Moody’s maintains stable outlook for Pakistani banks

KARACHI: Moody’s Investors Service has maintained its stable outlook on Pakistan’s banking system, reflecting the rating agency’s expectation that the country’s banks will continue to benefit from a stable deposit base, high liquidity buffers and an accelerating economic growth under the International Monetary Fund (IMF) programme, which will create lending opportunities over the next 12-18 months.

“We expect the strengthening economy and the central bank’s monetary easing to provide banks with plenty of business opportunities and stimulate loan growth to around 12 per cent over the next 12-18 months,” says Elena Panayiotou, an assistant vice president at Moody’s.

The rating agency expects gross domestic product (GDP) growth to expand by 4.9 per cent in 2016-17, which would be the fastest pace since 2008, as the country completes for the first time an IMF programme and implements infrastructure projects under with the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).

“We expect problem loans will decline to around 10pc of total loans by the end of 2017 compared with 11.1pc at the end of June 2016. Banks, however, will remain heavily exposed to the low-rated Pakistan sovereign, linking the banks’ creditworthiness to that of the sovereign,” says Ms Panayiotou.

In terms of capital, the rating agency expects buffers will come under pressure due to weakening profitability and loan growth, reducing the banks’ ability to absorb losses. The pressure on profitability will stem from declining yields on government securities and lower interest rates, which are eroding net interest margins, while higher lending growth and lower provisioning requirements will only partially offset this pressure.

On the other hand, Moody’s expects Pakistani banks to maintain ample liquidity and continue to benefit from large volumes of low-cost and stable customer deposits. “We expect inflows of remittances from workers abroad will grow at lower pace but will remain substantial and continue to drive the growth in bank deposits and support banks’ funding bases,” says Ms Panayiotou.

Moody’s expects the sector to also maintain strong liquidity buffers, with cash and interbank placements at 9pc of total assets as of June 2016, and liquid securities, mainly in the form of government securities, at another 47pc of total assets.


Younis Khan out of day-night Test against West Indies after dengue

KARACHI: Veteran Test batsman Younis Khan has been ruled out from the first Test against the West Indies, DawnNews reported on Thursday.

Younis, who is recovering from dengue virus, told Inzamam-ul-Haq that he is yet to regain full fitness, a Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) official said.

The official further said that Younis has asked for a window of 8-10 days before he can take on the field.

Pakistan are scheduled to take on the Windies in the three-Test match series, starting October 13.

The first Test will be a pink-ball affair in Dubai, making Pakistan only the second board to host a day-night game.

It is has been learnt that Babar Azam, who astonished the cricket fraternity with three consecutive centuries against the West Indies during the recently concluded three-match One-Day International series, will replace the 38-year-old.

The final squad for the series is to be announced on October 8. There are no major changes expected in the Test squad which toured England earlier in the summer.

Modi exploiting soldiers’ blood for politics: Rahul

NEW DELHI: Posters are out of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in poll-bound Uttar Pradesh, depicting him as the man who taught Pakistan a lesson by ordering a much-advertised surgical strike in Azad Kashmir, but Congress leader Rahul Gandhi said on Thursday the government was trading the soldiers’ blood for political gain.

“Hamare jawan hain jinho ne khoon diya hai, jinho ne surgical strike kiya; unke khoon ke peechhe aap (PM) chhupe huye ho. Unki aap dalali kar rahe ho. (Our soldiers are the ones who sacrifice their lives, who do surgical strikes. You are claiming credit while it is the soldiers who spill their blood.”

Earlier, Congress MP Sanjay Nirupam termed fake the strikes the Indian Army claimed to have made in Azad Kashmir. Mr Gandhi accused Mr Modi of exploiting the blood of soldiers.

Mr Gandhi’s comment forms part of opposition unrest and doubts over the Modi government’s claims that it ordered something new and spectacular against the Pakistanis for their alleged attack on the Uri army camp last month.

Former Congress minister Mani Shankar Aiyar wrote in his blog that he had no doubt that this was not the first surgical strike that India had undertaken.

“At least since 2008 — and possibly earlier — the military has been left to take such action as they deem appropriate along the Line of Control or LoC. Repeatedly, therefore, almost year after year, the Indian army has resorted to such strikes.”

Defence analyst Col Ajai Shukla has faced a barrage of personal insults by ruling party spokespersons for saying that Indian anchors and spokespersons need to distinguish between action “along the LoC” and action well across the LoC or the international border.

“The latter requires duly deliberated government sanction,” Mr Aiyar observed.

“The former is par for the course. Ever since the LoC was established decades ago, it has been left to the military to determine locally how best to respond to Pakistani provocations along (but not far across) the LoC. The surgical strikes undertaken by the Indian army in 2008, 2009, 2011 and 2013 were in keeping with these standing instructions.”

According to Mr Aiyar, the Pakistanis may have decided to so treat the September 29 surgical strikes claimed by India as there have been precedents for such strikes that went officially unacknowledged on both sides of the LoC.

“It was Modi’s government that has decided to project the current round of ‘surgical strikes’ as proof of the ‘strong action’ the BJP pledged through Modi during the 2104 elections, and has asserted repeatedly since. That has left the BJP in the position of someone pushing at an open door.”

