Saudi Arabia remains top contributor to Pakistan’s remittances during current fiscal year

A man enters a foreign currency exchange shop in Islamabad on July 11, 2023. (AFP/File)
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Updated 12 February 2024
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Saudi Arabia remains top contributor to Pakistan’s remittances during current fiscal year

  • Pakistan received $3.8 billion in remittances from Saudi Arabia during seven months of current fiscal year, says central bank 
  • Financial expert says workers’ remittances for current fiscal year likely to increase during Eid days when laborers remit more money

KARACHI: Saudi Arabia remained the largest source of workers’ remittances to Pakistan in the seven months of the current fiscal year, data shared by Pakistan’s central bank showed on Monday, with Riyadh contributing $3.8 billion out of the total $15.8 billion received by the South Asian country from July 2023 to January 2024. 

Saudi Arabia remains among the top destinations for Pakistani laborers who remit money back to their families. Workers’ remittances are important for Islamabad as it reels from an economic crisis that has seen its reserves plummet to low levels and its currency weaken against the US dollar, forcing it to seek financial assistance from global lenders and friendly countries. 

Pakistan received $2.4 billion in remittances during January 2024, 0.6 percent higher compared to December 2023 and 26.2 percent higher compared on a year-on-year basis, the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) said in a press release. The central bank said Pakistan received a total of $15.8 billion during the first seven months of the current fiscal year, with remittances from Saudi Arabia clocked in at $3.8 billion, from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) at $2.7 billion, while Pakistani workers from other Gulf countries remitted $1.7 billion in the same period.

“Remittance inflows during Jan. 24 were mainly sourced from Saudi Arabia ($587.3 million), United Arab Emirates ($407.6 million), United Kingdom ($362.1 million) and United States of America ($283.4 million),” the SBP said in a press release. 

Pakistan received $27.3 billion in total during the last fiscal year, which included $6.5 billion from Saudi Arabia, $4.6 billion from the UAE, $3.2 billion from other Gulf countries, $3.1 billion from the European Union countries, and $3.2 billion from the USA. The South Asian country recorded its highest remittance inflows of $31.3 billion in fiscal year 2022.

Tahir Abbas, head of research at Arif Habib Limited (AHL), said Pakistan’s remittance inflows were increasing due to the government’s recent crackdown against illegal money transfer systems such as hawala and hundi. 

“The inflows are improving due to action taken by authorities against illegal channels,” Abbas told Arab News.

Pakistan has set workers’ remittance inflow target for the current year at $28.5 billion. 

Abbas believes Pakistan will see a further surge in workers’ remittances as the Muslim festivals of Eid Al Fitr and Eid Al Adha will fall within the current fiscal year. 

“The second half of the current fiscal year would be much better due to seasonal impacts, as workers traditionally send more remittances to their families back home,” he explained. 


Pakistan receives bidders’ request to delay final offer for national air carrier – official

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Pakistan receives bidders’ request to delay final offer for national air carrier – official

  • Government says PIA’s privatization will be completed on a ‘mutually agreed’ date with pre-qualified bidders
  • The national carrier is among 88 state-owned enterprises that made collective losses of $2.61 billion in FY22

