Lockdown to stem virus in Azad Kashmir so far effective, says president 

A man wearing a facemask walks along a deserted street during a government-imposed nationwide lockdown as a preventive measure against the COVID-19 coronavirus, in Srinagar on March 29, 2020. (AFP)
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Updated 29 March 2020

Lockdown to stem virus in Azad Kashmir so far effective, says president 

  • Says 90 suspected cases in region with two testing positive so far
  • Khan urged Indian government to immediately release thousands of Kashmiris languishing in Indian prisons

ISLAMABAD: Azad Jammu and Kashmir President Sardar Masood Khan said on Sunday he was satisfied with the efforts of various state departments and institutions to contain the coronavirus pandemic in the territory.
On Monday, a three week lockdown in the territory came into effect for its roughly 4 million residents. Khan said there were currently 90 people suspected to have contracted the disease, with two testing positive and six whose final results were awaited. No fatalities have so far been reported in the region.
“As the testing increases, there may be other cases but by and large the impact of coronavirus is less in the region,” the president told Arab News and added: “We are not facing any food shortages so far and supply chains are fully working.
The lockdown has been enforced in all big and small cities, he added, with various measures adopted for social distancing as well as to ensure little participation in religious congregations and social gatherings.
He said the government had set up quarantine centers and upgraded facilities at all major hospitals, and Pakistan’s National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) had extended its help.
At the same time, Khan said he was deeply concerned about the spread of the pandemic across the border in Indian administered Kashmir, and urged the Indian government to immediately release thousands of Kashmiris languishing in various Indian prisons.
He said the prisons in India and Indian administered Kashmir were crowded beyond capacity. 
“The outbreak of COVID-19 has necessitated immediate release of all the prisoners particularly the inmates suffering from complicated diseases,” he said.
“People in Indian Kashmir are under double lockdown,” he added and appealed to the international community, particularly the United Nations, to take strict notice of new restrictions imposed by India on the movement of citizens and on the Internet in Indian administered Kashmir. 
“The people of occupied Kashmir are facing great difficulties in reaching hospitals and health facilities due to the latest Indian restrictions, and getting information about the COVID-19 due to blockade of Internet services,” he said, and warned the current state of affairs could lead to a faster spread of the virus in the Indian administered territory.
On Sunday, Pakistan’s foreign office said in a statement the humanitarian situation in Indian administered Kashmir had been dire since August last year, and called for the immediate release of Kashmiri prisoners and the lifting of restrictions in the territory in the wake of the deadly new pandemic sweeping the world.
The total number of Covid-19 cases in India crossed the 1,000 mark on Sunday with around 33 cases in Indian administered Kashmir.


Pakistan plans to raise $1.5bln in Eurobonds, officials say

Updated 29 May 2020

Pakistan plans to raise $1.5bln in Eurobonds, officials say

  • The country’s central bank recently cut its policy rate drastically to cope with the coronavirus
  • The Pakistani economy is likely to contract -1% to -1.5% in the current financial year, according to the IMF

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan plans to raise $1.5 billion through Eurobonds to bridge a balance of payments gap for the financial year beginning July 1, two government officials said on Friday.
With the country’s fiscal deficit likely to rise as high as 9.4% and a shortfall in revenues due to COVID-19 economic losses, Pakistan desperately needs funds to stave off balance of payment pressure caused by dwindling foreign reserves and a current account deficit.
“Pakistan plans to launch these bonds in next fiscal year. Exact dates and amount can’t be confirmed at the moment as it depends on market situation,” an official at the finance ministry told Reuters.
Another official at Pakistan’s ministry of economic affairs said Pakistan wants to raise an estimate $1.5 billion. Both officials requested anonymity.
The Pakistani economy is likely to contract -1% to -1.5% in the current financial year, which ends in just over a month, on June 30, according to the International Monetary Fund and the country’s finance ministry.
The plan is subject to approval from Pakistan’s cabinet. Its terms would be made public at launching.
In the current financial year, Pakistan attracted over $4.4 billion in carry-trade funds through government financial instruments, including treasury bills and bonds, offering rates as high as 13%.
Pakistan’s central bank recently cut its policy rate drastically to cope with the coronavirus. Over $4.1 billion has flowed out of government instruments to date as the effects of the global pandemic hit markets.
Pakistan is also expecting more multilateral and bilateral external inflows in next financial year, including the IMF, as well as debt relief from G20 countries.
Moody’s has placed Pakistan’s local and foreign currency long-term issuer B3 ratings under review for downgrade, citing a potential default on private sector debt.