Pakistan’s national currency continues to gain against greenback

A foreign currency dealer counts US dollars at a shop in Karachi, Pakistan, on May 19, 2022. (AFP/File)
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Updated 11 August 2022

Pakistan’s national currency continues to gain against greenback

  • Pakistani rupee gained Rs3.03 to close at Rs218.88 against the greenback in the interbank market
  • Rupee in the open market also appreciated from Rs218 to Rs216 for selling during trading on Thursday

KARACHI: Pakistan’s national currency on Thursday continued its bullish trend and appreciated 1.38 percent against the United States dollar amid easing balance of payment pressure and expected inflows from the International Monetary Fund, traders and analysts said.

The Pakistani rupee gained Rs3.03 to close at Rs218.88 against the greenback in the interbank market following eight consecutive appreciation trading sessions. The rupee has recouped its value by 9.3% or Rs21 against the greenback in the continued uptrend, according to State Bank of Pakistan data.

“There are couple of reasons for the current appreciation of the Pak rupee against dollar including easing off balance of payment pressure and declining demand at home after government’s administrative measures to curtail imports,” Tahir Abbas, Director Research at Arif Habib Limited, told Arab News.  

“Declining current account deficit and price cut of oil and other commodities also eased off pressure on the rupee. The expected inflows from the IMF by the end of this month and undervalued currency are also the key reasons of rupee appreciation.”  

Following austerity measures by the government and a restriction on imports, the import bill has declined from $7.8 billion in June 2022 to $4.8 billion in July 2022, which has not only reduced the trade deficit but also eased pressure on the national currency.  

The rupee in the open market also appreciated from Rs218 to Rs216 for selling during trading on Thursday. The currency in the open market has appreciated by over 11% or Rs28 since July 29, 2022, according to the Exchange Companies Association of Pakistan (ECAP).

“There are only sellers in the market after the sentiments have changed following the measures taken by government and the central bank,” Zafar Paracha, General Secretary of ECAP told Arab News.
 
“The central bank has taken action against the banks’ treasuries departments which were involved in maneuvering of dollar in interbank market. In addition, the expected reduction in the import bill of August has also played appreciation role.”    

The pressure on the Pakistani rupee eased off after the government took steps to curtail imports and meet preconditions of the IMF for the revival of a $6 billion program signed in 2019 to stave off a balance of payment crisis.  

The IMF said last month it had reached a staff level agreement with Pakistan that would pave the way for the disbursement of $1.17 billion after its board approval later this month. Islamabad also has to convince the fund about the availability of funds for a $4 billion financing gap.

Last week, the UAE’s state news agency had reported that the country intended to invest $1 billion in Pakistani companies across various sectors, which include gas, energy infrastructure, renewable energy and healthcare.

Following the current bullish trend in the currency market, Pakistani analysts said the currency was likely to appreciate further to around Rs200 against the greenback in the near future.  

Stocks, however, on Thursday, remained bearish mainly due to profit taking that kicked off during the midsession. The benchmark KSE-100 index closed at 42,243 points, down by 251 points.

“Stocks fell sharply lower on political noise and hike in power tariff. Mid session support remained on strong rupee and falling Pakistan dollar bond yields,” Ahsan Mehanti, CEO of Arif Habib Corporation, told Arab News. “Investor concerns for weak earnings outlook played a catalyst role in bearish close.”


Saran Inam murder: Pakistan investigators to search bank accounts over extortion accusations against suspect

Updated 6 sec ago

Saran Inam murder: Pakistan investigators to search bank accounts over extortion accusations against suspect

  • Victim’s father says daughter was “trapped” into marriage by Shahnawaz Amir to fleece her out of money
  • Mobile phones of both suspect and victim sent to the Federal Investigation Agency for forensics analysis

ISLAMABAD: A police official who is leading an investigation into the beating death of a Pakistani-Canadian woman allegedly by her husband last week has said investigators had sought the court’s permission to obtain bank records of the suspect to prove accusations he had been extorting his wife.

Sarah Inam, a 37-year-old economist who worked in Abu Dhabi, was murdered with dumbbells, according to police, by her husband Shahnawaz Amir at a suburban Islamabad home last week. Inam got married to Amir of her own choice on July 18 in his hometown of Chakwal. The parents of the couple were not present at the event.

Amir is currently under arrest and being investigated by police.

At Inam’s funeral on Wednesday, her father Inam Rahim said his daughter had been “trapped” into marriage by Amir to fleece her out of money.

