‘Highly controversial’ elections, weak coalition pose economic challenges to Pakistan — Moody’s

A television journalist reports as he stands in front of a screen displaying live election results in the Election Commission office in Islamabad on February 9, 2024, a day after national elections were held in the country. (AFP/File)
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Updated 28 February 2024
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‘Highly controversial’ elections, weak coalition pose economic challenges to Pakistan — Moody’s

  • The upcoming coalition government’s electoral mandate may not be sufficiently strong to pursue difficult reforms
  • The credit rating agency warns that the rating would be downgraded if Pakistan were to default on its debt obligations

KARACHI: Moody’s Investors Service on Tuesday warned of political risks following “highly controversial” general elections in Pakistan that could lead to insufficient mandate for the next government to pursue difficult economic reforms needed at this stage.
The international agency maintained Pakistan’s ratings, including its Caa3 long-term issuer rating, with a stable outlook unchanged after completing a periodic review of the country’s ratings.
“Pakistan’s credit profile reflects the government’s very high liquidity and external vulnerability risks as the very low levels of foreign exchange reserves remain well below what is required to meet its very high external financing needs over the near to medium term,” Moody’s said in the review report.
The agency did not announce a credit rating action but highlighted the “country’s very weak fiscal strength and elevated political risks” that may also constrain the credit profile.
The South Asian nation is in the process of forming a government after key political parties, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), agreed on a power-sharing formula last week.
The general elections were marred by allegations of rigging and manipulation.
“Political risks are high, following a highly controversial general elections held on 8 February 2024,” the agency said.
Although a coalition government looks set to be formed, the report said there was high uncertainty around the newly elected government’s willingness and ability to quickly negotiate a new International Monetary Fund program soon after the current $3 billion short-term loan expires next month.
Moody’s said Pakistan’s ability to secure loans from other bilateral and multilateral partners would be severely constrained until the new IMF financing was reached.
Its assessment comes only a year after it downgraded the country’s rating to Caa3 from Caa1, following deadlock in talks with the IMF amid depletion of foreign exchange reserves.
The large amount of external financing required over the medium term along with Pakistan’s very low reserves position imply material default risks if there were funding delays from the IMF and other partners.
“Social pressures and weaknesses in governance may also raise challenges in meeting criteria for future IMF funding,” the agency said.
The agency warned that the rating would likely be downgraded if Pakistan were to default on its debt obligations to private-sector creditors and the expected losses to creditors as a result of any restructuring were larger than consistent with a Caa3 rating.


Pakistan condemns Israeli attack on Rafah refugee camp, calls it ‘blatant defiance’ of ICJ ruling

Updated 27 May 2024
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Pakistan condemns Israeli attack on Rafah refugee camp, calls it ‘blatant defiance’ of ICJ ruling

  • Israeli airstrikes killed at least 45 people on Sunday and ‘numerous’ others were trapped under debris
  • Gaza’s Health Ministry said women and children made up most of the dead and dozens of wounded

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan condemns Israeli bombardment of tents for displaced Palestinians in the southern Gaza city of Rafah that killed dozens of people, the Pakistani Foreign Office said on Monday.
Palestinian health workers said Israeli airstrikes killed at least 45 people on Sunday and “numerous” others were trapped in flaming debris. Gaza’s Health Ministry said women and children made up most of the dead and dozens of wounded.
The attacks came two days after the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ordered Israel to end its military offensive in Rafah, where more than half of Gaza’s population had sought shelter before Israel’s incursion earlier this month.
“Targeting of individuals who were displaced earlier because of Israeli bombardment and were sheltered in a refugee camp, is yet another breach of international humanitarian law by the Israeli occupation forces,” the Pakistani Foreign Office said in a statement.
“The attack is also a blatant defiance of the additional provisional measures of 24 May 2024 by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ordering Israel to immediately halt its military offensive in Rafah in conformity with its obligations under the Genocide Convention and the worsening humanitarian conditions faced by civilians.”
The case against Israel was initiated by South Africa in December 2023, where it labeled Israel’s actions in the Gaza Strip as “genocidal,” asserting that they intended to destroy the Palestinian people in ways specified under the 1948 Genocide Convention.
The war on Gaza broke out after Hamas attacks on Israel on October 7, which killed more than 1,100 people, in response to the deteriorating condition of Palestinian people living under Israeli occupation.
Israel launched a retaliatory offensive, widely viewed as disproportionate, in which more than 35,000 Palestinians, mostly women and children, have lost their lives, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry.
“Pakistan reiterates its demand for immediate and unconditional implementation of the orders of the ICJ of 24 May 2024. Measures must be taken to fully protect civilians in Gaza and the Israeli occupation forces must be held accountable for the Gaza genocide,” the Pakistan Foreign Office said further.
“We call on the UN Security Council to play its role in preventing Israel from any further attacks against the civilians in Rafah and taking effective measures to protect the people of Gaza.”
Pakistan does not recognize the state of Israel and calls for an independent Palestinian state based on “internationally agreed parameters” and the pre-1967 borders with Al-Quds Al-Sharif as its capital.
In recent months, the South Asian country has repeatedly raised the issue of Israel’s war on Gaza, launched last October, at the United Nations through its permanent representative, Ambassador Munir Akram.


