Pakistan becomes first country in South Asia to issue ‘gender bond’ to financially empower women 

Special Pakistan becomes first country in South Asia to issue ‘gender bond’ to financially empower women 
People stand outside Pakistan Stock Exchange in Karachi, Pakistan on November 30, 2023. (AN photo)
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Updated 01 December 2023
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Pakistan becomes first country in South Asia to issue ‘gender bond’ to financially empower women 

Pakistan becomes first country in South Asia to issue ‘gender bond’ to financially empower women 
  • Through the bond, Pakistani non-profit Kashf Foundation will raise $8.7 million from stock market to extend micro loans to 30,000 women 
  • Caretaker finance minister calls the launch of gender bond a ‘groundbreaking initiative’ and a powerful tool for bridging the gender gap 

KARACHI: Pakistan on Thursday became the first country in South Asia to launch a ‘gender bond’ to raise Rs2.5 billion ($8.7 million) for micro loan disbursement to an expected 30,000 women, mostly affected by devastating floods that wreaked havoc in the country in 2022.

The first “only-for-women bond” has been issued by Kashf Foundation, a Pakistani non-profit organization, in collaboration with InfraZamin Pakistan, for-profit credit enhancement facility funded from InfraCo. Asia Investments and Karandaaz Pakistan. 

The Rs2.5 billion proceeds of the bond, raised through the country’s stock market, will be utilized to extend loans, mostly to women who were affected by the 2022 floods, according to the issuers. 

“The idea behind this bond is to give loans to those women who were affected by the floods last year so that they can build resilience and protect themselves in the future,” Shahzad Iqbal, chief financial officer at Kashf Foundation, told Arab News on the sidelines of the bond’s launch at the Pakistan Stock Exchange (PSX). 

“The bond size is Rs2.5 billion and the tenure of the bond is three years. This is only for women that is why it is called a gender bond.” 

Within the three-year period, Iqbal believed, his lending institution would provide loans to around 30,000 women through micro-lending. 

An InfraZamin official said the sole purpose of the bond’s issuance was financial inclusion of women by contributing toward small businesses led by women as well as the restoration of flood-affected homes for women. 

“By creating such a structure, we have effectively targeted women and because of that, we have met the requirements for this to be a gender bond,” Maheen Rahman, chief executive of InfraZamin Pakistan, told Arab News. 

“There are several (gender bonds) in the world, but in Pakistan this is the first gender bond. And in South Asia, this is the first gender bond to be issued,” said Rehman, whose company has guaranteed the bond. 




Maheen Rehman, chief executive of InfraZamin Pakistan, is addressing the launch ceremony of Pakistan's first "gender bond" in Karachi, Pakistan, on November 30, 2023. (AN photo)

The bond’s issuance follows the guidelines prescribed by the national financial regulatory agency, the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP), while Arif Habib Limited, a leading Karachi-based brokerage house, has played a role of financial adviser and arranger for the bond. 

Shahid Ali Habib, CEO, Arif Habib Limited (AHL), informed the bond would be traded at PSX’s over-the-counter (OTC) market. 

“It will be listed in the OTC market and the issue is closed now,” Habib said. “This will be processed at the stock exchange in a month or one-and-a-half month time and then will be available for trading.” 

Pakistan’s Caretaker Finance Minister Dr. Shamshad Akhtar, who spoke via video link, termed the launch of gender bond a “groundbreaking initiative.” 

“The gender bond is a powerful tool for bridging the gender gap and empowering women,” Akhtar said. “As the demand for sustainable investment continues to grow, gender bonds are poised to play a significant role in driving positive social change and empowerment within Pakistan.” 

To a question about lending to borrowers, the Kashf CFO said the minimum lending would be around Rs60,000 ($209) and the maximum would be around Rs500,000 ($1,748) per borrower, for which the procedure was very simple. 

“They don’t need to provide us any kind of documentation or a guarantee. They simply need to provide us a copy of their CNIC (computerized national identity card) and a photograph, and then we do a valuation of their repayment behavior,” Iqbal said, adding it usually took around two to seven days to complete the loan process. 

Rehman said the payback ratio among women borrowers was much better than men, with the lender incurring minimum losses. 

“We found that women who borrow from such institutions (Kashf foundation) pay back far better than what we saw in other institutions that were catering to both men and women,” she said. “In fact, Kashf’s non-performing loan portfolio is only 0.5 percent of their total loan book.” 

SECP Chairman Akif Saeed said such micro loans to women created a social impact that benefitted whole families. 


Imran Khan-backed MP elected Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly speaker

Imran Khan-backed MP elected Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly speaker
Updated 15 sec ago
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Imran Khan-backed MP elected Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly speaker

Imran Khan-backed MP elected Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly speaker
  • Babar Saleem Swati won 89 out of 106 votes against his rival who could only secure 17 votes
  • The PTI-backed lawmakers are on their way to set up KP government for third consecutive term

ISLAMABAD: Members of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provincial assembly elected a lawmaker backed by former prime minister Imran Khan as the new speaker on Thursday, giving him a decisive victory with 89 out of 106 total votes against his rival who could only get 17 votes.

