Greenback continues to surge, touches new all-time high against Pakistani rupee

A Pakistani dealer counts US dollars at a currency exchange shop in Karachi, Pakistan, on November 30, 2018. (AFP/File)
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Updated 15 September 2021

Greenback continues to surge, touches new all-time high against Pakistani rupee

  • The US dollar hit Rs169.12 on Wednesday amid reports of market intervention by the central bank
  • Experts say there is some indication central bank intervening in market to support rupee by selling US dollars

KARACHI: The US dollar continued to surge against the Pakistani rupee and hit another all-time high of Rs169.12 for the second consecutive day on Wednesday, according to the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) data. 
Early on Wednesday, the rupee depreciated by 46 paisas against the greenback, according to an update on Mettis Global, a web-based financial data and analytics portal. 
The US dollar closed the trading session at Rs169.12 in the interbank market, beating Tuesday’s record high of Rs168.94. In the open market, it was trading at Rs169.30 for buying and Rs169.60 for selling (by currency dealers). 
“Despite encouraging economic indicators, the rupee is depreciating mainly because of the widening trade deficit and the flow of dollar to Afghanistan,” Zafar Paracha, general secretary of the Exchange Companies Association of Pakistan, told Arab News. 
“The demand for dollar in Afghanistan is rising after the withdrawal of NATO and US forces that were the main sources of dollar flows [in the war-torn country].” 
Speaking on the condition of anonymity, some currency traders told Arab News there was an indication the central bank was intervening in the market to support the rupee by selling US dollars. The SBP did not respond to a request for comments. 
It is scheduled to announce its monetary policy on September 20, with analysts expecting it to increase the policy rate by 25 basis points (bps). 
The stock market also reacted negatively to the rupee’s depreciation and the benchmark KSE-100 Index closed at 46,716 points, showing a decline of 175 points. 

Daesh uses Taliban's own tactics to attack Afghanistan's new rulers

Updated 5 sec ago

Daesh uses Taliban's own tactics to attack Afghanistan's new rulers

  • Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid has downplayed the threat from Daesh
  • Commanders on the ground do not dismiss the threat so lightly

KABUL: A little more than a month after toppling the Western-backed government in Kabul, Afghanistan's new Taliban rulers are facing internal enemies who have adopted many of the tactics of urban warfare that marked their own successful guerrilla campaign.
A deadly attack on Kabul airport last month and a series of bomb blasts in the eastern city of Jalalabad, all claimed by the local affiliate of Daesh, have underlined the threat to stability from violent militant groups who remain unreconciled to the Taliban.
While the movement's spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid has downplayed the threat, saying this week that Daesh had no effective presence in Afghanistan, commanders on the ground do not dismiss the threat so lightly.
Two members of the movement's intelligence services who investigated some of the recent attacks in Jalalabad said the tactics showed the group remained a danger, even if it did not have enough fighters and resources to seize territory.
Using sticky bombs - magnetic bombs usually stuck to the underside of cars - the attacks targeted Taliban members in exactly the same way the Taliban itself used to hit officials and civil society figures to destabilize the former government.
"We are worried about these sticky bombs that once we used to apply to target our enemies in Kabul. We are concerned about our leadership as they could target them if not controlled them successfully," said one of the Taliban intelligence officials.
Daesh in Khorasan, the name taken from the ancient name for the region that includes modern Afghanistan, first emerged in late 2014 but has declined from its peak around 2018 following a series of heavy losses inflicted by both the Taliban and U.S. forces.
Taliban security forces in Nangarhar said they had killed three members of the movement on Wednesday night and the intelligence officials said the movement still retains the ability to cause trouble through small-scale attacks.
"Their main structure is broken and they are now divided in small groups to carry out attacks," one of them said.
The Taliban have said repeatedly that they will not allow Afghanistan to be used as a base for attacks on other countries. But some Western analysts believe the return of the Islamist group to power has invigorated groups like Daesh-K and al Qaeda, which had made Afghanistan their base when the Taliban last ruled the country.
"In Afghanistan, the return of Taliban is a huge victory for the Islamists," said Rohan Gunaratna, professor of security studies at Singapore's Nanyang Technological University. "They have celebrated the return of the Taliban, so I think that Afghanistan is the new theatre."
Daesh-K is believed to draw many of its fighters from the ranks of the Taliban or the Pakistani version of the Taliban, known as the TTP, but much of the way it operates remains little understood.
It has fought the Taliban over smuggling routes and other economic interests but it also supports a global Caliphate under Islamic law, in contrast with the Taliban which insists it has no interest in anywhere outside Afghanistan.
Most analysts, as well as the United Nations, peg Daesh-K's strength at under 2,000 fighters, compared to as many as 100,000 at the Taliban's disposal. The ranks of Daesh-K were swollen with prisoners released when Afghanistan's jails were opened by the Taliban as they swept through the country.
According to a June report by the UN security council, Daesh-K's financial and logistic ties to its parent organisation in Syria have weakened, though it does retain some channels of communication.
"Funding support to the Khorasan branch from the core is believed to have effectively dried up," the report said.
However, the report said signs of divisions within the Taliban, which have already started to emerge, could encourage more fighters to defect as the wartime insurgency tries to reshape itself into a peacetime administration.
"It remains active and dangerous, particularly if it is able, by positioning itself as the sole pure rejectionist group in Afghanistan, to recruit disaffected Taliban and other militants to swell its ranks," the UN said.