Eight killed as jeep plunges into ravine in northwest Pakistan

Updated 27 May 2024
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Eight killed as jeep plunges into ravine in northwest Pakistan

  • The incident occurred in the northwestern Shangla district after the driver lost control of the vehicle
  • Road crashes are common in Pakistan, where traffic rules are rarely followed, roads are in poor condition

ISLAMABAD: Eight people, including women and children, were killed after a jeep plunged into a ravine in Pakistan’s northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) province, rescue officials said.
The incident occurred in KP’s Shangla district, when the driver lost control of the vehicle and it fell into the ravine, according a spokesperson of the Rescue 1122 service.
As a consequence, four women and three children were killed on the spot, while one person was injured who was shifted to the district headquarters hospital.
“A rescue team recovered bodies of the victims and handed them over to relatives,” the Rescue 1122 spokesperson said in a statement.
The spokesperson said the injured person later succumbed to his injuries at the hospital.
Road accidents are common in Pakistan, where traffic rules are rarely followed and roads, particularly in many rural areas, are in poor condition. In the country’s mountainous north, such tragedies are frequently reported.
In March, at least 20 people were killed and over a dozen others were injured after a bus plunged into a gorge in the northern Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) region.


Pakistan’s Rauf says injury lay-off a ‘blessing in disguise’

Updated 27 May 2024
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Pakistan’s Rauf says injury lay-off a ‘blessing in disguise’

  • The 30-year-old fast bowler made an encouraging return to competitive cricket, taking 2-34, in the second match against England on Saturday
  • Rauf insists Pakistan, the 2009 T20 world champions, are optimistic ahead of their opening match at this year’s global showpiece against US

LONDON: Pakistan paceman Haris Rauf believes the three months he spent on the sidelines injured with a dislocated shoulder could yet prove a “blessing in disguise” as he gears up for the Twenty20 World Cup.
The 30-year-old fast bowler made an encouraging return to competitive cricket, taking 2-34, in the second match of Pakistan’s warm-up series against T20 world champions England in Birmingham on Saturday.
“I was injured the last few months but if you believe in yourself, then the layoff can be a blessing in disguise,” he told a pre-match press conference in Cardiff on Monday ahead of the third T20.
“Because you have time to recover and reassess your game-plans. I felt good coming back to cricket. When you play for your country, it makes you very proud.”
As for the mental and physical strain of returning from injury for a fast bowler, Rauf said: “It’s hard. It’s a struggle during your rehab, and it’s difficult when you come back to maintain that pace and accuracy. But if you believe in yourself, it makes things easier. When I wasn’t in the team and rehabbing, I had a lot of time to think about my game and work on myself.
“Thankfully I’m back now, and the World Cup is coming up.”
Rauf’s return at Edgbaston could not prevent Pakistan suffering a 23-run defeat by England as they fell 1-0 behind in the four-match series with two to play following a washed-out opener.
But Rauf insisted Pakistan, the 2009 T20 world champions, remained in optimistic mood ahead of their opening match at this year’s global showpiece against co-hosts the United States in Dallas on June 6.
“When you lose a game it hurts, but as a team, we are confident,” he said. “We feel we can beat any opposition on any day. We’ve done it in the past, too. When you make mistakes you learn and try not to repeat those mistakes. We’re looking to play better in the next few games and make a comeback.
“The camp is relaxed. We’re enjoying ourselves. We’re trying to follow our game-plans and execute them well. The results haven’t often been in our favor recently but if you stick to your plans they can sometimes follow.”


