Pakistan stocks close at record high amid IMF talks, tensions in Middle East

In this photo, taken on December 29, 2023, workers interact outside the Pakistan Stock Exchange in Karachi. (AN Photo/File)
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Updated 19 April 2024
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Pakistan stocks close at record high amid IMF talks, tensions in Middle East

  • The benchmark KSE-100 index surged by 647 points after morning trading hiccups due to reports of Israel’s attack on Iran
  • Pakistani analysts say escalating tensions in Middle East will impact supply chain and increase import bill for Pakistan

KARACHI: Pakistan’s stock market recorded on Friday its highest-ever closing at 70,909 points, stock brokers and analysts said, attributing it to ongoing talks with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), but cautioning about potential economic impact of Israel-Iran tensions in the Middle East.

Explosions were heard in Iranian city of Isfahan on Friday that were described as an Israeli attack by western media. However, Tehran has not officially confirmed the development as its response remains muted.

The Pakistan Stock Exchange witnessed some nervousness in the morning trading session, when news of Israel’s attack on Iran came in. But despite the development, the benchmark KSE-100 index surged by 647 points to close at 70,909 points.

“When news of the attack on Iran came this morning, its impact was seen in the Asian and European markets at one point,” Shehryar Butt, portfolio manager at the Karachi-based Darson Securities, told Arab News.

“Nikkei saw a decline of more than a thousand points, but despite this, the Pakistan Stock Exchange performed much better.”

The Pakistani bourse has recently been trading at record highs amid positive sentiment prevailing among investors due to hopes of the country’s successful talks with the IMF.

“The basic reason for this is that Pakistan is currently in the IMF program, and very serious discussions are taking place in Washington at this time,” Butt said.

Pakistan’s finance minister, Muhammad Aurangzeb, is currently in Washington to hold talks with IMF officials for a new long-term loan program as Pakistan’s current $3 billion program is due to expire this month. The finance minister has expressed his hopes that the outline of the new program will be agreed next month.

Pakistan is expected to demand a loan size of around $7 billion but Jihad Azour, the IMF Middle East and Central Asia Director, said on Wednesday the reform package was more important than the size of the program.

“I would say the package of reform is now more important than the size of the program because we saw recently that the right measures provided the right response,” Azour said at a press briefing.

The surge in global oil prices amid geo political tensions and the Pakistani rupee’s recovery played “a catalyst role in Friday’s record close,” according to Ahsan Mehanti, CEO of the Arif Habib Corporation.

Though Pakistan’s market downplayed the Middle East tensions, but analysts said if the situation escalated, it would disrupt supply chain and impact Pakistan’s economy.

“The conflict between Iran and Israel will affect the Pakistani economy, quite a negative effect will be seen on the Pakistani economy because immediately after that, we saw geo-political situation worsening and oil started to rise,” Butt said, adding the rising global oil prices would impact Pakistan’s import bill.

Pakistan has imported petroleum products worth $12 billion during the July-March period of the current fiscal year, including $3.9 billion worth of crude oil and 2.9 billion worth of liquefied natural gas (LNG), according to official data.

Butt feared that if the situation persisted, then the attention of Saudi Arabia would also be drawn to the Middle East and the investment commitments made by the Kingdom with Pakistan could be delayed.

Haroon Sharif, an economist and former chairman of the Pakistan Board of Investment, said if the tensions in the Middle East escalated, their first impact would be on the stock market as foreign investors would like to shift their capital to safer markets.

“Another impact would be oil price escalation, hitting Pakistan’s trade deficit and traveling and cargo price would also escalate, increasing the cost of doing business,” Sharif said, adding that investors would hold their future expansion and investment plans till situation becomes stable.

Husain Haqqani, a former Pakistani ambassador to the United States and scholar at Washington DC’s Hudson Institute, said a prolonged conflict between Iran and Israel would increase uncertainty and instability across the Middle East.

