Pakistan’s finance minister says new IMF loan agreement targeted for early July

Pakistan's Finance Minister Muhammad Aurangzeb speaks during an interview with AFP at the Embassy of Pakistan in Washington, DC on April 15, 2024. (AFP/File)
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Updated 23 April 2024
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Pakistan’s finance minister says new IMF loan agreement targeted for early July

  • The quantum and duration of new loan is still not clear, though the government wants at least a three-year program
  • Muhammad Aurangzeb says the modalities of the new loan will be thrashed out with an IMF delegation next month

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s finance minister Muhammad Aurangzeb said on Tuesday the country planned to discuss the contours of a new loan program with an International Monetary Fund (IMF) delegation next month while hoping to reach a staff-level agreement with the global lender by early July.

Pakistan secured a $3 billion IMF bailout last year to avert a sovereign default and hopes to receive the final tranche later this month. However, the government wants a fresh IMF loan since the country continues to face tough economic challenges and plans to implement structural reforms.

“We are still hoping that we can get into a staff-level agreement by the time June is done or early July so that we can move on,” the finance minister said while addressing a news conference.

He informed he had good discussions with IMF and World Bank officials during the spring meetings held by both international lending organizations in Washington.

Aurangzeb maintained it was not right to say that the IMF was imposing strict conditions on Pakistan since the country needed to carry out reforms on its own to strengthen its economy.

“This is Pakistan’s program which is helped, supported, assisted by the fund,” he said. “This is how we have to see it since this is the way ownership will come.”

He maintained the country’s foreign reserves were increasing and would reach about $10 billion by the end of June this year well before the new IMF program.

“Once the final tranche comes from the IMF, end of this week, we will be over $9 billion,” he told the media. “By the time we end June, we will be anywhere between $9-10 billion, which is going to be equivalent to two months of import cover.”

The finance minister noted the country had made progress since its foreign reserves dipped to nearly $3.4 billion last year.

He said the stock market was also hitting all-time highs and foreign buyers were entering the market.

“The gross domestic product growth is expected to be at 2.6 percent in the current fiscal year,” he said, adding the government was taking steps to attract foreign investment and keep the current account and fiscal deficits within reasonable limits.

“The current account deficit has been reduced to $1 billion after a 74 percent reduction in FY24,” the minister said, adding the inflation was expected to remain at 24 percent during the ongoing fiscal year, while the trade deficit had been reduced to $17 billion following a 24.9 percent decrease.

He said the quantum and duration of the new IMF program was yet not clear, though the government wanted to secure at least a three-year loan package.

Pakistan and IMF have said they are already in discussions for the new loan.

Aurangzeb said structural reforms carried out by the government include increasing the government’s tax revenue-to-GDP ratio to 13 percent to 14 percent in next two or three years from the current level of around 9 percent, reducing losses of state-owned enterprises through their privatization, and better management of the debt-laden energy sector.

With input from Reuters


UN-linked body grants ‘A status’ to Pakistan’s National Commission for Human Rights

Updated 19 May 2024
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UN-linked body grants ‘A status’ to Pakistan’s National Commission for Human Rights

  • Accreditation allows National Commission for Human Rights to sit at Human Rights Council, other UN bodies’ meetings
  • NCHR was formed in 2012 for promotion and protection of human rights in Pakistan as per country’s constitution

ISLAMABAD: The Global Alliance for National Human Rights Institutions (GANHRI), one of the largest rights networks worldwide, has granted Pakistan’s National Commission for Human Rights (NCHR) an A-list status, making it a “historic first” for the South Asian country, state media reported this week, 
Representing over 110 National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs), their members and staff across all regions, GANHRI is one of the largest human rights networks worldwide. It is also a trusted partner of the United Nations. 
The NCHR was formed in 2012 for the promotion and protection of human rights in Pakistan as per the country’s constitution and international rights instruments. 
“Despite it being extremely rare for commissions to attain A status in the first round, Pakistan’s NCHR has been accredited with this highest grade in its first try,” the state-run Associated Press of Pakistan (APP) reported on Saturday. 
“It is also the only country to have attained new A status in this year’s session.”
The status grants NCHR a seat at the Human Rights Council and other UN bodies, APP said, adding that it was “a historic first” for Pakistan. 
“In the past, Pakistan’s commission could only act as an observer but now will get a voice at the table,” it said. 
“NCHR Pakistan joins the ranks of the United Kingdom, Sweden, Denmark, France and others as an A status NHRI.”
The NCHR’s application process involved submitting a lengthy 125-page report about its establishment, independence, composition, organizational infrastructure, working methods, mandate, and quasi-judicial functions.
The NCHR team was interviewed by a committee comprising over 25 persons and select chairpersons of accredited commissions throughout the world before it attained the prestigious status.
“This milestone positions Pakistan’s NCHR in a global alliance of quality, world-class commissions,” the state media said.
“It allows NCHR to speak at the UN Human Rights Council and other global forums to present Pakistan’s case for human rights. Its voice is strategic for financial concessions to Pakistan such as GSP+, FATE, and IME.”


