KARACHI: Pakistani currency dealers said on Thursday uncertainty continued to prevail in the market despite assurances from the government that it was close to finalizing a bailout deal with the International Monetary Fund, leading to the rupee depreciating further and trading at Rs282.30 against the United States dollar in the interbank market.
The rupee has been falling since January after foreign exchange companies removed a cap on the exchange rate, a key demand of the IMF as part of a program of economic reforms it has agreed on with the cash-strapped South Asian nation.
On Wednesday, the currency had closed at Rs279.12 against the USD in the interbank.
“Procrastination at IMF front is creating uncertainty in the market despite the assurance about signing a staff-level agreement with the IMF,” Zafar Sultan Paracha, general secretary of the Exchange Companies Association of Pakistan (ECAP), told Arab News. “The market wants to see some tangible actions at the IMF front.”
“The financial institutions are also involved in currency manipulation, while slow encashment by exporters and high demand from importers is also weakening the Pak rupee,” Paracha added.
Facing an acute balance of payments crisis, Pakistan is desperate to secure external financing, with less than three weeks’ worth of import cover in its foreign exchange reserves.
Pakistan secured a $6 billion IMF bailout in 2019. It was topped up with another $1 billion last year to help the country following devastating floods, but the IMF then suspended disbursements in November due to Pakistan’s failure to make more progress on fiscal consolidation.
While the move to remove the foreign exchange rate cap has increased the chances of a restart in IMF funding, Pakistan is also reeling from multi-decade high inflation, which economists fear will now get worse.
Most of Pakistan’s critical imports, including fuel, are paid for in dollars.
ISLAMABAD: Prominent Pakistani lawyer and rights activist Jibran Nasir was “picked up” by over a dozen unidentified persons in Karachi on Thursday night, his wife and actress Mansha Pasha said.
Nasir frequently criticizes Pakistan’s leading political parties, the religious right wing, and the country’s powerful military. He contested the 2013 and 2018 general elections as an independent candidate but managed to secure a few hundred votes each time.
Nasir has been increasingly critical of the Pakistani military on social media ever since it announced trying supporters of former prime minister Imran Khan under military laws for attacking its installations and torching government buildings on May 9.
“Approximately half an hour ago, my husband Jibran Nasir who is a very famous lawyer and who has done a lot for Pakistan— I don’t have to say it, you know it already— he has been picked up by some men,” Pasha said in a video message.
“We were on our way home after having dinner when a large white Vigo car intercepted our car, almost crashing into it, and around 15 men with pistols forcibly took my husband away,” she added.
“I would want you all to raise your voices and pray that my husband returns soon.”
Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party demanded Nasir’s release, saying that his abduction is against the country’s constitution.
“Law of the jungle must not prevail in Pakistan,” the PTI wrote on Twitter.
Absolutely condemnable! We strongly demand that Jibran Nasir is immediately released, as his abduction is completely against Constitution of Pakistan.
Feminist rights movement Aurat March also demanded Nasir’s release, condemning his alleged abduction.
“We strongly condemn his abduction (which is a clear violation of citizen rights) & urge the govt & LEAs to ensure his immediate + unconditional safe release,” it wrote on Twitter.
ATTENTION: Lawyer & activist Jibran Nasir has been abducted by na maloom afraad from inside his car. We strongly condemn his abduction (which is a clear violation of citizen rights) & urge the govt & LEAs to ensure his immediate + unconditional safe release.#FreeJibranNasir
Rights groups have raised alarm over the crackdown against PTI leaders and supporters, which has resulted in several of Khan’s aides leaving the party and distancing themselves from him since May 9.
Meanwhile, the government has denied reports it is illegally abducting dissenters and has repeatedly said only those who partook in violence and vandalism on May 9 would be dealt with according to law.
The continuing political turmoil has exacerbated Pakistan’s economic crisis with inflation at record highs, with fears of default looming large as the South Asian country so far fails to revive a stalled $6.5 billion loan program with the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
KARACHI: Pakistani authorities released 200 Indian fishermen on Thursday, who expressed happiness at the thought of meeting their families again but were sad to leave behind fellow Indian prisoners who passed away in Malir prison.
Indian and Pakistani fishermen are routinely detained by both maritime agencies on charges of illegally entering each other’s territorial waters. The nuclear-armed nations’ borders are not clearly defined in the Arabian Sea and many fishing boats lack the technology to steer clear of any intrusion.
Karachi’s Malir prison has been in the headlines since the past year after several detainees of Afghan and Indian origin passed away due to health complications. In May, two Indian fishermen Balo Jetha and Soma Deva passed away after their health deteriorated in prison. Jail authorities insist inmates are treated well and provided medical treatment whenever they fall ill.