“We know the relevant bank account of the suspect in which he was receiving money from her wife Sarah Inam,” Habib-ur-Rehman, who is leading the investigation, told Arab News on Thursday. “The suspect has confessed during the investigation that he received around one million rupees from her wife, but we have yet to corroborate it with the banking transactions.”

Under Pakistani law, police cannot directly access the bank accounts of suspects but need to seek permission from a relevant court.

“We have filed an application in the Islamabad High Court for this,” the inspector said.

Investigators have also seized the mobile phones of both the suspect and the victim and dispatched them to the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) for forensics analysis.

“The suspect has shared his mobile phone’s password with the police, while experts will open the victim’s phone with the help of certain softwares to look for the relevant information,” Rehman said.

A 1996 model Mercedes car was seized from the home where Inam died, the inspector said, which the victim had paid for but whose ownership was transferred fraudulently to the suspect. Police were also investigating the incident, he added. 

Rehman said the suspect had torn up Inam’s Canadian passport also, which investigators needed for their probe.

“Her passport was torn into pieces, and we have yet to put it together,” he said. “The police would know from Sarah’s passport how many times she traveled to Pakistan after her marriage.”

Rehman said a police team had also visited Chakwal, Amir’s hometown, to verify the couple’s nikah and question witnesses and others who participated in the ceremony.

“The nikah of the couple is verified,” the investigator said. “It was done at the residence of one of Shahnawaz Amir’s friends in Chakwal city.”

Meanwhile, a district court in Islamabad on Thursday extended the custody of Amir for another four days to allow police to complete the investigation. 

No member of Inam’s family or lawyers representing them appeared in the court to plead the case.


Industry stakeholders say more local content, training needed to sustain Pakistan movie business

Updated 6 min 4 sec ago

Industry stakeholders say more local content, training needed to sustain Pakistan movie business

  • Ban on Indian movies left ‘void’ that needs to be filled with more local content — film distributor
  • Filmmakers, directors urge stakeholders to take ownership of films to ensure industry's success

KARACHI: Pakistani cinema owners and film distributors say Pakistan needs to produce more local content to fill the void created by the ban on Indian movies and ensure the country’s film industry recovers from its slump.  

Pakistan’s film industry and cinema theatres across the country are finally limping back to normalcy post coronavirus as films slated for release a couple of years earlier are finally seeing the light of day.  

While the hustle and bustle of crowds have indeed returned to Pakistani cinemas and crowds once again queue in line to watch their favorite stars on the silver screen, box office reports haven’t been as promising.  

Two of the most anticipated films released on Eid ul Adha 2022, ‘London Nahi Jaunga’ and ‘Quaid e Azam Zindabad’ failed to surpass previous records. Movie buffs are now keenly awaiting the release of ‘The Legend of Maula Jatt’ which is said to be Pakistan’s most expensive film to date. It is scheduled to be released on October 13.   

Movie distributor and cinema owner Nadeem Mandviwalla told Arab News movies that have hit theatres recently had “piled up because of COVID-19”, adding that Pakistan cannot make more than 15-16 movies a year.  

“Cinema needs content. We need to fill the void created by the ban on Indian films,” Mandviwalla said. “The industry was running well for 12 years when 100 films [a year] came from India, 100 came from Hollywood and 15-20 used to be Pakistani,” he added.  

“The total requirement was 215 but the number has shrunk to 115 due to the ban on Indian films,” he said. “We either need to bring Indian films back to Pakistani cinemas or produce additional 50-60 local films each year to fill the gap.” 

Following heightened tensions with India, Pakistan banned the screening of Bollywood films in February 2019. After over a decade since Pakistan witnessed the revival of cinema, thanks mainly to the critically acclaimed 2007 film ‘Khuda Kay Liye’, Pakistan’s film industry was thriving till 2018.  

Then came the ban in 2019 and cinema business in the South Asian country witnessed a drop of over 50% in sales.  

Mandviwalla said the government restricted Indian films hence it should come up with a solution to the declining cinema business. “They should offer grants to make films. If the government does not have the strength to offer grants to filmmakers, then [it] stop crying,” he added.  

Over 30 Pakistani films were scheduled to release in 2020, which would have made up for the losses suffered by the cinema industry due to the Bollywood ban. However, the advent of the coronavirus pandemic meant cinemas in Pakistan were robbed of life and films meant to enthrall audiences were shelved till 2022.   

