Pakistan’s central bank unveils five-year strategic plan to pursue financial stability

Governor of the State Bank of Pakistan, Jameel Ahmad addresses a press conference at the bank's headquarters in Karachi on January 23, 2023. (AFP/File)
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Updated 18 November 2023

Pakistan’s central bank unveils five-year strategic plan to pursue financial stability

  • The SBP Vision 2028 contains six key objectives including managing inflation and creating digital financial ecosystem
  • The strategic plan was developed through consultation with stakeholders and wants Shariah compliant banking system

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s central bank chief launched a strategic plan for the next five years in a ceremony held in Karachi on Friday, saying the document contained the key objectives that the bank planned to pursue to ensure financial stability in the country.

Last year, the government approved the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) Amendment Bill, 2021, to meet a condition laid down by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) under a $6.5 billion bailout facility to ensure complete autonomy to the central bank.

The SBP Vision 2028 is the first plan since the passage of the amendment bill and has been developed through a consultative and inclusive process with key stakeholders.

Addressing the ceremony in Karachi, SBP Governor Jameel Ahmad maintained the plan would foster price and financial stability and contribute to the country’s sustainable economic development.

“Mr. Ahmad added that evolving risks and challenges to the economy and financial stability, including climate change, rapid digital innovations and disruptions, and growing cyber security threats, have been kept in perspective while developing the plan,” announced a statement issued by the central bank after the event.

“Governor SBP elaborated that the SBP Vision 2028, revolves around six strategic goals that include maintaining inflation within the medium-term target range, enhancing efficiency, effectiveness, fairness and stability of the financial system, promoting inclusive and sustainable access to financial services, transforming to a Shariah compliant banking system, building an innovative and inclusive digital financial services ecosystem, and transforming SBP into a high-tech, people-centric organization.”

He noted these strategic goals were built to cover five cross-cutting themes, including strategic communication, climate change, technological innovation, diversity and inclusion, and productivity and competitiveness.

Pakistan has witnessed major economic challenges in recent years that has forced it to seek external financial assistance from the IMF and friendly nations like China, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

Faced with a precarious financial situation amid rapid depreciation of national currency and dwindling foreign currency reserves, Pakistan managed to secure a short-term $3 billion loan program in July from the IMF to stave off sovereign debt default.

Pakistan headline inflation rises 29.2 percent year-on-year on back of gas price hike 

Updated 13 sec ago

Pakistan headline inflation rises 29.2 percent year-on-year on back of gas price hike 

  • Prices went up by 2.7 percent in November as compared to a 1 percent increase in the month before 
  • Analysts say increase in inflation figures for November is ‘in line with expectations’ after gas price hike 

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s consumer price index (CPI) jumped 29.2 percent in November on a year-on-year basis, the country’s statistics bureau said on Friday, with analysts attributing monthly increase in prices to a recent hike in gas tariff. 

The headline inflation was recorded at 26.8 percent in October and 23.8 percent in November last year, according to the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS). 

Prices went up by 2.7 percent in November as compared to a 1 percent increase in the month before and a rise of 0.8 percent in November 2022. 

Financial analysts say the increase in inflation figures for the month of November was “in line with the expectations” after the gas price hike. 

“The inflation for the month of November is in line with the expectations. The major impact has come from the gas tariff hike,” Samiullah Tariq, a director at the Pakistan Kuwait Investment Company, to Arab News. 

“Going forward we hope that the inflation would ease off.” 

In late October, Pakistan announced a sharp increase in the price of natural gas for most households and industries ahead of the cash-strapped country’s first review of a $3 billion International Monetary Fund (IMF) bailout it entered in July. 

While the government did not increase the tariff for the protected category (57 percent of the domestic consumers), it increased the fixed monthly charge from Rs10 to Rs400 for this category. 

The price of gas was set at Rs2,100/mmbtu for export process industry, Rs2,400/mmbtu for export captive industry, Rs2,200/mmbtu for non-export process industry, Rs2,500/mmbtu for non-export captive industry, and Rs3,600/mmbtu for the CNG sector. 

In November, Pakistan cleared the first review of the nine-month standby arrangement, paving the way for Islamabad to receive a second tranche of around $700 million from the lender. 

Among the food items that recorded highest increase in November prices were tomatoes (60.42 percent), potatoes (14.92 percent), tea (12.95 percent), onions (12.32 percent), dry fruits (7.91 percent), fish (7.75 percent), eggs (7.15 percent) and fresh vegetables (4.47 percent), according to the PBS. 

Non-food items whose prices recorded the highest increased included gas charges (280.55 percent), woolen readymade garments (8.16 percent), dental services (5.19 percent), transport services (5.11 percent) and solid fuel (3.52 percent). 