Special flight carrying first batch of Pakistani students from Bishkek arrives in Lahore

Updated 42 min 49 sec ago
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Special flight carrying first batch of Pakistani students from Bishkek arrives in Lahore

  • Interior Minister Mohsin Naqvi receives first batch of 140 Pakistani students stranded in Bishkek following violent clashes
  • Pakistan’s deputy PM to travel to Bishkek today as part of a delegation to review arrangements for students’ safe return

ISLAMABAD: A special flight carrying 140 Pakistani students from the Kyrgyz capital of Bishkek landed at the Lahore airport late Saturday night, following violent attacks against foreign nationals in the city this week after a dispute between locals and migrants that led to evacuation requests.
This was the first batch of Pakistani students to arrive in the country after violence erupted in Bishkek on Friday night. Videos of a brawl between Kyrgyz and Egyptian students went viral online, prompting furious mobs to target hostels of medical universities and private lodgings of international students, including Pakistanis, in the city.
According to official statistics, around 10,000 Pakistani students are enrolled in various educational institutions in Kyrgyzstan, with nearly 6,000 residing and studying in Bishkek.
Speaking to Arab News on Saturday, many students reported the Pakistan embassy had advised them to stay indoors, though they had run out of food and water. Some even expressed fears that rioting might resume at night and requested evacuation by the authorities.
Interior Minister Mohsin Naqvi welcomed the first batch of Pakistani students as they arrived at the Allama Iqbal International Airport in Lahore and inquired about their well-being, the interior ministry said in a statement.
“Interior Minister Mohsin Naqvi asked students about the tragic incident in Bishkek and inquired about their problems,” the ministry said. 
Naqvi said Pakistani students in Kyrgyzstan are “children of the nation,” vowing that those from cities other than Lahore would be provided free transport.
A statement released by the PM’s Office on Saturday evening said Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif had directed Deputy Prime Minister Ishaq Dar and another cabinet member, Amir Maqam, to travel to Bishkek on Sunday and address the situation there.
The two Pakistani officials will meet with senior government officials in the Kyrgyz capital to ensure medical treatment for injured students and review arrangements for their return.
“Our first concern is the safe return of Pakistani students,” Naqvi said. “God willing, more students would be brought back via additional flights tomorrow [Sunday].”
The country’s ambassador to Kyrgyzstan Hasan Zaigham said on Saturday that five Pakistani medical students had been injured in the mob attack. One student was admitted to a local hospital with a jaw injury, while the other four were released after receiving first aid.
“No Pakistani was killed or raped in the violence,” he told Arab News over the phone, dispelling rumors circulating on social media. “The situation is under control now as Bishkek authorities have dispersed all the miscreants.”
Separately, Pakistan’s foreign ministry said on Saturday it had summoned and handed a note of protest to Kyrgyzstan’s top diplomat in the country in response to violence against Pakistani students in Bishkek.
“It was impressed on the Kyrgyz charge d’affaires that the Kyrgyz government should take all possible measures to ensure the safety and security of Pakistani students and citizens,” Pakistan’s foreign ministry said in a statement.
The statement said the Kyrgyz health ministry had confirmed four Pakistanis were given first aid and discharged while one was still under treatment for injury.


Nawaz Sharif touts past economic success, signaling political comeback amid party leadership change

Updated 19 May 2024
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Nawaz Sharif touts past economic success, signaling political comeback amid party leadership change

  • Sharif is poised to be re-elected as party president on May 28 after his younger brother and current PM stepped down
  • He was widely viewed as the favorite for Pakistan’s top political office before the Feb. 8 polls failed to produce clear results

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s three-time former prime minister Nawaz Sharif appeared on national television screens on Saturday after maintaining a relatively low profile since the February 8 general elections, highlighting the achievements of his previous tenures and contrasting them with the prolonged economic turmoil for which he held his rivals accountable.
Sharif, who went into self-exile in November 2019 after being convicted in a corruption case, returned to Pakistan in October last year and was widely viewed as the favorite candidate for the prime minister’s post with the support of the country’s powerful army.
However, he decided against taking the PM’s office after the national polls failed to produce a clear winner, leading to speculation that his role in the country’s politics had all but ended.
However, Sharif’s appearance at the Central Working Committee meeting of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) party in Lahore showed he was once again ready to assert his control over his political faction and, by extension, national politics.
“The price of every item was at a nominal level when I was prime minister, whether it was electricity, gas, vegetables, petrol or other essential items of life,” he said while reflecting on his political career, during which his administrations could not complete the constitutionally stipulated five-year tenure.
He maintained that inflation was low, the country was progressing and the interest rate hovered just above five percent during his rule.
“Today, it stands at 22 percent,” he continued.
Sharif emphasized that people should consider which political party had safeguarded their economic interests and which one had made their lives difficult before deciding who should run the country.
“Do you think before voting about what Nawaz Sharif’s performance was and how his rivals fared in contrast?” he asked. “Do you consider the prices during Nawaz Sharif’s tenure to where they are today?”
The PML-N founding leader raised these issues at a time when his party is forced to take stringent financial measures to secure a fresh International Monetary Fund (IMF) loan, leading to high inflation and a depressed economy.
He is also poised to be re-elected to the post of party president on May 28 after his younger brother and the incumbent Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif stepped down from the position earlier this month.
The younger Sharif took over the PML-N presidency after his elder brother was removed following a Supreme Court verdict that disqualified him from holding public office or serving as head of any political faction.
The three-time prime minister also sought the accountability of the judges who removed him from power amid preparations to reclaim his party.


