Pakistan hopeful to get financing assurances from 'friendly countries' ahead of IMF board meeting

Miftah Ismail, Finance minister of Pakistan, is addressing at a ceremony at the Pakistan Stock Exchange (PSX) on August 5, 2022. (Photo courtesy: @MiftahIsmail/Twitter)
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Updated 05 August 2022

Pakistan hopeful to get financing assurances from 'friendly countries' ahead of IMF board meeting

  • Finance minister says government to continue restrictions on import for three months
  • China has rolled over its deposits, other countries in process of doing the same, Ismail says

KARACHI: Pakistan’s Finance Minister Miftah Ismail said on Friday he was hopeful financing from “friendly countries” would be arranged before the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) board meeting scheduled for later this month.

Pakistan, reeling from economic and political crises, has been actively seeking the revival of its stalled $6 billion loan program from the Fund. Islamabad has removed subsidies from its oil and power sectors to revive the loan, hoping it would be able to shore up its reserves, strengthen the rupee and save the country from a balance-of-payments crisis.

Last month, Ismail said Pakistan was expecting $1.2 billion in financing for oil payment on deferred payment [basis] from a friendly country while another would facilitate it with gas supplies on deferred payments.  He said another country would also invest $1.5 billion to $2 billion in its stocks on a G2G basis.   

“We are in talks with friendly countries,” Ismail told Arab News on the sidelines of the Gong ceremony held at the Pakistan Stock Exchange in Karachi. “There is time in the [IMF] board meeting and hopefully, it would be done (funds would be arranged).”  

Though the finance minister refrained from naming the friendly countries he spoke about, it is largely understood that he meant Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Qatar and China, all close allies of Pakistan.   

Pakistan signed a staff-level agreement with the IMF last month to resume the loan program. This week, the Fund’s top official in Islamabad confirmed Pakistan had met the final precondition for the seventh and eighth review of the loan program and that the board’s meeting is tentatively scheduled for late August.   

 As the finance minister said talks with friendly countries were underway, local media reported that the country’s army chief, General Qamar Javed Bajwa, discussed Pakistan’s IMF program with authorities in Saudi Arabia and the UAE.   

Local media had also reported earlier that Bajwa had spoken to United States Deputy Secretary of State, Wendy Sherman, to seek support for the early disbursement of $1.17 billion to Pakistan.   

Ismail said China had also rolled over its deposits [of $2 billion] at lower interest rates and other countries are also willing to do the same.    

 “China has rolled over its deposits with Pakistan and other countries are also in process of rolling over,” Ismail said, adding, “I will not talk about the interest rate but it is lower than the previous rate.”   

Speaking at the event earlier, Ismail said when he took over the reins of Pakistan’s finances a few months earlier, the country was on the verge of default. “I approached the IMF immediately after becoming finance minister because we did not have [any] other option,” he explained.   

Ismail credited the rupee’s recent appreciation in value to the government’s move to curb imports, adding that they declined to $4.9 billion in July 2022 from $7.7 billion in June. He said the import payment pressure on the rupee had eased, causing it to regain value.     

“The drastic appreciation of the rupee was due to more dollars coming in as compared to going out [of the country],” he said. “We did it by curtailing imports from $7.7 billion and it solved problems. Now, payment pressure will automatically be reduced.”
 
Ismail vowed that Pakistan will not increase its imports, at least for three months. “I understand that growth will be reduced, but I have no other choice,” he said.

Pakistan’s rupee has appreciated by around 6.6 percent since hitting an all-time low at Rs 239.94 against the US dollar on July 28, 2022. Due to curbs on imports and retirement of import payments, analysts said the value of the rupee had increased. The currency on Friday closed at Rs 224.04 with a gain of 0.94% against the greenback.    

Responding to a question about the rupee valuation, the finance minister said according to the Real Effective Exchange Rate (REER) the dollar was overvalued against the rupee. “But the dollar has appreciated against almost all currencies and has made a 22 years record,” he said.

The finance minister also assured banks that the tax on the advance-to-deposit ratio (ADR) will be rationalized.

On Friday, Pakistan stocks closed the weekend session on a bullish note with the benchmark KSE 100 index gaining 670 points.

"The bullish trend was witnessed on the strong rupee and easing trade deficit due to reduced imports," Ahsan Mehanti, CEO of Arif Habib Corporation, told Arab News.

"Strong financial results in the cement sector and reports of the Chief of Army Staff’s (COAS) discussion on the IMF deal with UAE and Saudi Arabia and speculations over the release of IMF bailout funds this month played a catalyst role in the bullish activity,” he added.  


