Pakistani Rupee drops against dollar as panic buying goes up

A Pakistani dealer counts US dollars at a currency exchange shop in Karachi on October 9, 2018. (AFP)
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Updated 11 March 2020
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Pakistani Rupee drops against dollar as panic buying goes up

  • Foreign investors have withdrawn $182 million from Pakistan capital market, central bank data shows
  • Global volatility has triggered outflows of foreign funds from risky investment avenues to risk free markets

KARACHI: Pakistani currency on Tuesday extended declines following the withdrawal of hot money from country’s capital market and global fears triggered by coronavirus pandemic, analysts said.
Pakistani Rupee has lost its value by 1.4 percent since Monday in interbank market to Rs.158.25 against the US dollar by Tuesday afternoon trade as compared to Rs.155.50 of Monday opening. The currency has lost value by more than 2 percent since the March 2, 2020 currency dealers say.
Capital market analysts link the rupee depreciation with volatile global and local equity markets and the withdrawal of hot money from government papers which has registered $182.55 million outflows in first six days of March 2020, according to State Bank of Pakistan.
“The global volatility that has triggered outflows of foreign funds from risky investment avenues to risk free markets like USA and Japan is the possible reason for Pak rupee depreciation,” Samiullah Tariq, Director research at Arif Habib, told Arab News adding that “The funds are moving out from Pakistan, India and other regional markets for save havens.”
The Special Convertible Rupee Accounts (SCRA) maintained by Pakistan’s central bank shows that the south Asian country’s capital market attracted $4.105 billion during July 2019 to March 06, 2020. The majority or 83 percent of the foreign fund inflows were attracted in short-term treasury bills which offer as much as 13.38 percent returns.
Currency dealers say they witnessed panic buying of greenback following Monday’s equity market crash that dropped 2300 points and triggered panic selling.
“The foreign investors sold rupee in the interbank market as they wanted to exchange with dollars. The panic buying and selling upset the exchange rates in the currency market,” Malik Bostan, President, Forex Association of Pakistan, told Arab News.
“After Coronavirus outbreak the investors are offloading their positions from the equity market and they want to convert into dollars that is putting pressure on the Pak rupee,” he added.
However, dealers say the buying activity in the open market is confined to only 2 percent that comes from those traveling abroad while 98 percent exchange goes to banks.
“Our daily buying and selling stands at $100-150 million while we are providing around $300 million to banks,” Bostan noted.


Experts warn of health risks as Pakistan braces for severe heatwave

Updated 6 sec ago
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Experts warn of health risks as Pakistan braces for severe heatwave

  • The meteorological department says temperatures may rise up to 50°C in parts of Pakistan in the coming days
  • Health experts say heatstroke can damage brain, heart and kidneys, leading to serious complications or even death