Pakistan Cricket Board appoints ex-cricketers Salman Butt, Kamran Akmal consultants to chief selector

Updated 01 December 2023

Pakistan Cricket Board appoints ex-cricketers Salman Butt, Kamran Akmal consultants to chief selector

  • The development comes amid a reshuffle in Pakistan national team and the management 
  • It began amid Pakistan’s poor show during the 50-over World Cup tournament last month 

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) on Friday said it had appointed former cricketers Salman Butt, Kamran Akmal and Rao Iftikhar Anjum consultants to Chief Selector Wahab Riaz, amid a reshuffle in the national side and the board’s management. 

The reshuffle began amid Pakistan's poor show at the World Cup that saw the national side crashing out of the showpiece tournament even before the semi-final stage.

Former fast bowler Wahab Riaz was appointed Pakistan’s chief selector last month, after Inzamam-ul-Haq stepped down in October following allegations of a conflict of interests. 

On Friday, the PCB confirmed the appointment of Akmal, Anjum and Butt as consultant members to Riaz.

“The three have assumed their responsibilities in the selection panel with immediate effect. Their first assignment as consultant members to the chief selector includes the upcoming five-match T20I series against New Zealand, set to commence on 12 January 2024 following the conclusion of the Test tour to Australia,” the PCB said in a statement.

“When not engaged in selection duties, the consultant members may be assigned additional tasks such as conducting skills camps.”

Pakistan finished fifth in the 10-team World Cup tournament that culminated last month, with Australia lifting the trophy for a record sixth time.

Babar Azam resigned from the captaincy in all formats and Shan Masood was made test captain. Shaheen Afridi was appointed as skipper of T20 side while former captain Mohammad Hafeez was named as team director, who will also be the head coach of the team on the twin tours of Australia and New Zealand.

The PCB last month also appointed former international players Umar Gul and Saeed Ajmal as bowling coaches for the national team.

Pakistan gunmen kill policeman guarding polio vaccination team 

Updated 01 December 2023

Pakistan gunmen kill policeman guarding polio vaccination team 

  • The incident occurred in a tribal border region that was once a haven for Taliban militants 
  • Pakistan and neighboring Afghanistan are only two countries where polio remains endemic 

PESHAWAR: A Pakistani policeman was killed when militants attacked a polio vaccination team on Friday, police said, the latest casualty in the country’s long campaign against the crippling disease. 

Pakistan and neighboring Afghanistan are the only two countries where polio remains endemic and vaccination teams are frequently targeted by militants. 

The latest incident occurred in Malik Din Khel, part of the former tribal border region that was once a haven for Taliban militants. 

“Two gunmen riding a motorbike opened fire on policemen guarding a two-member polio vaccination team,” district police chief Saleem Khan Kulachi told AFP. 

“One policeman died at the scene while another sustained a minor injury,” he said. 

One of the gunmen was shot dead by police. 

Local police official Zahir Ahmed Afridi also confirmed the details, adding that the health care workers were unhurt. 

Pakistan initiated a week-long nationwide polio vaccination campaign on Monday, with the goal of inoculating more than 44 million children across much of the country. 

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack but Islamist militants, including the Pakistani Taliban, have killed scores of polio vaccination workers and their security escorts in the past. 

Islamist opposition to inoculation grew after the US Central Intelligence Agency organized a fake vaccination drive to help track down Al-Qaeda’s former leader Osama bin Laden in the Pakistani garrison town of Abbottabad. 

Pakistan has reported five cases of polio this year, while 20 were reported last year, according to the Global Polio Eradication Initiative. 

UAE to invest in Pakistan’s agriculture, power, ports and other sectors under recent multibillion dollar agreements — envoy

Updated 01 December 2023

UAE to invest in Pakistan’s agriculture, power, ports and other sectors under recent multibillion dollar agreements — envoy

  • Pakistan signed several agreements worth up to $25 billion during Prime Minister Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar’s UAE visit this week
  • The UAE consul-general applauds the role of Pakistan’s Special Investment Facilitation Council in attracting foreign investment

KARACHI: The United Arab Emirates (UAE) was focusing on Pakistan’s agriculture, ports and logistics, power and other sectors under the recently signed multi-billion-dollar investment agreements with the South Asian country, the Emirati consul-general in Karachi said on Friday. 

Pakistan and the UAE signed the multi-billion-dollar memorandums of understanding (MoUs) during Prime Minister Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar’s visit to the Gulf nation this week. Under the agreements, the UAE is expected to invest up to $25 billion across diverse sectors in Pakistan. 

“Couple of days ago, Pakistan has signed number of agreements with UAE of $20-25 billion. That is good investment,” Consul-General Dr. Bakheet Ateeq Al-Remeithi said at a press conference at the UAE Consulate in Karachi. 

“[The] UAE always investing in Pakistan and standing beside Pakistan in a lot of sectors in agriculture sector, in port and logistics sector, also in power sector, in free zones to link all these things together to have more bright export and re-export.” 

The Emirati envoy said this investment was mutually beneficial for both nations and the next year would be brighter with regard to inflows that had already started coming into Pakistan. 