Four films released on Eid ul Fitr 2022, namely ‘Ghabrana Nahi Hai’, ‘Dam Mastam’, ‘Chakkar’ and ‘Parde Mein Rehne Do’ were unable to earn profit. The movies’ shows were reduced after a week while Marvel’s blockbuster Dr Strange was released in cinemas across Pakistan on the first weekend after Eid ul Fitr.  

“A lot of money is going to waste because the 25-30 films made each year are not fit for cinema,” Irfan Malik, a filmmaker and distributor, told Arab News. “The cost of these films is going down the drain which, in turn, discourages a first-time investor to make more films. All of the money is misguided.” 

He said Pakistan’s film industry does not have enough writers and that the entire pool of talent comes from the TV industry. Malik said there is a dire need to have an authority or organization, comprising members from the private sector and the film industry.  

This authority or organization should provide guidance in terms of investment, scripts and filmmaking, he said. “The industry needs 15-20 filmmakers to stand on its feet. The day we do that, it will be a total restructuring for the industry,” he added.  

“If 15 filmmakers make one film each, the industry needs 15 hit films a year to survive.” 

A panel discussion on the topic ‘Restructuring Pakistani Film Industry’ which was part of a two-day film festival, was held at the National Academy of Performing Arts (NAPA) in Karachi on September 24 and 25. 

Pakistani filmmaker Sabiha Sumar—known for her independent documentary films in Pakistan and abroad—spoke during the panel discussion, saying that filmmakers should focus on digital platforms to open their movies to wider audiences.  

“Now we need to take the control into our hands instead of asking the state to support us, which they should have in 75 years,” Sumar said.  

“We have YouTube and other digital platforms so we should make content and upload whatever we like,” she added.  “One does not need to learn or see anything to become a filmmaker anymore, you learn by doing.” 

Actor and director Mohammed Ehteshamuddin said the industry needed to take ownership of its films collectively. “In our industry, channel rivalry hinders the promotion of films after one channel acquires the rights,” he added.  

He said ticket prices should be discounted, particularly for students and the youth, to less than 50% of their current prices. “If they watch stories, only then they will be able to tell stories in the future. Cinema is a powerful tool and the process needs to go on,” he added. 


Three million children may miss a semester in flood-hit Pakistan — officials

Updated 29 September 2022

Three million children may miss a semester in flood-hit Pakistan — officials

  • In southern Sindh province, Pakistan’s worst-hit area, flooding has damaged about 15,000 schools
  • Pakistan, UNICEF and other agencies have set up temporary learning centers in flood-ravaged areas

ISLAMABAD: Almost 3 million children in Pakistan may miss at least one semester because of flood damage to schools, officials said Thursday, following heavy monsoon rains likely worsened by climate change.

Unprecedented deluges since mid-June have affected more than 33 million people, inundated millions of acres of land and devastated infrastructure, including education facilities.

Local authorities have set up temporary learning centers in flood-hit areas to enable children to keep studying. However, officials say these measures are not enough, given the scale of destruction.

In southern Sindh province, Pakistan’s worst-hit area, flooding has damaged about 15,000 schools, where 2.4 million children were enrolled, according to the local education department.

It has raised fears that at least 2.8 million children across the country may miss a semester, officials at the Planning Commission and National Disaster Management Authority told The Associated Press. Pakistan, UNICEF and other agencies have set up scores of temporary learning centers, they said.

On Thursday, Planning Minister Ahsan Iqbal told journalists at the military-backed National Flood Response and Coordination Center that the deluges have caused so much destruction that relief and rehabilitation work will continue for two years.

The floods have killed 1,666 people, and damaged 643 schools in Balochistan, 109 in Punjab and 287 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provinces. The majority of those killed or affected by the disaster are women and children, according to data released Wednesday by the National Disaster Management Authority.

A World Bank report released Wednesday said the flooding had heavily impacted schools. The Government High School Ahmadani, in Punjab’s Dera Ghazi Khan district, had served generations of students since 1916. But it was no longer functional because of flood damage, it said.

“An estimated 3.5 million children have had their schooling disrupted,” the World Bank report said.

It quoted Gohar Abbas, an education activist, as saying many schools have been transferred to emergency shelters where families have temporary accommodation.

The new government data comes as UK-based charity Save the Children estimates that almost half of flood-affected families are sleeping outside in tents or makeshift shelters.