KARACHI: Experts on Tuesday warned of health risks and advised people to limit time spent in harsh sunlight as Pakistan is poised to experience some of the hottest weather conditions in the coming days.
According to the Pakistan Meteorological Department (PMD), a heatwave is expected to hit parts of Pakistan this week, with temperatures in certain areas of the southern Sindh and eastern Punjab provinces potentially surging past 40°C.
The PMD also warned of glacial lake outburst floods in the country’s northern Gilgit-Baltistan region and northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province due to rising temperatures.
In previous years, heatstroke, which occurs when the body temperature rises to 104°F (40°C) or higher due to prolonged exposure to high temperatures or physical exertion in the heat, has been reported by dozens.
“Without prompt care, heatstroke can damage the brain, heart, kidneys and other organs, leading to serious complications or death,” Dr. Naseem Salahuddin told Arab News, adding it was always important to act immediately and cool down the body of a heatwave victim.
“Extreme heat can damage the temperature control center in the brain,” she said, urging caution during high temperatures.
On Tuesday, as of 2 PM, temperature in Jacobabad and Mohenjo Daro reached 47°C, while it was 45°C in Sibbi, Lasbela, Rahimyar Khan, Hyderabad, Khairpur and Bhakar.
“The temperature is expected to further rise from tomorrow, with the upper regions of Sindh experiencing up to 50°C,” Dr. Sardar Sarfaraz, Pakistan’s chief meteorologist, said, noting the heatwave would affect settlements in upper Sindh and Punjab provinces.
With temperatures expected to rise further in coming days, Dr. Qaiser Sajjad, a health expert and former secretary general of the Pakistan Medical Association, emphasized social awareness was crucial to avoid health problems in such extreme weather.
“People should not spend too much time in the sun,” he said. “If it is essential to go out, the body should be completely covered.”
In June 2015, Pakistan experienced the worst heatwave in the country’s south, especially in its port city Karachi, where over 2,000 people died of dehydration.
Dr. Sajjad recalled the cases where patients, after receiving first-aid, instead of moving to the shade or discontinuing work, went back to perform labor and died shortly thereafter.
“If a person has suffered heatstroke, he or she should be taken to a cold place and not allowed to work, even if they seem to recover,” he said, adding people should pour water on their head in such a case.
He pointed out since climate change had made the weather more extreme, every household should keep umbrellas which should be used by its members to shield themselves from the sun.
“An umbrella should be a must,” he said. “Water intake should be increased to 22 glasses daily to keep the body hydrated.”
Dr. Sajjad also noted that people should consume fresh vegetables and fruits after washing with clean water and avoid dining outside.
“Prevention is better than cure,” he continued. “We don’t see as many deaths now as we unfortunately witnessed during the 2015 heatwave because there was no awareness then. More awareness can keep citizens safe.”


At SCO foreign ministers moot, FM Dar highlights Pakistan’s location as trade and transit hub

Updated 45 min 57 sec ago
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At SCO foreign ministers moot, FM Dar highlights Pakistan’s location as trade and transit hub

  • The SCO is a major trans-regional organization and its member states collectively represent nearly half of world population
  • Dar apprises the SCO meeting of Pakistan’s priorities, including promoting connectivity, poverty alleviation and cooperation

ISLAMABAD: Ishaq Dar, Pakistan’s deputy prime minister and foreign minister, on Tuesday addressed a meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization’s (SCO) Council of Foreign Ministers in Kazakhstan, where he highlighted Pakistan’s geostrategic location as a trade and transit hub, the Pakistani foreign ministry said.
Dar arrived in Astana, Kazakhstan on Monday to represent Pakistan at the two-day meeting of the SCO Council of Foreign Ministers. Founded in 2001, the SCO is a major trans-regional organization spanning South and Central Asia, with China, Russia, Pakistan, India, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan as its permanent members.
The meeting comes at a time when Pakistan is making rigorous efforts to increase bilateral trade and investment with a number of countries and has aimed to enhance its role as a pivotal trade and transit hub connecting the Central Asian republics with the rest of the world, leveraging its strategic geographical position.
Addressing the SCO foreign ministers’ meeting, Dar explained Pakistan’s priorities as the current Chair of SCO Council of Heads of Government (CHG), including promoting connectivity, development of transport links, youth empowerment, poverty alleviation and enhanced practical cooperation among SCO member states.
“The Deputy Prime Minister said that Pakistan’s geostrategic location offers an ideal trade and transit hub for the SCO region,” the Pakistani foreign ministry said in a statement. “He underlined the significance of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor for regional connectivity and economic integration.”
CPEC, part of President Xi Jinping’s ambitious Belt and Road Initiative, is a $65 billion network of roads, railways, pipelines and ports in Pakistan that aims to connect China to the Arabian Sea and help Islamabad expand and modernize its economy.
The project spans several phases, each with distinct goals and impacts on the region. The first phase began in 2015 and mainly focused on building critical infrastructure, particularly in the transportation and energy sectors. The second phase expands the focus to include industrial cooperation, agricultural development and the promotion of social and economic development.
The second phase is also expected to include the development of Special Economic Zones (SEZs), efforts to boost green energy production like hydropower and solar energy, and initiatives to modernize agriculture and increase exports.
On a visit to China this month, Dar said Pakistan and Beijing needed to finalize modalities for other countries to be part of the multi-billion-dollar corridor as Islamabad seeks to attract foreign investment into Pakistan.
“As we embark on phase two of CPEC we look forward to developing corridors of growth, livelihood, innovation, green development, and inclusivity to carry forward our shared vision of making CPEC an inclusive and transparent project,” Dar said. “We also need to finalize the modalities for third party participation in CPEC.”
Pakistan, faced with low foreign exchange reserves, currency devaluation and high inflation, has been pushing for an increase in bilateral trade and investment, with Islamabad seeing a flurry of high-level exchanges from diplomats and business delegations in recent weeks from Saudi Arabia, Japan, Azerbaijan, Qatar and other countries.
Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has vowed to rid the South Asian country of its chronic macroeconomic crisis through foreign investment and efficient handling of the economy.