Establishment of Saudi-Pak Supreme Coordination Council shows depth of relationship — Riyadh envoy

Updated 15 min 9 sec ago

Establishment of Saudi-Pak Supreme Coordination Council shows depth of relationship — Riyadh envoy

  • Council announced in 2018 “to fast-track decisions in key areas of bilateral cooperation, and for close monitoring of their implementation”
  • Seminar organized in Islamabad to mark Saudi Arabia’s 91st National Day and attended by top officials including president, information minister

ISLAMABAD: Saudi ambassador to Pakistan Nawaf bin Said Al-Malki said on Thursday the establishment of the Saudi-Pakistani Supreme Coordination Council showed the depth and importance of the relationship between the kingdom and Islamabad. 

The envoy’s comments to Arab News came on the sidelines of a seminar organized in Islamabad to mark Saudi Arabia’s 91st National Day and attended by top officials including the president, information minister and national security advisor.

In February 2019, Prime Minister Imran Khan held a one-on-one meeting with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman in Islamabad, followed by the inaugural session of the Supreme Coordination Council, which was co-chaired by the two leaders. 

The high-powered council was proposed by the crown prince during a visit by Khan to Saudi Arabia in October 2018. The objective, as the Pakistani foreign ministry announced at the time, “was to put in place a high level institutional mechanism to fast track decisions in key areas of bilateral cooperation, and for close monitoring of their implementation.”

“The agreement to establish the Saudi-Pakistani Supreme Coordination Council showed the depth and importance of the relationship between the two countries,” the Saudi envoy told Arab News, adding that a visit by Khan to Saudi Arabia this May had helped strengthen the relationship. We have always stood by Pakistan in thick and thin since its independence.”

Addressing the seminar, President Arif Alvi described Pakistan’s relations with Saudi Arabia as “exemplary,” saying that the kingdom had always helped Pakistan in difficult times and the entire Muslim world looked toward it for leadership.

“Saudi Arabia has supported Pakistan at every critical stage,” Alvi said. “The kingdom even stood by us after the nuclear tests [of May 1998] when everyone was trying to isolate us.”

“Pakistanis love every bit of the Saudi land,” he continued. “This love between the peoples of the two countries is ideological and will remain forever.”

The Pakistani president said there was an “exemplary” cooperation between the two states on all international forums.

“I feel that the whole Muslim ummah looks toward Saudi Arabia for leadership,” he said. “The kingdom has been the leader of the Muslim world and is still continuing to play that role effectively.”

Appreciating Saudi Vision 2030, a framework to reduce the kingdom’s dependence on oil and diversify its economy, Alvi said it would bring about a historical change and constitute a major turning point for the Arab country.

“Saudi vision 2030 will lead to a historic change and I pray for its success. Neom city [that plans to incorporate smart city technologies and function as a tourist destination] will be a unique place for the whole world,” he said, adding that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman had skillfully developed the vision for the future of his kingdom.

Pakistan’s information minister Chaudhry Fawad Hussain, who was also present at the gathering, said the bilateral relations between the two countries had entered a new phase under the leadership of the Pakistani prime minister and the Saudi crown prince.