“If Iran’s drone and missile attack on Israel was meant to show Iran’s reach, Israel has demonstrated its ability to strike deep inside Iran,” Haqqani told Arab News.

“Iran has several proxies that it can use while Israel has tremendous military and intelligence capabilities. Leaders of both countries have domestic political reasons to not be forgiving toward one another.”

Haqqani said the US would likely restrain Israel, while Iran would be constrained by its limited capability.

“After all, even after attacking with hundreds of missiles and drones, Iran was unable to cause real damage on ground in Israel,” he added.


Legendary Pakistani actor Talat Hussain passes away after prolonged illness

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Legendary Pakistani actor Talat Hussain passes away after prolonged illness

  • Talat Hussain, whose career spanned six decades, featured in prominent TV dramas, stage plays and films 
  • Hussain received several awards during his lifetime, including Sitara-e-Imtiaz and Pride of Performance awards

ISLAMABAD: Legendary Pakistani actor Talat Hussain passed away in Karachi on Sunday at the age of 83 after a prolonged illness, his daughter confirmed, as tributes from prominent journalists and actors poured in from all over the country. 

The actor, whose career spanned several decades from the 1960s and saw him perform in critically acclaimed TV dramas, movies and stage plays over the years, passed away at a private hospital in Karachi. Hussain is survived by a wife, two daughters and a son. 

He starred in prominent projects such as Chiragh Jalta Raha, Ishaara, Gumnaam, Qurbani, Jinnah— The Movie, Actor in Law, Chupan Chupai and Project Ghazi. ​

“It is with profound grief and a very heavy heart that we announce that our dearest Talat Hussain passed to his eternal abode this morning,” his daughter Tazeen Hussain wrote on Instagram. 

“Details of funeral and otherwise to follow later.”

Hussain studied at the prestigious London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art. His stellar performances earned him prestigious awards throughout his career, including the Sitara-e-Imtiaz (Star of Excellence) award in 2021 and the Pride of Performance Award in 1982 by the Pakistani government. 

He was also awarded the Amanda Award in 2006 for Best Supporting Actor in the Norwegian film “Import Eksport” and the Nigar Award in 1986 for Best Supporting Actor in the film “Miss Bangkok.”

“Talat Hussain was one of the very few actors in Pakistan whom every generation knows about,” prominent Pakistani actor Behroze Sabzwari told Geo News. 

Sabzwari said Hussain was a very “unique” actor and had his own sense of style. 

“I always received love and affection from him,” he said. “He was my friend and was a great man.”


Pakistan PM expresses sorrow as deadly accident kills 11 of a family

Updated 57 min 20 sec ago
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Pakistan PM expresses sorrow as deadly accident kills 11 of a family

  • Deadly accident occurred on Saturday when passenger van collided with truck on Muzaffargarh-Mianwali Highway 
  • PM wishes speedy recovery for injured, directs authorities to provide “immediate medical treatment” to them

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif expressed deep sorrow and grief over an accident this week that killed 11 of a family and injured 10 others, the state-run Associated Press of Pakistan (APP) reported on Sunday. 

The incident took place on the Muzaffargarh-Mianwali Highway on Saturday when a passenger van en route to Multan from Bhakkar collided with a truck. The accident resulted in the deaths of five men, three women and three children. 

All 11 deceased were members of the same family, rescue officials confirmed, adding that they were traveling to visit relatives when the accident occurred. 

“Prime Minister Muhammad Shehbaz Sharif has expressed his deep grief and sorrow over the deaths of eleven members of a family in a traffic mishap on Muzaffargarh-Mianwali Highway,” APP said. 

“The prime minister also wished speedy recovery of the injured and directed for the provision of immediate medical treatment to them.”

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 mountainous Gilgit-Baltistan region, road tragedies are daily news. 