Pakistan set to launch multi-mission communication satellite on May 30 with Chinese support

Updated 57 min 14 sec ago
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Pakistan set to launch multi-mission communication satellite on May 30 with Chinese support

  • Suparco describes the scheduled launch as a stepping stone in transforming the country into a ‘digital Pakistan’
  • The satellite will also play a role in the socio-economic uplift of the country due to the communication technologies

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s national space agency on Tuesday announced its plan to launch a multi-mission communication satellite, PAKSAT MM1, from China next week, describing the initiative as a “hallmark of technological cooperation” between the two countries.
Earlier this month on May 3, the Pakistani satellite iCUBE-Qamar (ICUBE Q) was launched aboard China’s Chang’e-6 lunar mission from Hainan, China. A major milestone in Pakistan’s space exploration efforts, the satellite successfully entered the moon’s orbit on May 8, and shortly after began transmitting the first images from lunar orbit.
The Pakistan Space and Upper Atmosphere Research Commission (Suparco) now plans to launch the communication satellite with Chinese assistance on May 30.
“PAKSAT MM1 was conceived keeping in sight the growing needs of the country in the broad-spectrum of communication and connectivity,” Suparco said in a statement, adding the device will play a crucially important role in the socio-economic uplift of the country due to its advanced communication technologies.
The statement further noted the communication satellite would serve as a stepping stone in the country’s transformation into a “digital Pakistan.”
The statement also informed the launch ceremony would be broadcast live from Suparco’s offices in Islamabad and Karachi.
Established in 1961, Suparco manages Pakistan’s space program, enhancing the nation’s capabilities in satellite communications, remote sensing and meteorological science.


Over 570,000 Afghans expelled since Pakistan deportation drive began last year — state media

Updated 21 May 2024
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Over 570,000 Afghans expelled since Pakistan deportation drive began last year — state media

  • 9,685 Afghan nationals returned to Afghanistan in last ten days, Radio Pakistan says
  • Government says deportations not targeted at Afghans but all those living illegally in Pakistan

ISLAMABAD: Over half a million Afghans living in Pakistan have been repatriated to their home country since the government launched a deportation drive last year, state broadcaster Radio Pakistan said on Tuesday, with almost 10,000 returning in the last ten days.

Until November last year before it began the deportation drive, Pakistan was home to over 4 million Afghan migrants and refugees, about 1.7 million of whom were undocumented, according to the government. Afghans make up the largest portion of migrants, many of whom came after the Taliban took over Kabul in 2021, but a large number have been present since the 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.

The expulsion drive started after a spike in suicide bombings last year which the Pakistan government — without providing evidence — said mostly involves Afghans. Islamabad has also blamed them for smuggling and other militant violence and crime. At the time, cash-strapped Pakistan, navigating record inflation and a tough International Monetary Fund bailout program, also said undocumented migrants had drained its resources for decades.