In Karachi’s old town, birthplace of Pakistani founder stands hidden from public eye

Updated 48 min 5 sec ago

In Karachi’s old town, birthplace of Pakistani founder stands hidden from public eye

  • Wazir Mansion in Newnham Road has been officially recognized as Muhammad Ali Jinnah’s birthplace since 1953
  • Some scholars say the actual place of Quaid-e-Azam’s birth was 20 yards away, a building behind Wazir Mansion

KARACHI: While thousands of people flock daily to Mazar-e-Quaid, the mausoleum and final resting place of Muhammad Ali Jinnah in Karachi, and most know that he spent his last days at the Ziarat Residency in Balochistan, few can tell you with certainty where the founder of Pakistan was born.
Jinnah’s official place of birth, the three-story Wazir Mansion, is just a few kilometers away from his tomb, tucked away in a narrow street on Karachi’s Newnham Road, surrounded by shops and residential apartments.
Wazir Mansion was officially recognized in 1953 as the birthplace of Jinnah, revered as the country’s founder, who led the struggle for a separate homeland for the Muslims of the British-ruled Indian subcontinent from 1937 to Aug. 14, 1947, when Pakistan gained independence. He served as the new republic’s first governor general until his death in 1948.
“It was built during 1860-1870 with stone masonry in lime and jute mortar to suit the volatile weather of Karachi,” an information board on the house reads. “This is a precious national monument that provides inspiration to our nation.”

A handout picture, taken on January 10, 2021, shows a board placed by the Sindh government at Wazir Mansion, the residence of Pakistan's founder Muhammad Ali Jinnah, in Karachi. (Instagram/tahirhali)

While there are disputes over whether Wazir Mansion was the actual birthplace of Jinnah — some believe he was born in Jhirk, a small town in Thatta district, over 150 km away from Karachi — the building’s custodian, Muneer Hussain, said the building housed the very room “where Jinnah was born.”
Jinnah’s father, Jinnahbhai Poonja, arrived in Karachi from Mumbai to set up a business, and chose Newnham Road, then a steel trade hub, for his enterprise, Hussain said. He rented an apartment in Wazir Mansion, where Jinnah was born on Dec. 25, 1876.
“Seven siblings of Jinnah were also born in this building,” he told Arab News. “Fifteen hundred to two-thousand people, mostly students, visit us monthly and I want this number to be doubled because this small building has changed the map of the world.”
Dr. Kaleemullah Lashari, an archaeologist and historian, told Arab News theories claiming Jinnah’s birthplace was in another city were incorrect.
“This has been refuted by the statements of Quaid himself,” Lashari said. And then quoting a speech by Jinnah, he added: “He said that, ‘It gives me immense pleasure to stand here in front of you and tell you that I was born in Karachi’.”
However, according to Lashari, it was a building behind Wazir Mansion that was Jinnah’s true place of birth. 
“Jinnahbhai was occupying the part of property which was behind it [Wazir Mansion],” Lashari said.
“So, it’s the building which is behind it and this is the reason that the scholars don’t consider Wazir mansion [as Jinnah’s birthplace] …The Wazir Mansion, the present building which is there, was actually built after 1880, so Jinnahbhai was occupying the part of property which was behind it ... There is a difference of 20 yards.”
While the difference is small, the scholar said it mattered as much as other details of Jinnah’s legacy and life.
“It is very significant [to know where Jinnah was born] but I tell you, not only the birthplace but every aspect of his life is significant and important,” the scholar said. “And there is need that attention is paid to the studies on his life and his works.”


Indian, Pakistani siblings reunite 75 years after Partition

Updated 39 min 5 sec ago

Indian, Pakistani siblings reunite 75 years after Partition

  • The brothers finally met in January at Kartarpur corridor, a rare, visa-free crossing
  • Corridor, opened in 2019, has become a symbol of unity and reconciliation for separated families

BHATINDA, India: Tears of joy rolled down his wizened cheeks when Indian Sika Khan met his Pakistani brother for the first time since being separated by Partition in 1947.
Sikh laborer Sika was just six months old when he and his elder brother Sadiq Khan were torn apart as Britain split the subcontinent at the end of colonial rule.
This year marks the 75th anniversary of Partition, during which sectarian bloodshed killed possibly more than one million people, families like Sika’s were cleaved apart and two independent nations — Pakistan and India — were created.
Sika’s father and sister were killed in communal massacres, but Sadiq, just 10 years old, managed to flee to Pakistan.
“My mother could not bear the trauma and jumped into the river and killed herself,” Sika said at his simple brick house in Bhatinda, a district in the western Indian state of Punjab, which bore the brunt of Partition violence.
“I was left at the mercy of villagers and some relatives who brought me up.”
Ever since he was a child, Sika yearned to find out about his brother, the only surviving member of his family. But he failed to make headway until a doctor in the neighborhood offered to help three years ago.
After numerous phone calls and the assistance of Pakistani YouTuber Nasir Dhillon, Sika was able to be reunited with Sadiq.
The brothers finally met in January at Kartarpur corridor, a rare, visa-free crossing that allows Indian Sikh pilgrims to visit a temple in Pakistan.
The corridor, which opened in 2019, has become a symbol of unity and reconciliation for separated families, despite the lingering hostilities between the two nations.