Pemra to take stern action against channels violating law

ISLAMABAD: The Pakis­tan Electronic Media Regu­latory Authority (Pemra) on Thursday announced that stern action would be taken against channels airing foreign content beyond the prescribed limit.

Pemra chairman Absar Alam, addressing a meeting of the Council of Complaints (CoCs), said that a few TV channels had become ‘promoters of hatred’, adding that four or five TV anchors were damaging the image of the country.

“Some media channels are not doing journalism and anchors have become political actors,” he said, pointing out how certain anchors were predicting war between India and Pakistan.

The meeting also condemned the “insulting behaviour” of an anchor, also a bureaucrat, with Chairman of CoCs, Lahore, Dr Mehdi Hassan recently during a hearing. It was informed that the Punjab government had already constituted a committee to probe the incident.

It was noted with concern that certain TV channels had obtained stay orders from the court to air re-enactments, despite a ban.

Speaking on the occasion, Dr Mehdi said that presentday Pakistan was not the country Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah had envisaged, but was in Gen Zia’s image.

He said that there was a dearth of monitoring content and proper training of journalists and other staff in the media houses. “Media houses should deploy gate- keepers to implement strict monitoring of the content being aired,” he added. It was suggested that channel owners should be bound to train reporters, cameramen and other staff.

Chairman of CoCs, Quetta, Professor Agha Muhammad Nasir alleged that channels did not give importance to Balochistan, while Chairman of Karachi CoCs Professor Inam Bari said that crimes must not be glorified. Shakil Chander, from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, said channels must not indulge in sensationalism in the name of breaking news.

It was decided that TV channels should be asked to dedicate airtime for airing programmes on Kashmir and Pemra noted that anchorpersons should be registered after proper training and meeting the criteria.

Majority of the CoCs members favoured the ban on airing Indian content, but two members advocated that the policy of continuing six per cent Indian content on TV channels should continue.

Imran plans siege of Islamabad on Oct 30

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) chairman Imran Khan has called on party workers to lay siege to Islamabad on Oct 30, telling them to stay put until Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif resigns or presents himself for accountability in the backdrop of the Panama Papers leaks.

The charged PTI chief also took the Pakistan Peoples Party leadership to task for going soft on the government, returning to his earlier stance that both “Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and former President Asif Ali Zardari are not only in cahoots but are also providing cover to each other’s corrupt practices”.

In fact, Mr Khan criticised the PPP leadership responsible for its slow reaction to the Panamagate scandal, saying the party had dragged its feet on the formulation of terms of reference (ToR) for a proposed inquiry commission.

Sounding more like his 2014-self, Mr Khan said Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Syed Khurshid Shah himself faced corruption charges and was on Nawaz Sharif’s payroll.

“I am of the firm belief that, come what may, Zardari will never go after Nawaz Sharif for corruption. In fact, both have an agreement to protect each other,” said the PTI chairman.

Mr Khan even went as far as to suggest that the PPP leadership should follow the MQM’s minus-one formula and get rid of Mr Zardari, who had only brought a bad name to the party by committing widespread corruption. “Why has Mr Zardari fled the country; why is he not coming back?” he asked, rhetorically.

Talking about his party’s decision to besiege the capital city, the PTI leader said that if the prime minister didn’t meet his party’s demands, he wouldn’t let PM Sharif continue running the government. “A detailed modus operandi will be released afterwards.”

Flanked by the entire PTI leadership, Mr Khan said that with the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz and PPP joining hands to maintain the status quo, “I am left with no option but to go for a solo flight against their collective corruption.”

The PPP, he said, had already crash-landed in the National Assembly by playing friendly opposition. However, he praised Aitzaz Ahsan for genuinely striving against the Sharifs’ corruption and demanding their accountability.

Mr Khan again criticised government institutions — such as the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), Federal Board of Revenue (FBR), Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) and Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) — for their silence on the Panama Papers leaks, and hoped that the Supreme Court would do justice to petitions filed by his party and others.

When asked why he was coming back to Islamabad, the PTI leader responded: “Because the government is here.”

In the same breath, Mr Khan said that he knew the people of the twin cities would have to face inconvenience again, but “you have to face it if you want our future generations to live honourable lives.”

On tensions between Indian and Pakistan, Mr Khan said that these were largely due to the government’s failure on the diplomatic front, which boiled down to the lacklustre leadership of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

“Had the prime minister provided genuine leadership and not stayed busy looting the country and enjoying his stay in his palatial houses abroad, India could have not isolated our country,” he said, adding that when Narendra Modi was busy isolating Pakistan, PM Sharif had gone on a shopping spree in London.

Defending his decision to stay away from the ongoing joint sitting of parliament, Mr Khan referred to how the opposition and treasury benches had sparred, accusing each other of corruption. “Is this the collective message they want to send the outside world?” asked the PTI leader.

Earlier, when Mr Khan arrived to chair a party meeting at a local hotel, he was seen on video congratulating other party leaders over the trade of barbs by PPP and PML-N members in parliament.