The KP assembly held its inaugural session a day earlier in which its newly elected members were sworn in amid ruckus and protest.

Independent candidates backed by Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party swept the provincial polls earlier this month by securing more than 90 out of 111 general seats on which the elections were held.

Since the PTI had lost its symbol in a legal battle right ahead of the electoral contest, its leadership decided to join the Sunni Ittehad Council (SIC) to form their government in the province for a third consecutive term.

Babar Saleem Swati, who became the custodian of the house, contested as the SIC candidate for the post.

“PTI’s Babar Saleem Swati has been elected speaker [KP] assembly by getting 89 votes,” Khan’s party exclaimed in a social media post accompanying Swati’s picture.

The SIC members later congratulated him for becoming the new speaker.

Today’s session of the provincial legislative body was also held under the speaker of the outgoing assembly Mushtaq Ghani.

The PTI-backed candidates also won more than 90 seats in the National Assembly while accusing the election authorities of changing results in a number of constituencies to compromise their mandate and benefit their political rivals.


Media bodies urge Pakistan top court to cancel committee probing anti-judges online campaign

Media bodies urge Pakistan top court to cancel committee probing anti-judges online campaign
Updated 42 min 7 sec ago
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Media bodies urge Pakistan top court to cancel committee probing anti-judges online campaign

Media bodies urge Pakistan top court to cancel committee probing anti-judges online campaign
  • Joint investigation team set up last month to “ascertain facts behind malicious social media campaign” against judges
  • Was formed after social media campaign unleashed following a Supreme Court judgment against Imran Khan’s party

ISLAMABAD: Media bodies including the Press Association of the Supreme Court and the Islamabad High Court Journalists Association have filed a joint petition requesting the top court to cancel a joint investigation team (JIT) probing a so-called social media campaign against judges in which many journalists have been served notices. 

The interior ministry set up a five-member joint investigation team last month to “ascertain facts behind a malicious social media campaign” against Supreme Court judges.

The panel was formed under Section 30 (power to investigate) of the controversial Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act (Peca) 2016 and convened by the additional director general of the Federal Investiga­tion Agency’s (FIA) cybercrime wing. It was formed against the backdrop of a “smear campaign” that erupted on social media soon after a Jan. 13 Supreme Court judgment that upheld an Election Commission of Pakistan ruling to revoke the iconic electoral symbol, the cricket bat, of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party of former Prime Minister Imran Khan. The decision meant all candidates from the party had to run in Feb. 8 elections as independent candidates with different election symbols.

The petition filed by the journalists’ bodies said roving inquiries by the FIA, the appointment of the JIT and multitudinous summons with regards to vague allegations regarding a so-called “explicit and malicious campaign against Hon. Judges of Supreme Court of Pakistan” or “derogatory remarks against the Superior Judiciary of Pakistan” had a “chilling effect” and unreasonably restricted the right of free speech and information guaranteed under Article 19 and 19-A of the Constitution.

“It is, accordingly, an issue of public importance involving the enforcement of fundamental rights,” the petitioner submitted, arguing that the right to punish (or show forbearance in respect of) speech that scandalized the court or brought the court or a judge into hatred, ridicule or contempt vested exclusively with the apex court under Article 204 of the Constitution and the executive could not be allowed to usurp that discretion, as it infringed the doctrine of separation of powers. It said the power to punish the charge of scandalizing a judge or the judiciary, which the court itself so sparingly exercised, could not be handed over to the FIA to be used as and when it deemed fit.

A total of 65 notices had been issued to various persons, including more than 30 journalists, in at least 115 inquiries by the JIT in Karachi, Hyderabad, Sukkur, Multan, Faisalabad, Lahore, Gujranwala, Rawalpindi, Gilgit, Islamabad, Peshawar, Abbottabad, Dera Ismail Khan, Quetta and Gwadar. 

Pakistani anchorman Imran Riaz Khan was arrested from his house in Lahore last week over accusations he had participated in an anti-judiciary social media campaign. Another reporter Asad Ali Toor was also arrested on charges of orchestrating a campaign against the state and its officials, with the “objective to coerce, intimidate, and incite violence” against them through his social media platforms. In recent months, several of Toor’s posts and videos have been critical of government agencies, Pakistan’s military establishment and the Supreme Court.


Pakistan’s PM criticizes Imran Khan’s ‘irresponsible’ demand for election audit in IMF bailout letter

Pakistan’s PM criticizes Imran Khan’s ‘irresponsible’ demand for election audit in IMF bailout letter
Updated 29 February 2024
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Pakistan’s PM criticizes Imran Khan’s ‘irresponsible’ demand for election audit in IMF bailout letter

Pakistan’s PM criticizes Imran Khan’s ‘irresponsible’ demand for election audit in IMF bailout letter
  • Prime Minister Kakar says there are proper forums in the country for the redressal of any election grievances
  • He says the letter has contradicted PTI’s own narrative that maintains Pakistan should not ‘surrender’ to the West

ISLAMABAD: Caretaker Prime Minister Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar on Wednesday described Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party’s decision to send a letter to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), asking it to ensure election audit before any discussion on financial bailouts for the country, as “highly irresponsible” and in contradiction to its overall political narrative.

