Rupee hits record low days after Pakistan-IMF deal

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In this file photo, Passersby walk past an advertisement board with photos of Pakistani rupee at a money exchange along a sidewalk in Karachi, Pakistan on June 11, 2018. (REUTERS)
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The Pakistani rupee hits an all-time low against the US dollar on Wednesday, May 15, 2019. (AP / FILE)
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A view of currency dealers in Islamabad on Monday 01 April 2019 – (AN Photo)
Updated 16 May 2019

Rupee hits record low days after Pakistan-IMF deal

  • Rupee plunges to Rs.146.25 after increase of 1.5 percent or Rs.2.25 from Rs.144 in the open market
  • Forex Association president says met PM Khan who assured that IMF had not demanded further devaluation

KARACHI: The Pakistani currency on Wednesday hit an all-time low of Rs.146.25 against the US dollar amid looming fears of further devaluation just days after Pakistan signed a bailout deal with the International Monetary Fund that comes with strict reform conditions, including to maintain a free-floating exchange rate.
The dollar reached the all-time high of Rs.146.25 after an increase of 1.5 percent or Rs.2.25 from Rs.144 in the open market. The rupee closed at Rs.144 at the end of the trading day.
Malik Bostan, President of the Forex Association of Pakistan, said he met with Prime Minister Imran Khan on Wednesday who assured him that the IMF had not demanded further devaluation of the rupee.
“The IMF has only demanded an exchange rate based on demand and supply,” Bostan told Arab News. “After the meeting with PM, dollar rates have started cooling down and will further stabilize. We have requested the government to impose a ban on rumors regarding the rupee that are hurting market sentiments. Predictions about the dollar on the media should be stopped.”
Bostan said that Khan had consented to setting up a committee comprising officials from the State Bank of Pakistan, exchange companies and the finance ministry to resolve the issues of exchange companies.
“We have informed him we can increase inflow of green back from $5-6 billion to $7-8 billion provided agreements are facilitated with around 500 international companies operating in Pakistan,” Bostan said, adding that the PM had agreed to devise a mechanism to discourage the outflow of dollars from Pakistan by encouraging investment in the country.
The International Monetary Fund and Pakistan reached a “staff level agreement” on Sunday for a $6 billion bailout package following months of negotiations on a deal that aims to bolster Pakistan’s flagging economy and perilously low foreign exchange reserves.
Talks with the IMF began soon after Khan’s government was appointed last August but a package has been held up by differences over the pace and scale of reforms that Pakistan would be required to undertake.
The IMF has pressed Pakistan to improve tax revenue collection, bolster foreign currency reserves and narrow a current account deficit expected to top 5 percent of gross domestic product this year. The Fund has also pushed Pakistan to embrace a flexible rupee policy. Pakistani officials fear these steps will further hurt economic growth, cause of spike in the key interest rate and push the Pakistani rupee further down.
“A market-determined exchange rate will help the functioning of the financial sector and contribute to a better resource allocation in the economy,” the IMF said in a statement issued after the agreement.
“The rumors of further devaluation of Pak Rupee against dollar have squeezed the supply of the dollar and increased demand,” said Zafar Paracha, general secretary of the Exchange Companies Association of Pakistan. “Those holding dollars are not willing to sell, anticipating gains on devaluation.”

In Peshawar prison, women inmates share food and prayers in Ramadan

Updated 35 min 25 sec ago

In Peshawar prison, women inmates share food and prayers in Ramadan

PESHAWAR: Located next to iconic landmarks like the Provincial Assembly and the High Court, the central prison in Pakistan’s northwestern city of Peshawar is a handsome old building bursting at the seams with over 1,800 prisoners. 38 of them are women.

The existing building was established in 1854 with an occupancy limit of 425 prisoners, but with the influx of thousands of inmates, a new block is now under construction and slated for completion by the end of the year. 

Inside the prison kitchens, convicted prisoners make round traditional bread and prepare Iftar meals for other inmates. May 25, 2019. (AN photo by Saba Rehman)

The prison department provides basic facilities and food to inmates still under trial and to those convicted in the male, female and juvenile sections. During the month of Ramadan, these facilities extend to include special meals at Iftar, like sweet rice, chicken and potatoes served with a side of milky hot tea. 

A female inmate cooks chicken gravy for herself and other prisoners in the prison barracks before Iftar. May 25, 2019. (AN photo by Saba Rehman)

“We get good food in this month (of Ramadan) and are free to offer our prayers and recite the Holy Quran at any time,” said Shahida, an inmate who has been in the prison for five years but was convicted for murder late last year. 

Acting superintendent of the prison releases prisoners after the court orders arrive. The inmates receive the good news right before Iftar time in Ramadan. May 25, 2019. (AN photo by Saba Rehman)

The large hall of the women’s section has a scattering of beds, but most inmates sleep, eat and pray on quilts spread out on the floor. 

A police officer stands guard outside the entrance to the women’s section in Peshawar’s central jail. May 25, 2019. (AN photo by Saba Rehman)

"Some of the women get sick often,” said Iffat Shaheen, assistant superintendent of the women’s prison section. “Right now we have two pregnancy cases and one case of HIV AIDS, so we try to give them good meals. A few prisoners have small children inside prison with them and they get milk as well.” 

A female inmate gives English lessons to some of the children at the Peshawar central prison. May 25, 2019. (AN photo by Saba Rehman)

Another female inmate convicted for possession of drugs has been in prison for seven months. She declined to be identified but said they had a lot of free time in Ramadan that could be put to good use. 

Women in Peshawar’s central prison spend their days reading the Quran and reciting prayer beads during the month of Ramadan. May 25, 2019. (AN photo by Saba Rehman)

“This is a helpful time for us to learn skills like handicrafts and sewing,” she said. “When we leave prison, perhaps these things will pave the way for a good, halal living.” 

A woman inmate at Peshawar’s central jail has decorated her hands with henna in anticipation of the holy festival of Eid, which will mark the end of Ramadan. May 25, 2019. (AN photo by Saba Rehman)
Rooh Afza, a popular indigenous drink made from herbs and flowers, is served around Peshawar’s central prison by the bucketfuls before Iftar. May 25, 2019. (AN photo by Saba Rehman)
Weekly menu written out for prisoners at Peshawar’s central jail in Urdu. May 25, 2019. (AN photo by Saba Rehman)