Ten fan parks to broadcast iconic India-Pakistan T20 World Cup clash— ICC 

Updated 26 May 2024
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Ten fan parks to broadcast iconic India-Pakistan T20 World Cup clash— ICC 

  • Fan parks in New York, Birmingham, Rawalpindi, New Delhi and South Africa to broadcast India-Pakistan match on June 9
  • Political tensions between nuclear-armed neighbors India and Pakistan make their cricket rivalry one of sports’ fiercest ones 

ISLAMABAD: Cricket fans in India, Pakistan, the United States and South Africa would be able to enjoy the iconic India-Pakistan T20 World Cup clash on June 9 in ten different fan parks in their countries, the International Cricket Council (ICC) said this week. 

The ICC has announced that this year’s World Cup matches will be broadcast in fan parks where people will watch the action live on huge screens with live entertainment including DJs, food and drink outlets, cricket ambassadors and family activities. In total, 23 matches will be shown across 16 fan parks in five countries next month. 

Political tensions between nuclear-armed neighbors India and Pakistan make their cricket matches a spectacle to watch for millions of fans across the globe. Diplomatic rows between the two countries mean they only play each other in other countries and only at international tournaments. Both haven’t played each other in a bilateral series since several years. 

Pakistan captain Babar Azam will lead his side against Rohit Sharma’s India on June 9 in New York as both Group A teams lock horns in the ICC T20 World Cup fixture. The match will be broadcast in several fan parks across the world, the ICC said. 

“Ten different fan parks will show the Group A game between India and Pakistan, including Cedar Creek Park, Seaford, New York hosted by Nassau County, the Indira Gandhi Indoor Arena in New Delhi, India and Rawalpindi Cricket Stadium in Pakistan,” the ICC said in a statement on Saturday. 

In New York City, the Oculus World Trade Center is one of the standout venues, with the fan park showing 18 matches on 10 different dates, including the highly anticipated final on June 29.

“We are thrilled to be able to bring communities together through broadcasting the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup 2024 in a record number of fan parks,” ICC Head of Events Chris Tetley said in a statement. 

“These parks are designed to make the sport more accessible and enjoyable, allowing fans of all ages to experience a T20 World Cup like never before,” Tetley added.

Pakistan beat India by 10 wickets during their T20 World Cup clash in 2021 but the blue shirts exacted revenge on their traditional rivals next year, beating Pakistan by four wickets courtesy of a fighting half-century by former Indian skipper Virat Kohli. 


Pakistan reports third polio case of 2024 from southwestern Balochistan province

Updated 26 May 2024
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Pakistan reports third polio case of 2024 from southwestern Balochistan province

  • Virus detected in stool samples from child in southwestern Killa Abdullah district, says state media 
  • Pakistan and Afghanistan remain only two countries in the world where polio remains endemic

ISLAMABAD: Pakistani authorities reported the third poliovirus case of the current year on Saturday, state-run media reported, as Islamabad struggles to contain the crippling disease despite nationwide vaccination and awareness campaigns. 

The latest polio case was reported from Pakistan’s southwestern Killa Abdullah district on Saturday, the Associated Press of Pakistan (APP) said in a report. The virus was detected in stool samples collected from a child in the Darozai union council of Killa Abdullah district, the report said, adding that he had developed symptoms of paralysis on April 20.

Pakistan and Afghanistan are the only two countries in the world where the poliovirus, which causes paralysis and can be a life-threatening disease, is endemic.

“It is incredibly tragic that another child has been affected by polio this year in Balochistan,” Dr. Malik Mukhtar Ahmed Bharath, coordinator to the prime minister on national health services, said. 

Dr. Bharath said polio is a terrible disease that affects not only the life of the child but their family as well. He said the government was bringing vaccines to the citizens’ doorsteps, urging them to avail the opportunity. 

“I urge families to understand the risk this disease poses to children and make sure that they vaccinate all their children under the age of five when the polio worker shows up to their homes,” he said. 

This is the third polio case of the year reported from Pakistan’s southwestern Balochistan province and the first reported from Killa Abdullah after three years.

Last year, six polio cases were reported in the country which included four from the northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) province and two from the southern port city of Karachi.

