Pakistan default fears spike on report of UN debt suspension advice

Pakistani pedestrians walk past a roadside currency exchange stall displaying examples of Pakistani and US currency notes in Karachi on February 11, 2013. (AFP/File)
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Updated 23 September 2022

Pakistan default fears spike on report of UN debt suspension advice

  • A UNDP memorandum says creditors should consider debt relief in the wake of deadly Pakistan floods
  • The memorandum proposes debt restructuring or swaps, in which creditors will forego some repayments

Pakistan's bonds slumped to just half their face value on Friday after the Financial Times said a United Nations development agency was urging the cash-strapped country to restructure its debt. 

Devastating floods engulfed large swathes of Pakistan this month, killing more than 1,500 people and causing damage estimated at $30 billion, fanning fears that Pakistan will not meet its debts. 

A memorandum the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) is set to hand Pakistan's government this week says its creditors should consider debt relief in the wake of the floods, according to the Financial Times. 

The memorandum further proposed debt restructuring or swaps, in which creditors would forego some repayments in exchange for Pakistan's agreement to invest in climate change-resilient infrastructure, the paper said. 

Neither the foreign office in Islamabad or a UNDP spokesperson in Pakistan immediately responded to Reuters' request for comment on the memorandum. The country's finance and information ministers could also not be reached. 

The bond market reaction on Friday strengthened fears of another default by Pakistan, hammering its international market government debt. 

One of the main sovereign bonds due for repayment in 2024 slumped more than 10 cents to about 50 cents on the dollar , while another due in 2027 fell to about 45 cents.. 

Pakistan's Finance Minister Miftah Ismail told a Reuters interview earlier this week that there was no chance of a credit default risk. 

The government needs to pay $1 billion on bonds maturing in December. It has interest payments worth around $0.6 billion for the 2022-23 fiscal year but the next full bond redemption is not until April 2024. 

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif appealed on Friday to the world and rich nations for immediate debt relief, saying what had been done was commendable, but adding, "It's far from meeting our needs." 

Sharif, who along with Ismail is in New York to attend the U.N. General Assembly, told Bloomberg TV that Pakistan had taken up the debt relief issue with U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres and world leaders. 

"We have spoken to European leaders and other leaders to help us in Paris club, to get us a moratorium," he said, referring to rich nation creditors. 

Sharif and finance minister Ismail said they had also taken up the relief issue with the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. 

Ismail said the IMF has "almost agreed" to the request for easing the conditions of Pakistan's $7 billion programme that was resumed in July after being delayed for months. 

"They've said almost yes," he told local Pakistani Dunya News TV in New York a day after Sharif met the IMF's managing director. 

The IMF's representative in Islamabad didn't respond to a request for comment. 

The country of 220 million would not be able to stand on its feet, Sharif added, "unless we get substantial relief". 

He said Pakistan would also seek relief from long-time ally China, to which it owes about 30% of its external debt. 

Both Pakistan's government and Guterres have blamed the flooding on climate change. 


10 militants killed in operation to clear hideout in southwest Pakistan — army

Updated 29 November 2022

10 militants killed in operation to clear hideout in southwest Pakistan — army

  • The military did not say which group the militants belonged to
  • Balochistan has long been the scene of a low-level insurgency

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan army said on Tuesday ten militants had been killed and one arrested in an operation to clear a hideout in Hoshab in Pakistan’s southwestern Balochistan province. 

A military statement said security forces conducted a raid on a hideout where “terrorists” linked to attacks targeting security forces and civilians were hiding. 

“As security forces were in process of establishing blocking positions after identification of 12-14 terrorists location, terrorists opened fire onto the security forces,” the army said. 

“During ensuing heavy exchange of fire, 10 terrorists have been killed while 1 terrorist has been apprehended in injured condition; while two terrorists managed to escape — the operation to trace them continues in the area. A heavy cache of arms and ammunition including improvised explosive devices has also been recovered.”

The military did not say which group the militants belonged to.

Balochistan has long been the scene of a low-level insurgency by the Balochistan Liberation Army and other small separatist groups demanding independence from the central government in Islamabad.

Although the Pakistan army claims it has quelled the insurgency, violence in the province has persisted.


Pakistan, Saudi Arabia top list of countries with highest number of Careem rides

Updated 29 November 2022

Pakistan, Saudi Arabia top list of countries with highest number of Careem rides

  • Ride sharing app celebrates one billion rides across Middle East, North Africa and Pakistan
  • One billionth trip was completed in Qatar by Captain Razak Uppattil from Kerala

KARACHI: The ride sharing platform Careem celebrated one billion ride hailing trips across the Middle East, North Africa and Pakistan, a statement from the company released on Tuesday said, with Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Egypt listed as the countries with the highest number of rides.