Sikh pilgrims arrive to take part in a religious ritual on the eve of the birth anniversary of Guru Nanak, founder of Sikhism, at the Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Kartarpur near the India-Pakistan border on November 18, 2021. (AFP/File)

“I am from India and he is from Pakistan, but we have so much love for each other,” said Sika, clutching a faded and framed family photograph.
“We hugged and cried so much when we met for the first time. The countries can keep on fighting. We don’t care about India-Pakistan politics.”
Pakistani farmer and real estate agent Dhillon, 38, a Muslim, says he has helped reunite about 300 families through his YouTube channel together with his friend Bhupinder Singh, a Pakistani Sikh.
“This is not my source of income. It’s my inner affection and passion,” Dhillon told AFP. “I feel like these stories are my own stories or stories of my grandparents, so helping these elders I feel like I am fulfilling the wishes of my own grandparents.”
He said he was deeply moved by the Khan brothers and did everything possible to ensure their reunion.
“When they were reunited at the Kartarpur, not only me but some 600 people at the compound wept so much seeing the brothers being reunited,” he told AFP in Faisalabad, Pakistan.
Millions of Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims are believed to have fled when British administrators began dismantling their empire in 1947.
One million people are estimated to have been killed, though some put the toll at double this figure.
Hindus and Sikhs fled to India, while Muslims fled in the opposite direction.
Tens of thousands of women and girls were raped and trains carrying refugees between the two new nations arrived full of corpses.
The legacy of Partition has endured to this day, resulting in a bitter rivalry between the nuclear-armed neighbors despite their cultural and linguistic links.
However, there is hope of love transcending boundaries.
For Sikhs Baldev and Gurmukh Singh, there was no hesitation in embracing their half-sister Mumtaz Bibi, who was raised Muslim in Pakistan.
As an infant, she was found alongside her dead mother during the riots and was adopted by a Muslim couple.
Their father, assuming his wife and daughter were dead, married his wife’s sister, as was the norm.
The Singh brothers learned their sister was alive with the help of Dhillon’s channel and a chance phone call to a shopkeeper in Pakistan.
The siblings finally met in the Kartarpur corridor earlier this year, breaking down at being able to see each other for the first time in their lives.
“Our happiness knew no bounds when we saw her for the first time,” Baldev Singh, 65, told AFP. “So what if our sister is a Muslim? The same blood flows through her veins.”

Pakistani woman Mumtaz Bibi (C,B) sitting with her Indian brothers Baldev Singh (L) and Gurmukh Singh (R) at the Kartarpur corridor near the India-Pakistan border on May 18, 2022. (AFP/File)

Mumtaz Bibi was equally ecstatic when an AFP team met her in the city of Sheikhupura in Pakistan’s Punjab province.
“When I heard (about my brothers), I thought God is willing it. It is God’s will, and one has to bow before his will and then he blessed me, and I found my brothers,” she said.
“Finding those separated brings happiness. My separation has ended, so I am so content.”


'War minus shooting': partition created fierce cricket rivalry 

Updated 12 August 2022

'War minus shooting': partition created fierce cricket rivalry 

  • Any cricket match between Pakistan and India is one of the most watched events on global sporting calendar
  • 50-over World Cup clash in 2019 between India and Pakistan drew 273 million viewers while 167 million watched last year's T20 World Cup

KARACHI: When India and Pakistan were forged out of violent partition 75 years ago, the split also created one of sport's greatest rivalries.

Today, any cricket match between the two nations is one of the most watched events on the global sporting calendar -- and victory used to promote their respective nationalism.

So strong is the rivalry between the countries that they can't even share the date of the partition which gave them independence, with Pakistan celebrating it on August 14 and India a day later.

"India playing Pakistan involves the sentiments of millions," said Wasim Akram, one of cricket's all-time greats and now a commentator.

"You become a hero if you perform well... you are portrayed as a villain if your team loses," said the former Pakistan skipper.

Matches ignite great fervour but they have also defused military tensions between the two nations, which have fought four wars since independence from Britain in 1947.

During one period of sabre rattling in 1987, as troops massed along their frontier, Pakistan's military ruler General Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq showed up unannounced in New Delhi -- ostensibly to watch a match between the two.

The move, as crafty as any a cricket captain could conjure up on the field, led to a meeting with Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, and tensions eased.\

Still, the on-field rivalry has spilled off the cricket pitch for now.

The neighbours have not played a Test since 2007, instead meeting only in the shorter versions of the game and at multi-team competitions on foreign soil, rather than head-to-head series at home.