Pakistan’s efforts to contain polio have often been met with opposition, especially in KP, where militants have carried out attacks against vaccinators and security teams guarding them. 

Many believe in the conspiracy theory that polio vaccines are part of a plot by Western outsiders to sterilize Pakistan’s population.

Pakistani masses’ doubts regarding polio campaigns were exacerbated in 2011 when the US Central Intelligence Agency set up a fake hepatitis vaccination program to gather intelligence on former Al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden. 


Pakistani students praise teachers, landlords for ‘timely’ rescue during Kyrgyzstan mob violence

Updated 26 May 2024
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Pakistani students praise teachers, landlords for ‘timely’ rescue during Kyrgyzstan mob violence

  • Teachers stayed with students in hostels to protect them from rioters while landlords took many to safety
  • Many students say they will resume their studies in Bishkek after their semester break ends in September

ISLAMABAD: Pakistani students evacuated from Kyrgyzstan after recent riots and violence against foreign nationals on Saturday lauded “tremendous and timely” support from their teachers and landlords, saying that they rescued and saved their lives.
Last week, violent riots erupted in the Kyrgyz capital, Bishkek, following the emergence of online videos showing a brawl between local and Egyptian students of medical sciences. The mobs mostly targeted the hostels of medical universities and private lodges of international students, including Pakistanis, in the city.
Around 10,000 Pakistani students are enrolled in different institutes in Kyrgyzstan and nearly 6,000 of them were studying in Bishkek, according to Pakistan’s diplomatic mission in the Central Asian country. The Pakistan government has evacuated thousands of students stranded in Bishkek by arranging special flights following the riots.
“We are alive today due to tremendous, effective and timely support of our teachers and landlords shortly after the violence,” Bilal Ahmad, a fourth-year medical student from Vehari district in Punjab province, told Arab News on phone. “Our teachers stayed with us in the hostel the whole night to protect us from the mob.”
Ahmad said when the situation normalized in Bishkek, local elders and officials apologized to the students for the violence. “They shared their mobile numbers with us to call them in any emergency,” he added.
Social media platforms were abuzz with different videos and photos showing the mob attacks against the international students in Bishkek. The Kyrgyz miscreants barged into hostels to attack foreign students without discrimination. Five Pakistani students were injured as a result, according to the Pakistan embassy, one of them seriously.
“We locked our doors and windows and reinforced them with cupboards, tables and chairs to prevent the miscreants from entering,” Asadullah Khan, a third-year medical student from Quetta, told Arab News.
“We switched off lights of our rooms and prayed to Allah … We called our landlord and she immediately responded and rescued us from there,” he said, adding that she took around nine students to her residence in her own car on the gloomy night.
Khan said that members of local communities, teachers and other university staff had cooperated with the students in the difficult time. “They brought us food, water and biscuits and stood by us against their own people,” he continued.
He also informed the local community and teachers had widely circulated audio and video messages of apology to international students, including Pakistanis, a day after the violence, promising to do everything to hold all the criminals accountable.
Khan said his parents were worried about his safety, fearing that they may not let him resume his studies in Bishkek after the semester break ended in September.
“My parents are pushing me to migrate to a local medical college in Pakistan to complete my studies,” he added. “I have invested my three years and a lot of money, so let’s see when the education resumes.”
Some students said the situation was completely under control in Bishkek days after the violence, as the local police and paramilitary took charge of the security of hostels and private apartments where international students were residing.
“I will go back to resume my studies since I can’t waste my time,” Anjum Rasheed, a final year medical student from Peshawar, told Arab News. “The days of the violence are over now, and local Kyrgyz community has repeatedly apologized to the students for the unfortunate incident.”
“Our teachers and other staff of the university had been extremely cooperative during the mob attack, and there is no reason for us to quit the studies,” he said, adding that one of his teachers rescued him from the hostel and took him to a shelter arranged by a human rights organization in the city.
He also noted that a local family transported him with a couple of other students to the airport for their flight back to Pakistan.