Nida Dar becomes top wicket-taker in women’s T20Is despite Pakistan’s loss to England

Updated 19 May 2024
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Nida Dar becomes top wicket-taker in women’s T20Is despite Pakistan’s loss to England

  • Despite Dar’s milestone, Pakistan fell to England by 65 runs, allowing the hosts to secure a 2-0 series lead
  • Pakistan are now gearing up for the third and final T20I against England, set to take place on May 19 in Leeds

ISLAMABAD: Nida Dar, captain of the Pakistan women’s cricket team, made history by becoming the top wicket-taker in Women’s T20 International cricket with her 137th wicket during the second match against England in Northampton on Friday.

Despite her milestone, Pakistan fell to England by 65 runs, allowing the hosts to secure a 2-0 series lead.

England, batting first, were restricted to 144-6, thanks in part to Dar’s two wickets. However, Pakistan struggled in reply, collapsing to 79 all out within 15.5 overs as English spinners Sophie Ecclestone, Alice Capsey and Sarah Glenn collectively snagged seven wickets.

The International Cricket Council recognized Dar’s historic performance on its website after the match.

“Dar overtook Australia’s Megan Schutt (136 wickets) to lay her claim at the top of the leading wicket-takers chart in women’s T20I on Friday, 17 May,” the ICC proclaimed. “She is the only Pakistan woman in the top 10 list.”

The Pakistan skipper, who started the game with 135 career wickets, was on the verge of setting the new record during Pakistan’s recent home series against the West Indies.

In the match against England, she edged closer to the milestone by getting Capsey stumped in almost the middle of the game and later, in the final over, clinched her landmark 137th wicket by dismissing Amy Jones.

Pakistan are now gearing up for the third and final T20I against England, set to take place on May 19 in Leeds.


Pakistan to send two-member delegation to Kyrgyzstan, offers free evacuation to stranded students

Updated 18 May 2024
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Pakistan to send two-member delegation to Kyrgyzstan, offers free evacuation to stranded students

  • The decision comes after five Pakistani students were injured in mob violence against foreign nationals in Bishkek
  • Deputy PM Ishaq Dar will lead the delegation on Sunday morning to review arrangements for the return of students

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif decided to send a two-member delegation to the Kyrgyz capital of Bishkek and offered free travel facilities to all Pakistani students stranded there on Saturday, following mob violence against foreign nationals enrolled in various universities that led to evacuation requests.
The violence erupted on Friday night after videos of a brawl between Kyrgyz and Egyptian students went viral online, prompting furious mobs to target hostels of medical universities and private lodgings of international students, including Pakistanis, in the city.
According to official statistics, around 10,000 Pakistani students are enrolled in various educational institutions in Kyrgyzstan, with nearly 6,000 residing and studying in Bishkek.
Speaking to Arab News on Saturday, many students reported the Pakistan embassy had advised them to stay indoors, though they had run out of food and water. Some even expressed fears that rioting might resume at night and requested evacuation by the authorities.
A statement released by the PM’s Office in the evening indicated that Sharif had directed Deputy Prime Minister Ishaq Dar and another cabinet member, Amir Maqam, to address the situation in Bishkek.
“Both officials will depart for Bishkek early tomorrow morning [on Sunday] via a special plane,” the statement continued. “Throughout the day, the Prime Minister had been monitoring the situation and staying in contact with the Pakistani ambassador in Bishkek.”
“Despite the satisfactory situation,” it added, “the decision to send this delegation was made to ensure necessary support and facilities for Pakistani students.”
The two Pakistani officials will meet with senior government officials in the Kyrgyz capital to ensure medical treatment for injured students and review arrangements for their return.
In an earlier statement, the prime minister noted that those who wanted to return to Pakistan would be “facilitated at the government’s expense.”
Sharif also declared that his administration would not leave the students alone during such a difficult time and would remain in contact with them and their parents through the embassy.
Meanwhile, the foreign office activated its Crisis Management Unit to facilitate and assist Pakistani nationals in the Kyrgyz Republic and their families. The unit can be contacted on the following numbers: +92519203108 and +92519203094, or via email at [email protected].
The country’s ambassador to Kyrgyzstan Hasan Zaigham said earlier in the day that five Pakistani medical students had been injured in the mob attack. One student was admitted to a local hospital with a jaw injury, while the other four were released after receiving first aid.
“No Pakistani was killed or raped in the violence,” he told Arab News over the phone, dispelling rumors circulating on social media. “The situation is under control now as Bishkek authorities have dispersed all the miscreants.”