Parmar Sajjan, one of the Indian fishermen released on Thursday, expressed joy at being released but said he would miss his friend Deva, whose body is currently kept at a morgue in Karachi.
“We used to live together [in jail], and if he were alive, he would have accompanied us [to India],” Sajjan told Arab News. “I am happy, and I believe he would have been happy too,” he added. Sajjan said his friend was provided health care in jail before he was taken to the hospital for treatment.
Sajjan thanked Pakistani authorities for releasing him, adding that he was “extremely happy” that he would finally get to meet his family.
Another Indian fisherman, Hussain Rahim, wished India would reciprocate the move and release Pakistani fishermen who were languishing in Indian prisons. “I want to express that just as we fishermen are being released here, I hope that the Pakistani fishermen imprisoned in India will also be freed as soon as possible,” Rahim told Arab News.
When asked about the facilities being provided to Indian fishermen in Malir jail, Rahim said they were “treated like brothers” there.
Fatima Majeed, a Pakistani fisherwomen and activist, said she could feel the pain of the Indian inmates as her father was also imprisoned in India in 1988.
“I can feel their pain from very close because I have experienced this time too, I have also passed through it,” Majeed told Arab News. “It’s a very painful time.” She said when fishermen are arrested, the women in their families have to seek work in the informal sector to feed their families.
Pakistan’s Foreign Office Spokesperson Mumtaz Zahra Baloch, in response to a question during a weekly briefing, said by releasing Indian prisoners, Pakistan had demonstrated its “consistent policy of not politicizing humanitarian matters.” She hoped India should also release Pakistani fishermen who were imprisoned in Indian jails.
When asked whether a judicial commission existed to ensure the swift release of fishermen, Baloch responded in the affirmative.
“The commission surely exists and the two sides have remained in contact on the mechanics of such visits which we hope will facilitate the civilians and fishermen who are held in prisons in Pakistan and India,” she said.
ISLAMABAD: Former Australian captain Steve Smith said in a video uploaded by Cricket Australia on Thursday that the Aussies would be wary of “dangerous” Pakistani batter Babar Azam and fiery pacer Shaheen Shah Afridi, as the former world champions build the hype for Pakistan’s upcoming tour of the country in December 2023/January 2024.
Pakistan will make a trip Down Under in December 2023 to take on Australia for the Benaud-Qadir Trophy between the two sides. The three Tests – part of the third World Test Championship cycle – will be played at Perth, Melbourne and Sydney in December and January.
The tour will kick off with the first Test at Peth on December 14 and will mark the first instance of Pakistan playing a Test at the venue. The two teams will face off in the Boxing Day Test at the Melbourne Cricket Ground from December 26-30 while the third and final match will be played at the Sydney Cricket Ground from January 3, 2024.
Pakistan will have high hopes from its all-format skipper Azam and fiery left-handed fast bowler Shaheen Shah Afridi. In recent years, the two cricketers have become a mainstay in Pakistan’s national squad for all formats of the game.
Azam is currently the only batter in the world who is ranked among the top five batters in all three formats of the game. He is the number one ranked batter in ODIs and is placed at number three in the international men’s T20I rankings while in Tests, he is placed at number five. Afridi is ranked at number five in the Test bowlers’ rankings while in ODIs, he is placed at number 10.
“Babar Azam is a wonderful player,” Smith said. “The last few years he’s got better and better. He’s someone we have to look out for, he’s dangerous.”
KARACHI: Pakistani elephant Madhubala “still” has blood infection Trypanosomiasis, Egyptian veterinarian Dr. Amir Khalil said on Thursday, adding that the animal would be shifted to a new sanctuary once it tests negative for the infection.
Madhubala, one of only three captive elephants alive in Pakistan, was brought to the South Asian country with three other elephants from Tanzania in 2009. One of her long-time companions, 17-year-old Noor Jehan, passed away in April after suffering from multiple ailments including the same Trypanosomiasis infection. Noor Jehan’s death prompted animal rights activists and organizations to raise alarm over Karachi Zoo’s poor living conditions. They demanded Madhubala be shifted to a “species-appropriate” sanctuary immediately to avert another potential tragedy.
Khalil, an employee of the international animal rights welfare organization FOUR PAWS, said last week that the Trypanosomiasis infection can be fatal. However, he said Madhubala was luckier than Noor Jehan as she was provided medicine for the infection before it reached an advanced stage. He also said FOUR PAWS is supporting the Karachi city government’s efforts to build an animal sanctuary at the Safari Park and that Madhubala would be shifted to it once it is completed.
