devastating floods in Pakistan’s history, killing around 1,700 people and affecting over 33 million, a staggering number close to the population of Canada. Millions of homes, tens of thousands of schools and thousands of kilometers of roads and railways are yet to be rebuilt.


Lahore, Islamabad courts challenge Pakistan media regulator’s ban on reportage of court cases

Lahore, Islamabad courts challenge Pakistan media regulator’s ban on reportage of court cases
Updated 24 May 2024
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Lahore, Islamabad courts challenge Pakistan media regulator’s ban on reportage of court cases

Lahore, Islamabad courts challenge Pakistan media regulator’s ban on reportage of court cases
  • PEMRA ban came amid tensions between government, courts over alleged kidnapping of poet Ahmad Farhad 
  • Farhad’s family says he was abducted from his home on May 14 by officials from the military’s ISI spy agency 

ISLAMABAD: The Lahore and Islamabad high courts on Friday issued notices to the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) while hearing petitions challenging a ban by the regulator on TV channels airing news, opinions and commentary on proceedings of ongoing court cases.
PEMRA announced the ban on Tuesday amid tensions between the government and the Islamabad High Court over hearings into the alleged kidnapping of Kashmiri poet Ahmad Farhad from outside his home on May 14. The poet’s family has filed a case with the IHC and accused Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence spy agency of being behind his disappearance over social media posts critical of the military. The army has not commented on the development or the accusations by the family. 
Pakistan media had been extensively reporting on the hearings of the case this week, with the high court directing authorities to produce the missing poet within four days and fiercely criticizing intelligence agencies for overstepping their jurisdiction.
“The Lahore High Court (LHC), during the hearing of pleas conducted by Justice Abid Aziz Shaikh, also ordered the electronic media watchdog to respond to its notice on May 29,” Pakistan’s Geo News reported. Multiple other Pakistani news websites also reported that the LHC and IHC had sent notices to PEMRA over the ban.
Petitioners against the PEMRA ban have said it is in violation of Article 10-A, 19 and 19-A of the constitution of Pakistan, which pertain to the right to a fair trial as well as freedom of speech and right to information. One of the pleas also requested the court to reject the prosecutor’s plea and declare it “inadmissible” and the PEMRA notification “null and void.”
Petitions challenging the ban have been filed in the Sindh, Lahore and Islamabad high courts as well as the Supreme Court.
Journalists in Pakistan are increasingly reporting on growing media censorship, with many blaming Pakistan’s powerful military for putting pressure on critical voices. The military has repeatedly denied it suppresses the press. 
“TV channels are directed to refrain from airing tickers/headlines with regard to court proceedings and shall only report the written orders of the court,” the PEMRA notification said on Tuesday. 
The regulator also directed TV channels to air “no content including commentary, opinions or suggestions about the potential fate of sub judice matter which tends to prejudice the determination by a court, tribunal.”
However, PEMRA allowed TV channels to report on court proceedings if they were broadcast live by the judiciary.