“More than this (investment) has also to come because many investors from the UAE’s private sector, apart from the government, also want to invest in Pakistan, particularly in food security, health and education sectors,” he said. 

He appreciated the formation and the “proactive role” of the Special Investment Facilitation Council (SIFC) — a Pakistani civil-military hybrid forum established in June this year — in fast-tracking the decision-making process and promoting investment from foreign nations, particularly Gulf countries. 

“The forum is very fast and effective,” the envoy said, adding he had personally dealt with the forum and things had materialized within days. 

Under the investment coming from the UAE, according to the consul-general, an export hub will be established in Karachi and logistic support will be provided to remote areas of Pakistan’s southwestern Balochistan and southern Sindh provinces. 

“The investment of the UAE in Pakistan is a part of relationship and to be together in the business that is to make in the environment and places and to have a short list for the logistics from all areas like and Balochistan and Sindh,” he said. 

Pakistan and the UAE are close allies. The Gulf nation is Pakistan’s third-largest trade partner after China and the United States. It is also viewed as an ideal export destination by policymakers in the South Asian country due to its geographical proximity with Pakistan. 

The UAE is also home to an estimated 1.8 million Pakistani expatriates and, after Saudi Arabia, is the second-largest source of remittances for the South Asian nation of more than 240 million. 

The Pakistan PM, during an ambitious visit to the Gulf region this week, oversaw the signing of the MoUs between Pakistan and the UAE on energy, port operation projects, waste water treatment, food security, logistics, minerals, and banking and financial services sectors. 

“These MoUs will unlock multi-billion dollars of investment from United Arab Emirates into Pakistan and will help realize various initiatives envisioned under [Pakistan’s] Special Investment Facilitation Council,” the Pakistani foreign office said at the time. 

PM Kakar’s UAE visit was followed by his stopover in Kuwait, during which the two countries signed 10 deals worth several billion dollars. 

Pakistan accountability bureau files £190 million settlement graft case against Imran Khan, wife

Updated 01 December 2023

Pakistan accountability bureau files £190 million settlement graft case against Imran Khan, wife

  • Khan, his wife are accused of receiving land worth millions of dollars as a bribe from real estate tycoon
  • Khan and his aides have denied any wrongdoing in the case, the developer has also rejected the charges

ISLAMABAD: The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) on Friday filed a corruption reference against former Prime Minister Imran Khan, his wife and six other suspects in the case of a £190 million settlement with a property tycoon, Pakistani media widely reported.

Government officials allege Khan and his wife received land worth millions of dollars as a bribe from a real estate tycoon through the Al-Qadir Trust, a non-governmental welfare organization set up by Bushra Watto, Khan’s third wife, and Khan in 2018 when he was still in office. The trust runs a university outside Islamabad devoted to spirituality and Islamic teachings, a project inspired by the former first lady, who is also commonly known as Bushra Bibi and has a reputation as a spiritual healer.

Khan and his aides have denied any wrongdoing in the case. The developer has also denied the charges.

“Reference was filed by NAB’s Deputy Prosecutor General Muzafar Abbasi, along with investigative officer Umar Nadeem, in an accountability court in Islamabad. The registrar office is examining the reference,” Geo News, Pakistan’s top news channel, reported.

Eight people have been named in the reference, including Khan and his wife.

Earlier this week, Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party had said a judge hearing the case had denied further physical remand of the ex-premier, a move that could lead to bail.

“Reference Al-Qadir Trust Case: Judge has denied further physical remand of Chairman PTI Imran Khan who was arrested November 13 on the case and was under remand since then,” the PTI said in a text message to reporters on Nov. 27.

“Denying request for physical remand in this case can lead to bail in this yet another bogus case, the legal team shall apply, shortly.”

Last week, the government approved a jail trial of Khan in the case.

In May, the then government of PM Shehbaz Sharif had said the Al-Qadir trust was a front for Khan to receive valuable land as a bribe from a real estate developer, Malik Riaz Hussain, who is one of Pakistan’s richest and most powerful businessmen.

The trust has nearly 60 acres of land worth over $24 million and another large piece of land in Islamabad close to Khan’s hilltop home, the then interior minister said at a press conference on May 11, the same day Khan was briefly arrested in the case. He was released on bail days later.

The 60-acre piece of land in Punjab state’s Jhelum district is the official site of the university but very little has been built there.

Then Information Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb also raised questions about donations given for operations of the under-construction institution.

“The trust received 180 million rupee ($635,144.67) for operational expenses, but records showed only 8.52 million rupees” on the books, she said in a statement issued on May 12.

The government said the scheme originated with 190 million pounds repatriated to Pakistan in 2019 by Britain after Hussain forfeited cash and assets to settle a British probe into whether they were proceeds of crime.

It said instead of putting it in Pakistan’s treasury, Khan’s government used the money to pay fines levied by a court against Hussain for illegal acquisition of government lands at below-market value for development in Karachi.

The interior minister alleged Hussain gave the land in Jhelum and Islamabad to Al-Qadir Trust in exchange for that favor.