ISLAMABAD: The government has received a request from bidders to delay a final offer for the state-owned Pakistan International Airlines (PIA), an official confirmed on Tuesday, saying the process will be finalized on a “mutually agreed” date.
The government last month selected six companies qualified to bid for the national air carrier out of a pool of eight after receiving expressions the interest. Pakistan plans to sell more than 51 percent stakes in the loss-making airline as part of the economic reforms suggested by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for a fresh $7 billion loan program.
“We have received a request from the pre-qualified bidders to delay the process as they wanted to get hold of some additional information on the airline before making a final deal,” Dr. Ahsan Ishaq, a spokesperson for the privatization ministry, told Arab News.
“The privatization of PIA will definitely take place, as mutually agreed date for the process is being worked out with the bidders,” he continued.
As per the ministry, the pre-qualified bidders include Air Blue, Arif Habib Corporation, Blue World City, Fly Jinnah, Pak Ethanol (Pvt) Consortiums and YB Holdings Consortiums.
The government was initially planning to seal the deal on the country’s Independence Day, August 14, which was now expected to be delayed by “some weeks.”
The bidders have been waiting for PIA’s latest audited accounts, aircrafts lease agreements and a clarity on the flights to Europe that are currently banned.
Official data available with Arab News reveal there are 88 commercially operated state-owned enterprises (SOEs) in Pakistan, with their collective losses reaching Rs730.258 billion ($2.61 billion) in the fiscal year 2022 (FY22).
The top ten loss-making entities, including PIA with Rs97.5 billion, the National Highways Authority at Rs168.5 billion and the Peshawar Electric Supply Company Limited with Rs102.2 billion, accounted for a cumulative loss of Rs650.197 billion ($2.33 billion).
In contrast, the remaining enterprises reported combined losses of Rs80 billion ($286 million) during the same fiscal year.
Dr. Ishaq disclosed that PIA’s cumulative losses alone had surpassed Rs800 billion ($2.86 billion), with the total asset valuation of the airline standing at approximately Rs160 billion ($572 million).
“Some weeks of delay in the final bidding of the PIA on request of the bidders will not affect the overall privatization process,” he added.


Pakistan, Egypt agree to increase cooperation in religious education 

Updated 23 July 2024
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Pakistan, Egypt agree to increase cooperation in religious education 

  • Egyptian Ambassador discusses setting up educational institute in Punjab affiliated with Al-Azhar University
  • Pakistani minister, Egyptian envoy discuss enhancing role of mosques as centers of religious, social guidance

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s religious affairs minister and Egyptian Ambassador Dr. Ihab Mohamed Abdelhamid Hassan on Tuesday agreed to enhance cooperation between the two countries in religious education and other areas of mutual interest, the religion ministry said. 

Pakistan and Egypt, both Muslim-majority nations, enjoy cordial ties with one another. The two have resolved to enhance bilateral trade in recent years by facilitating businessmen from their countries through visas, exchanging trade-related information and promoting private sector contacts. 

Friendly ties between the two countries can be traced back to 1947 when Pakistan gained independence and its founder, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, visited Egypt at the special invitation of King Fuad II.

Pakistan’s Religious Affairs Minister Chaudhry Salik Hussain met Hassan at his office in Islamabad to discuss bilateral ties and various areas of cooperation between the two countries. 

“Federal Minister for Religious Affairs and Interfaith Harmony, Chaudhry Salik Hussain here on Tuesday said that Pakistan wants to strengthen its relationship with Egypt in various areas of mutual interest, including religious education,” the ministry said. 

The ministry said both discussed exchanging mutual studies in enhancing the role of mosques as centers of religious, spiritual and social guidance. Hassan informed the Pakistani minister about his plans to establish an institution in Punjab which would be affiliated with the iconic Al-Azhar University to impart religious education to Pakistani students. 

Al-Azhar University is a public university in Cairo. Associated with Al-Azhar Al-Sharif body in Cairo, it is Egypt’s oldest degree-granting university and is regarded as arguably the most prestigious university for Islamic learning. 

“The ambassador said 11 professors of Egypt are already teaching in different faculties in International Islamic University Islamabad,” Pakistan’s religion ministry said. 
 


Pakistan coalition party petitions top court to suspend reserved seats’ order

Updated 23 July 2024
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Pakistan coalition party petitions top court to suspend reserved seats’ order

  • After Feb. 8 polls, Khan’s PTI party was denied its share of reserved seats in national and provincial assemblies
  • On July 12, Supreme Court ruled PTI was a political party for purposes of general election and entitled to reserved seats 

ISLAMABAD: A main coalition party in Pakistan’s federal government, the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), on Tuesday petitioned the Supreme Court against its earlier judgment that jailed former Prime Minister Imran Khan’s party was eligible for extra reserved seats in parliament.

Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party candidates contested the Feb. 8 general elections as independents after the party was barred from the polls and though these independents won the most seats, the election commission ruled they were not entitled to their share of reserved seats in national and provincial assemblies for women and minorities since these were meant for political parties only. The seats were then allotted to other parties, mostly from Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif’s ruling coalition. 

However, the Supreme Court ruled on July 12 that the PTI was entitled to its share of reserved seats, ramping up pressure on weak coalition. Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) party subsequently filed a review petition against the Supreme Court’s verdict. 

“It is respectfully prayed that the review petition may kindly be accepted [...] and the short order by the court may graciously be reviewed and recalled,” the PPP’s petition read. “Further in the interim it is respectfully prayed that operation of the short order [...] passed by the court may be graciously stayed or suspended.”

In the National Assembly of Pakistan, political parties are allocated 70 reserved seats — 60 for women, 10 for non-Muslims — in proportion to the number of seats won in general elections. This completes the National Assembly’s total 336 seats. A simple majority in Pakistan’s parliament is 169 out of 336 seats. Likewise, there are reserved seats in all four provincial assemblies that are distributed on proportional basis among the winning parties.

In a statement sent to media after the July 12 SC ruling, the PTI said 86 PTI-backed returned candidates in the National Assembly and 107 in the Punjab Assembly, 91 in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly and 9 in the Sindh Assembly were now “entitled to be counted for the purpose of election to the reserved seats on the basis of proportional representation.”

It is expected that the PTI could get up to 23 reserved seats if the SC judgment is implemented. While announcing the July 12 verdict, the court gave the PTI 15 days to submit its list of candidates entitled for reserved seats to the election commission.

Last week, the election commission said it would enforce the Supreme Court’s verdict on reserved seats but had asked its lawyers to determine if there were areas where it needed the court’s further guidance.
 


Pakistan, Turkmenistan to finalize transit trade agreement, introduce liberal visa regime

Updated 4 min 23 sec ago
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Pakistan, Turkmenistan to finalize transit trade agreement, introduce liberal visa regime

  • Turkmenistan’s Foreign Minister Meredow is currently in Islamabad on a three-day visit with his delegation
  • Ishaq Dar invites businesses in Turkmenistan to invest through SIFC, benefit from Gwadar and Karachi ports