Last week, a group of lawyers representing the PTI founding leader, Imran Khan, said he wanted to send a letter to the IMF after raising the allegations of rigging in the recent general elections in the country earlier this month.

The party revealed on Wednesday it had dispatched the letter to the international lending organization, asking it to link any financing for Pakistan to “good governance” and the audit of at least 30 national and provincial assembly seats.

Kakar expressed his displeasure over the development during an interview with a local news channel.

“This is highly irresponsible,” he told Samaa TV. “And I am making a very mild statement. Otherwise, one can use much harsher words in response to this.”

“In the caretaker government, the biggest challenge we faced was not only conducting elections but also to the revival of the economy, improvement in financial indicators and achieving our revenue targets,” he continued. “To an extent, we have met [all these objectives]. As a result, the IMF is negotiating with Pakistan positively.”

He said the country was now expecting a $6 billion deal with the international lender and could also get $2 billion more in climate finance deal.

The prime minister noted this was vital for the country’s economic health, adding that the financial plans of the future government also depended heavily on this.

“Whatever your views are regarding the electoral process, there are proper forums to express them,” he continued. “They are not the IMF.”

Kakar said the PTI leadership’s letter had also contradicted its own narrative which required the country not to “surrender” to Western power.

He maintained that Khan’s party had gone against that by seeking external intervention in the country.

However, predicted the letter would not have any major impact on Pakistan, though it would have a political cost for the PTI.

The IMF already refused to comment on the “ongoing political developments” in the country, saying it was willing to work with the new government.


Pakistani security forces kill six militants in intelligence-based operation in northwest

Pakistani security forces kill six militants in intelligence-based operation in northwest
Updated 29 February 2024
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Pakistani security forces kill six militants in intelligence-based operation in northwest

Pakistani security forces kill six militants in intelligence-based operation in northwest
  • An official statement says the militants were involved in violent activities against North Waziristan’s residents
  • The Pakistani security forces also recovered weapons, ammunition and explosives from the dead militants

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s security forces killed six militants in an intelligence-based operation (IBO) in the country’s northwest on Wednesday, saying they were involved in violent activities against the civilian population in the area.

Pakistan has witnessed an uptick in militant activities since Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), a proscribed conglomerate of armed factions, called off a fragile ceasefire with the government in November 2022.

The violence has largely been confined to the western provinces of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan that share frontier with the neighboring state of Afghanistan.

The country’s security forces and law enforcement agencies have carried out several operations in recent months to deal with militants in places like North Waziristan where the recent engagement with the militants took place.

“During the conduct of operation, intense fire exchange took place between own troops and the terrorists,” the military’s media wing, ISPR, said in a statement, adding that this led to the killing of six militants.

“Weapons, ammunition and explosives were also recovered from the killed terrorists, who remained actively involved in numerous terrorist activities including target killing as well as extortion & abduction of innocent civilians,” it added.

The ISPR said one of the Pakistani soldiers who participated in the operation also got injured.

It informed the Pakistani forces started a “sanitization operation” to find other militants who might have taken refuge in the area.

Pakistan’s North Waziristan district was once described as the hub of militancy before the government launched a clear-and-hold military operation to reclaim the territory.


US urges new Pakistan government to prioritize economy, continue working with IMF on reforms 

US urges new Pakistan government to prioritize economy, continue working with IMF on reforms 
Updated 29 February 2024
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US urges new Pakistan government to prioritize economy, continue working with IMF on reforms 

US urges new Pakistan government to prioritize economy, continue working with IMF on reforms 
  • The US says it supports Pakistan’s efforts to break free from the vicious cycle of debt and international financing
  • Analysts believe government will have to negotiate another IMF loan program amid continuing economic challenges

ISLAMABAD: The United States said on Wednesday Pakistan’s new government should address the economic situation facing the country on priority, emphasizing it was important for the emerging administration in Islamabad to continue engagements with international financial institutions.

Pakistan is holding the first National Assembly today, Thursday, in which the newly elected lawmakers will take oath. The country’s new government is expected to take the reins of power within the next few days after the in-house election of the next prime minister.

The issue of Pakistan’s economy came up for discussion during a regular State Department briefing after a journalist asked about a letter written by former premier Imran Khan’s party to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), asking it to link the next loan facility to “good governance” in the country.

“I’ll just say with respect to the IMF that we support Pakistan’s efforts to break free from the vicious cycle of debt and international financing,” Spokesperson Matthew Miller said. “The long-term health of Pakistan’s government – or economy is crucial to its stability.”

“Pakistan’s new government must immediately prioritize the economic situation because the policies over the next several months will be crucial to maintaining economic stability for Pakistanis,” he added. “And we urge Pakistan to continue working with the IMF and other international financial institutions toward macroeconomic reforms.”

Pakistan has been facing significant financial challenges in recent years, with dwindling foreign exchange reserves and declining value of its national currency.

The country’s caretaker administration negotiated a $3 billion, short-term loan facility with the IMF that is scheduled to expire in March.

Pakistan’s economic challenges persist, prompting many analysts to point out it will continue to need external financing from the international lending agency.