People of Kashmir remain defiant as India celebrates Republic Day

The people of Kashmir went on a general strike this week to bring international attention to what say are Indian killings and brutalities against innocent civilians in the region. (Reuters/ File Photo)
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Updated 26 January 2020

People of Kashmir remain defiant as India celebrates Republic Day

  • All Parties Hurriyat Conference has issued a call to commemorate January 26 as Black Day
  • The region remains under strict security lockdown after New Delhi revoked Kashmir’s special status on August 5

ISLAMABAD: People of the disputed Himalayan territory of Kashmir are observing Black Day to protest New Delhi’s oppressive policies in their region, as they try highlight its persistent refusal to recognize their right to self-determination.

The call for the Black Day was issued by All Parties Hurriyat Conference, an alliance of more than two dozen resistance groups in Indian-administered Kashmir, and it coincided by India’s Republic Day which is celebrated annually to honor the moment the country implemented its constitution on January 26, 1950.

While India displays its military might and cultural diversity during the celebrations in New Delhi, there is usually a complete shutter-down strike in Indian-administered Kashmir where residents frequently take out anti-Indian processions and sometimes clash with the security forces.

Last year, India revoked the special constitutional status of Kashmir on August 5 that gave limited autonomy to the region and imposed a strict security lockdown on its residents.

Pakistan strongly protested what it called India’s illegal and unilateral action in Kashmir at all national and international forums, demanding the right to self-determination for the people of Kashmir as promised in the United Nations resolutions.

As Prime Minister Narendra Modi hosted Brazilian President Jair Messias Bolsonaro as the guest of honor at his country’s biggest national event, people of Indian-administered Kashmir were forcibly confined to their houses by Indian security forces.

Pakistan’s forex reserves slump 12% in just weeks amid coronavirus outbreak

Updated 21 min 35 sec ago

Pakistan’s forex reserves slump 12% in just weeks amid coronavirus outbreak

  • Hit by cash outflow, Pakistani rupee dropped 8% in March
  • Currently at $11.2 bn, the reserves are expected to fall further in coming weeks, expert says

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s foreign exchanges reserves plunged more than 12% or $1.6 billion over just three weeks in March as the coronavirus outbreak roiled global financial markets, the latest data from the central bank showed.
As on March 27, forex reserves totalled $11.2 billion, down from $12.8 billion as on March 6.
Pakistan last year had entered into a program with the International Monetary Fund amid a yawning current account deficit and depleting reserves that have been shored up with temporary deposits from friendly countries like Saudi Arabia and China.
The situation improved until March aided by inflows into treasury bills that had attracted foreign carry trade money on the back of high interest rates and a fall in imports.
But with the first coronavirus case being reported in the country on Feb. 26, things have started to change.
“This is an alarming situation, because Pakistan came out of an external account crisis just last year through IMF funding,” said Muhammad Sohail, CEO of Topline Securities, a Karachi-based advisory firm.
The fall in reserves is due to multiple factors, including panic selling of debt and equities, and reserves are expected to fall further in coming weeks, Sohail said.
Data as of Friday showed a net outflow of $1.9 billion of foreign investments from Pakistan in March from government treasury bills, equity and bonds, more than halving the total net inflow for the ongoing fiscal year which now stands at $1.15 billion.
The outflows have also hit the Pakistani rupee, which has dropped 8% in March to 166.5 per dollar as of Friday.
To mitigate the pressure, the government in late March asked fuel retailers and refiners to cancel imports from April and increase purchases from national refiners.
Refineries had said they were close to shutting down operations due to a drop in demand due to large scale movement restrictions across the country.
Experts, however, believe the decision was driven primarily to protect foreign currency reserves.
“Demand is collapsing for petroleum products because of the lockdowns and the situation we’re in; but this policy is largely driven by the fact that there is pressure on the reserves and the currency,” Sakib Sherani, the head of an Islamabad-based macroeconomic consultancy firm, told Reuters.
Shernai, who is also a former member of the Prime Minister’s Economic Advisory Council, said that the fall in reserves was also due to a fall in export receipts.
“In March we’ve only seen the beginning of the dip in exports. The bulk of the coronavirus hit will come in April, May and June and we’ll see a very substantial decline,” he said.