Careem Captains have driven over nine billion kilometers across more than 80 cities over ten years. Careem’s first ride took place in the UAE in September 2012 and was booked manually before the first line of code was written from Pakistan a few months later.

Careem expanded in popularity across the region as the first ride-hailing platform to offer cash payments. The percentage of Careem rides paid for digitally has grown from 31 percent in 2016 to 44 percent in 2022.

Careem’s one billionth trip was completed in Qatar by Captain Razak Uppattil from Kerala, India, who has been driving with Careem for four years and has completed over 10,500 trips on the platform. To celebrate this milestone, Careem gifted Uppattil a trip to his hometown in Kerala.

“The countries with the highest number of rides recorded are Pakistan (299 million), Saudi Arabia (242 million), and Egypt (230 million),” Careem said. “The longest single ride covered 1,113 kilometers, from Riyadh to Jazan in Saudi Arabia in 2020. The shortest single ride was a 200 meter trip in Lahore.”

The one billionth passenger was Genera Tesoro, a Careem customer from the Philippines who works as a receptionist at Padel In Aspire Zone in Doha. Genera completed more than 50 trips per month and said she chose Careem because it was a more affordable option.

“Reaching the incredible milestone of 1 billion rides is thanks to the hard work of our Captains and colleagues as well as the trust that our customers have placed in us,” Mudassir Sheikha, CEO & Co-founder of Careem, said.

“We feel blessed to have made it easier for people to move around and to have created earning opportunities for more than 2.5 million people. The opportunity ahead is large and humbling — our region is full of untapped potential and there’s so much more we must do to simplify and improve life for people in the region.”

Captain Uppattil, who completed the one billionth ride, commented:

“I thank God to have completed the 1 billionth trip. I have been at Careem for about four years and have so many favorite moments. It’s the people that I get to meet from all over the world that I really enjoy. I have three children back home in Kerala, India, and I am so excited to see them soon.”

Careem has more than 50 million registered customers, and 2.5 million registered Captains who have collectively earned over $4 billion in earnings to date. The highest number of trips recorded by a Careem Captain is 35,139 trips by a Captain in Jordan. The highest number of rides booked by a Careem customer is over 9,500 rides by a customer in Saudi Arabia.

Careem offers over a dozen services including ride-hailing, food and grocery delivery, micro-mobility, payments, and partner services including home cleaning, car rental, event bookings, and on-demand laundry services.


Anderson excited to be back in Pakistan after 17 years

Updated 29 November 2022

Anderson excited to be back in Pakistan after 17 years

  • Anderson, 40, has worked hard on fitness for years to still be spearheading England bowling attack
  • The fast bowler didn’t play in any of the three tests on that 2005 tour that Pakistan won 2-0

RAWALPINDI: The lone survivor of England’s last test tour of Pakistan 17 years ago is feeling blessed to be back.

James Anderson has worked hard on his fitness for the last five-six years to still be spearheading England’s bowling attack at the age of 40, and prolong a test career that started in 2003 against Zimbabwe at Lord’s.

“I’m very fortunate that I’m naturally quite fit,” he said on Tuesday. “I feel very fortunate that I’m still here, very fortunate to be able to be back in Pakistan after so long.”

The fast bowler didn’t play in any of the three tests on that 2005 tour that Pakistan won 2-0, but he’ll be front and center in the attack without long-time partner Stuart Broad when the latest three-match series starts on Thursday.

“We’ve had an amazing welcome,” Anderson said. “All the guys are really excited to be back here, even the guys that weren’t here 17 years ago understand how big a tour this is in terms of world cricket, not just the two teams that are here.”

Foreign teams avoided touring Pakistan after the 2009 attack on the Sri Lanka team bus and Pakistan hosted England in test series twice in the United Arab Emirates. England is now trying to figure out how the pitch will behave.

Anderson admits he has little idea after two practice sessions at Pindi Cricket Stadium in Rawalpindi, venue for the first test.

In Rawalpindi over the last three years, Pakistan has beaten Bangladesh and South Africa while drawing tests against Sri Lanka and most recently Australia.

“I’m not a great pitch reader,” Anderson said. “One thing we have noticed is that there’s been a bit of dew around in the morning when we got here for practice . . . might be a little bit of moisture in the wicket early on. Well, I’ll be hoping for that as well.”

Anderson has 667 wickets from a staggering 175 test matches, but if subcontinent pitches play to stereotype then they will challenge the aggressive plans of England captain Ben Stokes and coach Brendon McCullum.

“The challenge is trying to find something in unresponsive pitches,” Anderson said. “You’ve got to try and find ways of taking wickets and the introduction of Ben as captain and Brendon as coach has also helped in terms of thinking outside the box . . . we’ve got to take 20 wickets and so I’ll focus on that for the next few weeks.”