ISLAMABAD: Deputy Prime Minister Ishaq Dar said on Tuesday Pakistan and Turkmenistan have agreed to expand bilateral investment in the fields of energy, connectivity and information technology (IT) while seeking the early finalization of a transit trade agreement and the institution of a liberal visa regime.
Turkmenistan’s Foreign Minister Rasit Meredow is currently visiting Islamabad for three days with his delegation where he held wide-ranging discussions with the deputy prime minister who also holds his country’s portfolio for external affairs. The two leaders spearheaded their delegations at the third round of bilateral political consultations wherein they focused on various global and regional developments.
There has been a flurry of recent visits, investment talks and economic activity between Pakistan and Central Asian states, including meetings of top Pakistani officials with the leaders from Uzbekistan and Azerbaijan.
Located in a landlocked but resource-rich region, Central Asian countries need better access to regional markets including Pakistan, China, India and the countries of West Asia. Meanwhile, Islamabad is seeking to bolster trade and investment ties with allies to stabilize its fragile $350 billion economy as it faces an acute balance of payment crisis amid soaring inflation and rising external debt.
“We have agreed to intensify our joint efforts to further expand and deepen bilateral investment, especially in energy, connectivity and information technology,” Dar said during a joint news conference with Meredow after the talks at the foreign office in Islamabad.
“We agreed to work together on trade diversification, early finalization of the transit trade agreement and instituting a liberal visa policy to facilitate greater contacts between businessmen of the two countries,” he continued, adding that both sides reiterated commitment to enhancing the volume of bilateral trade and to making it commensurate with its true potential of the existing ties between the two countries.
According to the foreign office, Pakistan’s bilateral trade with Turkmenistan stands at $8.41 million, with Pakistan exporting $2.234 million and importing $6.17 million.
Dar invited Turkmen companies to benefit from the investment environment created by the Special Investment Facilitation Council (SIFC) and the regional connectivity opportunities provided by Pakistan’s southern port cities of Gwadar and Karachi.
Last year, the country established the SIFC, a civil-military hybrid body designed to oversee foreign financing, to help overcome its prolonged economic turmoil that has forced successive administrations to seek financial assistance from global lenders and close allies.
Pakistan has recently offered Central Asian states to become part of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project, under which Beijing has pledged around $65 billion in energy, infrastructure, and other projects in Pakistan.
Islamabad believes the corridor presents a strategic opportunity for Central Asian states to transport their goods with greater ease to regional and global markets.
Pakistani foreign minister also emphasized the importance of the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) gas pipeline and electricity transmission line, saying, “These projects offer enormous opportunities for our region and our two countries.”
The pipeline will link the energy-rich Central Asian country of Turkmenistan through Afghanistan to Pakistan and India, supplying nearly 33 billion cubic meters (bcm) of natural gas each year along a route stretching about 1,800 kilometers from Galkynysh, the world’s second-biggest gas field, to the Indian city of Fazilka near the Pakistan border.
Work on the project has been stalled due to differences over price review and delivery points.
Meredow endorsed Dar’s emphasis on the mega projects, stating that both sides agreed to make joint efforts to implement these large-scale initiatives, which are the cornerstone of Turkmen-Pakistani trade and economic cooperation.
“Our discussions reaffirmed our shared commitment and unwavering resolve to collaborate on the practical implementation of these initiatives,” he said, adding that transport emerged as another key area for enhanced Turkmen-Pakistani cooperation.
“Leveraging our respective strengths, can jointly develop modern infrastructure along east, west and north, south corridors,” he continued. “In this context, we agreed to maintain an active dialogue on creating international transport rules that capitalize on the transit potential of both Turkmenistan and Pakistan.”
Addressing the media, Meredow said both sides engaged in detailed discussions on fostering closer ties in the fields of science, education and culture.
“Our collaboration with Pakistan is firmly set on a future-oriented cause with a steady growth envisioned across all dimensions,” he added.


Pakistan Navy takes command of multinational task force securing southeastern Middle East waters

Updated 23 July 2024
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Pakistan Navy takes command of multinational task force securing southeastern Middle East waters

  • Senior naval official says Task Force 150 focuses on some of the world’s most challenging and important sea lanes
  • He highlights Pakistan’s commitment to working with coalition navies for peace within the force’s area of responsibility

KARACHI: The Pakistan Navy announced on Tuesday it has assumed command of a multinational task force responsible for ensuring maritime security in the southeastern waters of the Middle East, operating in the Arabian Sea, Gulf of Oman and Gulf of Aden.

Combined Task Force 150 (CTF-150) is part of the Combined Maritime Forces (CMF), a 34-nation coalition aimed at promoting security and stability in some of the world’s most important shipping lanes, focusing on counter-terrorism, anti-smuggling and enhancing navigational security.

The CMF’s efforts are crucial for safeguarding the global maritime commons, particularly in regions that are widely viewed to be prone to piracy and militancy.

Pakistan’s Commodore Asim Sohail Malik assumed the command from Captain Colin Mathews of Royal Canadian Navy in Bahrain.

“Commodore Asim Sohail Malik underlined that CTF-150 area of responsibility consists of some of the world’s most challenging and important international waters,” said the Directorate General Public Relations of the Pakistan Navy.

“He assured that his team will strive to further strengthen efforts of the multinational task force to provide a robust security in the vital maritime region,” it added.

The Pakistan Navy has commanded the task force 12 times before.

The statement said the handing over of command to Pakistan the 13th time reflected “the trust and respect reposed in Pakistan Navy by the coalition partners.”

Commander Malik assured at the change of command ceremony of the Pakistan Navy’s commitment to work with coalition navies to maintain peace and stability within the task force’s area of responsibility.