“Madublaha has a blood parasite still and she will receive medicine two times within two weeks, then another blood test [needs] to be done,” Khalil told Arab News. “Transfer should be done only when she is negative,” he added.
Khalil had told Arab News last week that work on the sanctuary at Karachi’s Safari Park has already begun, adding that a night enclosure for Madhubala is also being built according to international standards. He said depending upon Madhubala’s health and the speed of the work on her sanctuary, authorities hope to shift her to it by the end of June or the first week of July.
The developments take place more than two years after Kaavan, dubbed as the “world’s loneliest elephant,” was released from a dilapidated zoo in Pakistan’s capital Islamabad. Animal rights activists had long campaigned against the plight of the 35-year-old elephant who had lived alone since the death of his mate in 2012.
Kaavan was transferred to Cambodia in late 2020 in a blaze of publicity after his plight caught the attention of US superstar Cher, who helped raise funds for the jumbo relocation.
ISLAMABADA: Former prime minister Imran Khan’s aide and his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party president Chaudhry Parvez Elahi was arrested on Thursday from Lahore by the anti-corruption establishment with the help of police in a corruption case, caretaker information minister of Punjab Amir Mir confirmed.
Elahi’s arrest is part of a wider crackdown against Khan’s aides and supporters who have been rounded up across the country since the protests of May 9, when angry PTI protesters torched government buildings and ransacked the house of a senior military official. Several leaders including Shah Mahmood Qureshi, Ejaz Chaudhry, Chaudhry Fawad Hussain, Dr. Yasmin Rashid, Maleeka Bokhari and Dr. Shireen Mazari were arrested after the countrywide protests. Several lawmakers and Khan aides who were released from prison have since then publicly parted ways with the former prime minister and quit the PTI.
Last month, police conducted various raids to arrest the former Punjab chief minister from his residence after he was booked on terror charges. However, they were unable to do so as Elahi was not home.
“Yes, [Elahi] he has been arrested from the Zahoor Elahi road,” Mir told Geo News over the phone. “He was trying to flee his house when he was arrested,” Mir added.
Mir said Elahi was wanted by the law, adding that police arrested him after his vehicle was searched at a checkpoint. He said a window of Elahi’s bulletproof car was damaged when police asked to search the vehicle and Elahi refused to open the door.
In video footage running on Pakistani TV channels, a team of police officials can be seen whisking Elahi away to a vehicle.
Elahi’s son Moonis Elahi, who is reportedly in Spain, reacted to his father’s arrest by vowing that they would stand firm with Khan despite the crackdown. “It is being said that my father has been arrested in a fake case,” Moonis Elahi wrote. “God willing, we are in PTI and we will remain here.”
Khan’s PTI condemned Elahi’s arrest, describing it as an “absolutely ridiculous” move. “Shameful how the regime doesn’t stop their fascism. The inflation has skyrocketed to 38 percent, and their response is arresting former CM Punjab Parvez Elahi,” the PTI wrote on Twitter.
Shameful how the regime doesn’t stop their fascism. The inflation has skyrocketed to 38%, and their response is arresting former CM Punjab Parvez Elahi. Absolutely ridiculous! pic.twitter.com/epfQxGm47e
Elahi dissolved the provincial legislature of Punjab on ex-PM Khan’s instructions earlier this year to force the government to hold snap polls across the country. He was rewarded for his loyalty when Khan appointed Elahi as president of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party in March.
Khan, who has accused Pakistan’s powerful military and the government of illegally arresting his loyalists, has appealed to rights organizations to condemn the alleged violence against his supporters. Rights organizations, journalists and civil society members have urged the government to refrain from trying Khan’s supporters and aides under military laws, fearing the move would impede civilian supremacy in a country where historically, the military has held sway over important policy matters.
Political tensions have been high in Pakistan as the government remains adamant on not accepting Khan’s demands to hold elections across the country before October. Historically, Pakistan has held voting on the same day throughout the country. However, Pakistan’s constitution stipulates that polls must be held within 90 days of the dissolution of an assembly before its tenure expires.
Khan has been piling pressure on the government to hold elections in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provinces, accusing the coalition government of being fearful of certain defeat due to his rising popularity within the masses. The government maintains it is not possible to hold elections on different dates due to security and economic reasons.
The continuing political turmoil has exacerbated Pakistan’s economic crisis with inflation at record highs, growth is anemic amid fears of a sovereign default on external debts unless the International Monetary Fund (IMF) unlocks delayed disbursements.