Pakistan temperatures cross 52°C in heatwave

Updated 27 May 2024
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Pakistan temperatures cross 52°C in heatwave

  • Extreme temperatures throughout Asia over the past month were made worse most likely as result of human-driven climate change
  • In Mohenjo Daro, a town in Sindh known for archaeological sites dating back to 2500 BC, temperatures rose as high as 52.2°C

MOHENJO DARO: Temperatures rose above 52 degrees Celsius (125.6 degrees Fahrenheit) in Pakistan’s southern province of Sindh, the highest reading of the summer and close to the country’s record high amid an ongoing heatwave, the met office said on Monday.
Extreme temperatures throughout Asia over the past month were made worse most likely as a result of human-driven climate change, a team of international scientists have said.
In Mohenjo Daro, a town in Sindh known for archaeological sites that date back to the Indus Valley Civilization built in 2500 BC, temperatures rose as high as 52.2 C (126 F) over the last 24 hours, a senior official of the Pakistan Meteorological Department, Shahid Abbas told Reuters.
The reading is the highest of the summer so far, and approached the town’s and country’s record highs of 53.5 C (128.3 F) and 54 C (129.2 F) respectively.
Mohenjo Daro is a small town that experiences extremely hot summers and mild winters, and low rainfall, but its limited markets, including bakeries, tea shops, mechanics, electronic repair shops, and fruit and vegetable sellers, are usually bustling with customers.
But with the current heatwave, shops are seeing almost no footfall.
“The customers are not coming to the restaurant because of extreme heat. I sit idle at the restaurant with these tables and chairs and without any customers,” Wajid Ali, 32, who owns a tea stall in the town.
“I take baths several times a day which gives me a little relief. Also there is no power. The heat has made us very uneasy.”
Close to Ali’s shop is an electronic repairs shop run by Abdul Khaliq, 30, who was sat working with the shop’s shutter half down to shield him from the sun. Khaliq also complained about the heat affecting business.
Local doctor Mushtaq Ahmed added that the locals have adjusted to living in the extreme weather conditions and prefer staying indoors or near water.
“Pakistan is the fifth most vulnerable country to the impact of climate change. We have witnessed above normal rains, floods,” Rubina Khursheed Alam, the prime minister’s coordinator on climate, said at a news conference on Friday adding that the government is running awareness campaigns due to the heatwaves.
The highest temperature recorded in Pakistan was in 2017 when temperatures rose to 54 C (129.2 F) in the city of Turbat, located in the Southwestern province of Balochistan. This was the second hottest in Asia and fourth highest in the world, said Sardar Sarfaraz, Chief Meteorologist at the Pakistan Meteorological Department
The heatwave will subside in Mohenjo Daro and surrounding areas, but another spell is expected to hit other areas in Sindh, including the capital, Karachi — Pakistan’s largest city.


Body of 15-year-old Pakistani hiker found on Islamabad’s Margalla Hills — police

Updated 27 May 2024
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Body of 15-year-old Pakistani hiker found on Islamabad’s Margalla Hills — police

  • The boy had gone for a hike on Trail-5 along with six of his classmates at around 7am on Saturday but did not return
  • Police say his body was found in a ditch on Margalla Hills, further investigation is underway to ascertain the cause

ISLAMABAD: The body of a 15-year-old boy, who had gone missing while hiking with friends last week, was found near a Margalla Hills hiking trail on Monday, the Islamabad police said.
The boy had gone for a hike on Trail-5 along with six of his classmates at around 7am on Saturday, but never made it back, according to a police report.
The mother of the young student tried to search him after one of his friends called her to inquire about his return on Saturday evening.
After trying to locate him for hours, the mother lodged a missing complaint with the police.
“After a long search operation, the body of the youth who went missing on Margalla trail was found in a dangerous ditch,” the Islamabad police said in a statement on Monday. “It seems that the boy lost his way and fell into the ditch.”
The deceased’s family was present on the site along with police officials and the search team, according to the statement.
“Further investigation is underway and post-mortem of the body will be conducted to cover all aspects,” it read.
The Pakistani capital of Islamabad has seven hiking trails that stretch several kilometers on the Margalla Hills, which are part of the Himalayan foothills and have an area of 12,605 hectares.
These trails are frequented by hundreds of people on a daily basis and are famous with picnickers.