It surveyed 1,200 households in the four worst-hit provinces. Most of the families surveyed had lost their homes and were living in squalid conditions near roadsides, using pieces of cloth or tarpaulin for shelter from monsoon rains.

Save the Children’s country director in Pakistan, Khuram Gondal, said Pakistan was now in the grip of a major health emergency.

“In Sindh province, I saw hundreds of thousands of people living in filthy conditions in makeshift camps – some with only a plastic sheet to protect themselves from the heavy monsoon rains,” Gondal said. “We’re seeing children dying from waterborne diseases every day, and things will only get worse the longer they go on sleeping outside without shelter, food or water.”

He said teams on the ground were doing everything they can to ensure people have food, shelter, and clean drinking water. “But the reality is, there aren’t nearly enough funds to meet the desperate level of need.”

The charity has so far reached over 28,000 people, including more than 14,000 children, he said.

On Aug. 31, the United Nations and Pakistan issued an appeal for $160 million in emergency funding to help flood victims.

UNICEF last week renewed its appeal for $39 million to help the most vulnerable, saying only a third of the sum had been met so far.


Pakistani former prime minister’s daughter acquitted in ‘Avenfield Reference’

Updated 29 September 2022

Pakistani former prime minister’s daughter acquitted in ‘Avenfield Reference’

  • Sharifs accused of embezzling public funds to offshore accounts used to purchase four luxury Avenfield properties
  • Graft case also implicated Sharif’s sons, Hassan and Hussain, Maryam Nawaz and husband Safdar Awan acquitted

ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Thursday acquitted Maryam Nawaz, the daughter of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, and her husband Muhammad Safdar Awan in a case popularly known as the Avenfield Reference that relates to the purchase of a number of upscale properties in London. 


The Sharifs were accused of embezzling public funds to offshore accounts that were used to purchase four high valued Avenfield properties, an apartment block on Park Lane in central London. The graft case also implicated Sharif’s sons, Hassan and Hussain.

The Sharifs say the case is politically motivated.

In July 2018, an accountability court sentenced former PM Sharif to 10 years in prison in the case and gave his daughter Maryam Nawaz seven years for abetment. Sharif’s son-in-law Awan got a one-year sentence for not cooperating with the investigation. 

Th ex-PM and his daughter subsequently filed an appeal against the jail sentence with the Islamabad High Court, asking it to annul the verdict of the accountability court.

"This is how lies come to end," Nawaz said after the acquittal hearing, lauding her legal team for fighting her case for four years.

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, the younger brother of Nawaz Sharif, took to the Twitter:

“The edifice of lies, slander & character assassination has come crumbling down today,” he said.

“Maryam Nawaz's acquittal in the Avenfield Reference is a slap in the face of so-called accountability system that was employed to target Sharif family. My congratulations to Maryam Beti [daughter] & Safdar.”

 

 

 

Sharif was also sentenced in a separate case to seven years in prison in December 2018 and fined $25 million on corruption charges. An anti-corruption court in Islamabad ruled that Sharif was unable to prove the source of income that had led to his ownership of a steel mill in Saudi Arabia.

Sharif left the country to receive medical treatment in London in 2019 and has since not returned.


Pakistan fast bowler Naseem Shah tests positive for COVID-19

Updated 29 September 2022

Pakistan fast bowler Naseem Shah tests positive for COVID-19

  • Shah was discharged from hospital on Thursday after being diagnosed with pneumonia
  • Shah played only one game in 7-match series against England at Karachi before being rested

LAHORE: Pakistan fast bowler Naseem Shah has tested positive for COVID-19 and will miss the remaining two Twenty20s against England, the Pakistan Cricket Board said on Thursday.

Shah was discharged from hospital on Thursday after being diagnosed with pneumonia and the PCB said the fast bowler was feeling “much better.”

“Shah is back in the team hotel where he will follow all COVID-19 protocols,” the PCB said in a statement.

Pakistan is due to leave for New Zealand next Monday to participate in a triangular Twenty20 series also featuring Bangladesh.

The PCB didn’t clarify whether the fast bowler will accompany the team to New Zealand.

Shah played only one game in the seven-match series against England at Karachi before being rested. He returned expensive figures of 0-41 off his four overs in the first match, which England won by six wickets.

He was admitted to hospital late Tuesday night in Lahore with a chest infection and fever.

Pakistan leads the series 3-2 with back-to-back narrow wins at Karachi and Lahore in the last two games as England couldn’t chase down below-par totals.

The remaining two matches will be played on Friday and Sunday at Lahore.