At the same time, Islamabad insists the deportation drive is not aimed specifically at Afghans but at all those living illegally in Pakistan. 

“9,685 more illegal Afghan nationals returned to their country over the last ten days,” Radio Pakistan reported. “The [total] figure of illegal Afghan returnees has reached 577,239.”

In October 2023, Pakistan announced phase one of the ‘Illegal Foreigners’ Repatriation Plan’ with a 30-day deadline for “undocumented” aliens to leave the country or be subject to deportation, putting 1.4 million Afghan refugees at risk.

In phase two of the ‘repatriation plan,’ around 600,00 Afghans who hold Pakistan-issued Afghan citizenship cards (ACCs) will be expelled while phase three is expected to target those with UNHCR-issued Proof of Registration (PoR) cards.

The deportation drive has led to a spike in tensions between Pakistan and the Taliban rulers in Afghanistan. 

Islamabad accuses Afghans of being behind a spate of recent suicide attacks in the country and accuses the Taliban of harboring such militants. The Taliban deny the allegations and say Pakistan’s security issues are a domestic issue. 
 


Weather forecasters warn Pakistanis to stay indoors ahead of new heat wave

Updated 21 May 2024
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Weather forecasters warn Pakistanis to stay indoors ahead of new heat wave

  • Health officials say hospitals have been instructed to set up emergency heatwave response centers to treat people
  • Doctors say heatstroke is a serious illness that occurs when one’s body temperature rises quickly amid sweltering heat

ISLAMABAD: Authorities in Pakistan on Tuesday urged people to stay indoors as the country is hit by an extreme heat wave that threatens to bring dangerously high temperatures and yet another round of glacial-driven floods.

Pakistan’s most populous province, Punjab, is shutting all schools for a week because of the heat, affecting an estimated 18 million students.

“The sweltering heat will continue this month,” said Zaheer Ahmed Babar, a senior official at the Pakistan Meteorological Department. He added that temperatures could reach up to 6 degrees Celsius (10.8 Fahrenheit) above the monthly average. This week could rise above 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit) in many parts of the country, Babar said.

It’s the latest climate-related disaster to hit the country in recent years. Melting glaciers and growing monsoons have caused devastating floods, at one point submerging a third of the country.

Pakistan recorded its wettest April since 1961, with more than double the usual monthly rainfall, according to the national weather center. Last month’s heavy rains killed scores of people while destroyed property and farmland, experts say the country witnessed heavier rains because of climate change.

Pakistan is still trying to recover from $30 billion in losses caused by devastating climate-induced floods that killed 1,739 people in 2022.

According to health officials, hospitals were instructed to set up emergency heatwave response centers so that those affected by the scorching temperatures could be quickly treated.

Doctors say heatstroke is a serious illness that occurs when one’s body temperature rises quickly because of sweltering heat, potentially causing some to fall unconscious. A severe heatstroke can cause disability or death.

Some areas in Pakistan are also currently facing hours-long power outages.

“We were without electricity for hours on Monday,” said Ibrar Abbasi, who lives on the outskirts of Islamabad.

Scientists have long warned that climate change, driven by the burning of fossil fuels, deforestation and certain agricultural practices, will lead to more frequent and prolonged bouts of extreme weather, including hotter temperatures.

Babar said another intense heat wave will hit the country in June, when the temperature is likely to reach 45 degrees (113 Fahrenheit). He said people should drink a lot of water and avoid unnecessary travel. Farmers and other livestock owners should take measures to protect their animals during extreme heat, he said.

However, many people, especially laborers and construction workers in the impoverished nation, ask how they can stay indoors as their families will suffer if they don’t work.

“I am not feeling well because of the stifling heat, but I have to work,” said Ghulam Farid, who owns a small general store in Sheikhupra, a city in Punjab province.

Construction workers were seen sitting near a road on the outskirts of the capital, Islamabad, hoping to get a job. Among them was Mohammad Khursheed, 52, who said he has noticed a change in the patterns of seasons.