Recounting the history of these ties, he said that Saudi Arabia had supported the All India Muslim League before August 1947 by donating £10,000 on the appeal of Pakistan’s founding father, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, to deal with a crippling famine in Bengal.

“The kingdom also helped Pakistan with its membership of the United Nations after the independence,” he added.

Pakistan’s religious affairs minister Pir Noorul Haq Qadri said that every Pakistani’s heart and soul were connected to the holy land.

“On behalf of the Pakistani nation, I would like to appreciate the services rendered by the Saudi leadership to the pilgrims during Hajj and Umrah,” he said.

Prime Minister Imran Khan’s special assistant on the Middle East Tahir Mahmood Ashrafi, who organized the event, praised the Saudi leadership for showing unconditional love and respect for his country.

“The two countries have remained close partners in all circumstances,” he said.

Islamabad court to frame charges against suspects in Noor Mukadam case on Oct 6

Updated 23 September 2021

Islamabad court to frame charges against suspects in Noor Mukadam case on Oct 6

  • A public prosecutor says every suspect denies charges in the court and the same thing was also expected in this time
  • The Islamabad High Court has reserved its judgment in the bail application of Zahir Jaffer’s parents after completion of arguments

ISLAMABAD: A local court in Islamabad on Thursday announced to frame charges against all twelve suspects, including prime accused Zahir Zakir Jaffer, in the gruesome beheading of Noor Mukadam two months ago while another court reserved its judgment on the bail application of Zahir’s parents.
In a district and sessions court in the federal capital, Additional Sessions Judge Ata Rabbani formally started the murder trial by distributing the copies of challan – or charge sheet – among the suspects.
At least six accused in the case, including the owner of Therapy Works counseling center, appeared before the court on Thursday on their own as they have all been on bail.
The judge directed the police to submit a complete challan in the case by October 6 so that charges could be framed against all the suspects.
The purpose of framing a charge is to give intimation to the accused of clear, unambiguous and precise notice of the nature of accusation that the accused is called upon to meet during the course of a trial.
Mukadam, the 27-year-old daughter of a former Pakistani diplomat, was found beheaded at a residence in Islamabad’s upscale F-7/4 neighborhood on July 20 in a case that has sparked public outrage and grabbed media attention unlike any other recent crime against women.
Zahir was arrested from the crime scene on the day of the murder. He was initially on police remand but was moved to Adiala Jail in Rawalpindi city on judicial remand in early August.
Sajid Cheema, a public prosecutor in the case, said every suspect denies charges against him in the court and the same was also expected to happen in this case.
“After this process, the police will present all the related evidence in the case and the prosecution will bring witnesses to get their statements recorded [before the court],” Cheema told Arab News.
The principal suspect’s parents, Zakir Jaffer and Asmat Adamjee, are also under arrest along with three members of their household staff for a range of charges in relation to the case. Both parents had applied for a bail in Islamabad High Court after it was rejected from a district court.
The Islamabad High Court on Thursday reserved the judgment in the bail application and is likely to announce it anytime in the coming days.
During the hearing, the investigation officer of the case Inspector Abdul Sattar revealed the police were still waiting for a forensic report of the mobile phones of Noor and Zahir from the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA).
The screen of Zahir’s phone was found smashed while the FIA was still striving to find the password of Noor’s phone to access its data, the investigator told the court.
“There are a lot of experts available in the market, you may look for a hacker [to crack the password],” Justice Aamer Farooq of the Islamabad High Court remarked.
Advocate Shah Khawar, who is representing the Mukadam family, requested the court to deny bail to Zahir’s parents as he said they were involved in the murder. He informed the court that the suspect was in touch with his parents over the phone before and after the murder, adding that they knew about the incident and had a link to it.
The judge, however, remarked the call data record could only confirm that phone calls were made between the said individuals but not reveal the content of the conversation.
The court was also told that a citizen named Zubair had informed the police at 9:45pm on July 20 about Noor’s murder at Jaffer’s residence in Islamabad.
Khawar also requested the judicial authority to form a special court to hold daily hearing of the trial, but the judge pointed out that the ordinance related to the establishment of special courts had already expired.
“It seems like you want to delay the case [by repeatedly referring to special courts],” the judge remarked.
Khawar, however, denied the notion.
“You can move a separate application for the special court,” Justice Aamer Farooq asked the lawyer of the Mukadam family.