When they do play -- as they will at the Asia Cup later this month in the United Arab Emirates -- cricket fans around the world are glued to their TV screens, a multibillion-dollar bonanza for broadcasters.

The 2019 50-over World Cup clash between India and Pakistan drew 273 million viewers, while 167 million watched them in last year's Twenty20 World Cup.

"Nothing can match an Indo-Pakistan bilateral series because it is played in a different league," former prime minister and cricket captain Imran Khan, who led Pakistan to World Cup glory in 1992, said in a Sky Sports documentary.
"The atmosphere is filled with tension, pressure and enjoyment."

Pakistan Cricket Board chief executive Faisal Hasnain called games against India the "mother of all cricket matches".

"Fans want these two countries to play each other on a regular basis but resumption is only likely when there is a thaw in relations," he told AFP.

"We can only wait and hope that happens."

Introduced to the sub-continent in the 18th century, cricket was played mostly by its white colonial rulers, but locals learned the game by being used as bowling or batting fodder in the practice nets.

India won Test status in 1932, but after partition most Muslim players -- including three who had played for the national team -- migrated to Pakistan, who had to build from scratch.

Pakistan's first Test, appropriately, was against India, in 1952 -- and they were led by Abdul Hafeez Kardar, one of the three double internationals.

Since then Pakistan and India have played 59 Tests, with Pakistan winning 12, India nine, and the rest drawn.

In ODIs Pakistan also have the edge, but India have won seven of their nine T20 encounters.

In the women's game, India have won all 11 of their ODIs and 10 of their 12 Twenty20s since first meeting in 2005.

The advent of one-day cricket has only boosted the rivalry with one commentator calling their clashes "war minus shooting".

In 1991, Aaqib Javed's seven-wicket haul, including a hat-trick, helped Pakistan win the Wills Trophy in Sharjah in a match that ended in near-darkness, sparking outrage from the losing Indian side and fans.

"They whinged about it for months," Aaqib said drily.

But Pakistan fans have also shown their bile, sending death threats to Wasim Akram after he withdrew from a key final against India because of injury.

"At times the fans' reaction is intolerable," Akram said.

Former Indian batsman Sanjay Manjrekar said he misses regular clashes against Pakistan.

"It was my favourite opposition for all the entertainment they provided on the field with their banter," he told AFP.

"Plus the fact that they were a damn good side." 


Dubai’s Crown Prince Hamdan meets Pakistani delivery rider after act of goodness goes viral

Updated 11 August 2022

Dubai’s Crown Prince Hamdan meets Pakistani delivery rider after act of goodness goes viral

  • Delivery rider went viral after removing two concrete blocks from a busy intersection while on duty
  • “An honor to meet you Abdul Ghafoor, a true example to be followed,” tweeted Sheikh Hamdan

DUBAI: Dubai’s Crown Prince Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum has met with delivery rider who went viral on social media after removing two concrete blocks from a busy intersection while on duty.
Abdul Ghafoor Abdul Hakeem gained widespread admiration on social media after a video captured the delivery rider waiting for trucks and vehicles to pass before rushing to remove two concrete blocks dangerously laying in middle of the road.
“An honor to meet you Abdul Ghafoor, a true example to be followed,” tweeted Sheikh Hamdan.


Sheikh Hamdan had earlier posted the video as an Instagram story, inviting the public to help him identify the rider.
“An act of goodness in Dubai to be praised. Can someone point me to this man?” he captioned his story.


Pakistan Navy rescues 9 crew members of sinking Indian vessel near Gwadar — media

Updated 12 August 2022

Pakistan Navy rescues 9 crew members of sinking Indian vessel near Gwadar — media

  • The ship “Jamna Sagar” sank with 10 crew members aboard on Tuesday, says navy spokesperson
  • Nearby merchant ship ‘MT KRUIBEKE’ provided necessary assistance to the stranded crew

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Navy on Wednesday saved nine crew members of an Indian vessel after it sank in the Arabian Sea near Gwadar, Pakistani media reported on Thursday, quoting the Director-General Public Relations.

The ship “Jamna Sagar” sank with 10 crew members aboard on Tuesday (August 9), the navy spokesperson said in a statement, available with Dawn.com.

“The navy immediately responded to the distress call and the Pakistan Maritime Information Centre requested a nearby merchant ship ‘MT KRUIBEKE’ to provide necessary assistance to the stranded crew of the drowning sailing vessel,” the spokesman said.

“The merchant ship eventually recovered nine crew members and continued voyage to its next port Dubai and onward disembarked the crew.”

The statement said one Pakistan Navy ship, along with two helicopters, reached the area and located the dead body of one crew member who had gone missing when the vessel sank. 

"The body was handed over to Pakistan Maritime Security Agency (PMSA) authorities for further proceedings," it added.