Anderson regarded Pakistan as tough opposition in its own backyard, featuring captain Babar Azam and Azhar Ali in the top order, and the pace of Naseem Shah and uncapped Haris Rauf to challenge the fast-scoring England batters.

“They’ve got all areas covered with pace, and their batting I think is really strong,” Anderson said. “We’ve got to be on top of our game to get anything out of the series. We’ve come here to win . . . we want to make sure we’ve got plans for all of them. We’ve just got to make sure we adapt to the conditions.”


Father suspected of killing wife, three daughters, then attempting suicide in Karachi — police

Updated 29 November 2022

Father suspected of killing wife, three daughters, then attempting suicide in Karachi — police

  • The deaths add to the hundreds of women and girls killed in Pakistan each year
  • Most deaths are by family members angered at perceived damage to their honor

KARACHI: A man suspected of killing his wife and three daughters with a dagger in Pakistan’s port city of Karachi and then attempting suicide with the same weapon was being treated at a local hospital, a senior police official said on Tuesday.

The suspected killer, identified only by his first name Fawad, allegedly killed his family in Karachi’s Shamsi Society. He was a sales manager at a local factory and currently admitted at Jinnah hospital.

“Fawad slaughtered his wife Huma, 30, and daughters Neha, 18, Fatima, 13 and Samra, 9, and then attempted to slit his own neck with the same dragger,” Senior Superintendent of Police Sajid Sadozai told Arab News, saying the suspect’s condition was critical.

Police said they did not as yet have a motive but the deaths add to the hundreds of women and girls killed in Pakistan each year, according to human rights groups, by family members angered at the perceived damage to their honor, which may involve eloping, fraternizing with men or any infringement of conservative values regarding women.

Sadozai said that the suspect’s mother and sister-in-law, who live in the ground portion of the same housing unit, broke the door and entered Fawad’s section.

“It’s impossible for any outsider to enter a house locked from inside with no other entry points available,” he argued, adding that initial investigation showed that Fawad had killed his own family members.

Sadozai said the suspect’s mother said the couple often fought and she also believed he was the killer. 

“It was just a single scream by the suspect’s wife that alerted his sister-in-law, which prompted the family to break the door,” he said.

The suspect has not yet been interrogated by police as he was in critical condition in hospital, Sadozai added.


Pakistani PM promises ‘full cooperation’ to new army chief General Munir

Updated 29 November 2022

Pakistani PM promises ‘full cooperation’ to new army chief General Munir

  • Key challenge facing new army chief will be how to deal with latest threats from Pakistani Taliban
  • Munir also takes over amid a deepening political rift between the government and ex-PM Imran Khan

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Tuesday telephoned and congratulated Pakistan’s newly appointed army chief, General Asim Munir, and promised him the government’s “full cooperation” in the areas of defense and security.

Earlier in the day, former army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa retired after completing a six-year extended term, passing on the baton to Munir during a ceremony at the General Headquarters (GHQ) in Rawalpindi.

“The prime minister said commanding the excellent force of Pakistan Army was a great honor and expressed confidence that General Asim Munir would further contribute toward strengthening the defense of the country,” state-run APP reported.

Sharif wished the new chief success in dealing with security and counterterrorism challenges and promised him the “full cooperation” of his government in areas relating to Pakistan’s defense and security.

One of the key challenges faced by the country’s new army chief will be how to deal with latest threats from the Pakistani Taliban, known as TTP, which on Monday called off a cease-fire with the government and ordered its fighters to resume attacks across the country.

Munir also takes over amid a deepening political rift between the government and the popular opposition leader, Imran Khan, who has been holding rallies across the country since April when he was ousted from the PM’s office through a parliamentary vote of no-confidence.

Khan has blamed his ouster on a conspiracy by the United States, the country’s military and his political opponents. American and Pakistani officials deny the accusations but they have resonated in recent months with young, social-media-savvy Pakistanis and the older generation alike, who have come out in fierce criticism of what they deem entrenched corruption and the ever-present even if the invisible hand of the army in the country’s political system.

Munir, who has held some of the top positions in the military in a career spanning over three decades, has been described as a “clear-headed” general by the media.

He grew up in the garrison city of Rawalpindi and is the son of a school principal. He received a prestigious award for officers known as the ‘sword of honor’ at the military academy.

Munir previously served as chief of Pakistan’s Military Intelligence in 2017 and the Inter-Services Intelligence in 2018. He was abruptly removed as ISI chief after just eight months on what is widely believed to be the request of then-prime minister Khan. No reason was given for his removal.

Before becoming army chief, Munir served as the army’s quartermaster general.

Domestically, his appointment could impact Pakistan’s fragile democracy at a time of street protests and amid widespread calls for early elections. He will also most certainly lead the path of Pakistan’s ties with neighbors India and Taliban-ruled Afghanistan and choreograph the delicate dance of Islamabad’s relationship with Beijing and Washington.