Italy asks Pakistan to extradite parents of teen murdered in arranged marriage row

Updated 23 September 2021

Italy asks Pakistan to extradite parents of teen murdered in arranged marriage row

  • Announcement came after news Wednesday the uncle of 18-year-old Saman Abbas was arrested in Paris
  • Case has sparked outrage in Italy and been front page news since police began investigating teen's disappearance in May

ROME: Italy said Thursday it had asked Pakistan to extradite the parents of a teenage girl suspected of having been murdered by her family after refusing an arranged marriage. 
The announcement came after news Wednesday that the uncle of 18-year-old Saman Abbas had been arrested in Paris, accused of her murder alongside her parents and two of her cousins. 
The case has sparked outrage in Italy and has become front page news since police began investigating the teenager’s disappearance in May. Her body has yet to be found. 
“Justice Minister Marta Cartabia... has signed and sent to Pakistan the two extradition requests for the parents of Saman Abbas, who are under investigation for the murder of their daughter,” the justice ministry said Thursday. 
Prosecutors had on Wednesday announced the arrest on a European warrant of the teenager’s uncle on the outskirts of Paris. 
Saman Abbas, who lived in the northern Italian town of Novellara, last year refused her family’s plan to have her marry a cousin in their home country of Pakistan. 
While still a minor, she turned to social services and in November was moved into a shelter home. She also reported her parents to police, but on April 11 returned to them. 
Police began searching for her on May 5, when officers visited her house and found nobody. 
Officers then discovered that the girl’s parents had left for Pakistan without her, and found images from a nearby security camera that made them fear the worst.
Late on April 29, five people could be seen walking off from the house holding shovels, a crowbar and a bucket, and returning after about two-and-a-half hours.
One cousin accused in the case is currently in jail in Italy. 

China asks Pakistan to improve security of its workers as ‘precondition’ for CPEC progress

Updated 23 September 2021

China asks Pakistan to improve security of its workers as ‘precondition’ for CPEC progress

  • Demand came during meeting of CPEC Joint Cooperation Committee, held after two-year hiatus
  • At least nine Chinese nationals have been killed in recent attacks in Pakistan

ISLAMABAD: China on Thursday asked Islamabad to improve security conditions for its workers in Pakistan as a “precondition” for progress on the multi-billion-dollar China-Pakistan Economic Corridor projects. 
The demand came during a meeting of the CPEC Joint Cooperation Committee (JCC), the apex decision-making body for the economic corridor projects.
The meeting, held after a hiatus of almost two years, was co-chaired by Pakistan’s Planning Minister Asad Umar and Chinese National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) deputy chief Ning Jizhe. 
“Recently, we have seen the unfortunate increase in tragic incidents happening to Chinese people and Chinese companies in Pakistan,” Ning said. 
“We hope that Pakistan will take effective measures to strengthen protection of Chinese people and Chinese employees in Pakistan so they can work in [a] safe environment.” 

Pakistani government offiicials attend the meeting of the CPEC Joint Cooperation Committee (JCC) held in Islamabad, Pakistan, on September 23, 2021. (Photo courtesy: CPEC Authority) 

Last month, a suicide bomb attack on a motorcade carrying Chinese personnel injured one Chinese national and killed two local children in Pakistan’s southwestern Balochistan province. The incident took place on the East Bay Expressway in the port city of Gwadar, which lies at the heart of CPEC. 
The Gwadar attack followed the 14 July bombing that killed nine Chinese nationals among 13 people, who were en route to a dam construction site in northern Pakistan. 
Planning Minister Umar noted that Prime Minister Imran Khan himself led security reviews after the recent attacks targeting Chinese nationals in Pakistan. 
“[An] expanded security system has been designed, it has been shared with the Chinese,” Umar said at Thursday’s meeting, adding that he was confident of a secure environment for workers on the joint projects. 
CPEC has seen Beijing pledge over $60 billion for infrastructure projects in Pakistan, central to China’s wider Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) to develop land and sea trade routes in Asia and beyond. 
Umar said the Pakistani government was fully committed to CPEC and considered it critical for the country’s growth and development. 
In a Twitter post earlier, he expressed hopes that the “JCC will lay the foundation for further acceleration and broadening of CPEC.”