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KARACHI: Import payments and negative regional sentiment on currencies drove the rupee to close near its record low on Friday, dealers said.

The rupee ended at 87.75/80 to the dollar, weaker than Thursday's close of 87.64/67, but still shy of its record low of 87.92 in September.
However in the TOM (one-day forward) market, it traded at 87.95 according to dealers.

"Next week there are fewer payments so the pressure may ease, however there is generally a weak sentiment about the economy," said a dealer at a foreign bank.

Pakistan's foreign exchange reserves fell to $16.96 billion in the week ending Nov. 18, after hitting a record $18.31 billion in the week ending July 30.

There was also some concern following the International Monetary Fund's (IMF) assessment that the outlook for Pakistan's economy for the current fiscal year ending June 2012 was "challenging", dealers said.

In a statement on Tuesday, the IMF said that ongoing security concerns were likely to limit capital inflows.

Dealers said the rupee was under pressure despite rising remittances from overseas Pakistanis, which rose to $1.02 billion in October, compared with $855.11 million in October 2010.

The local currency could also experience downward pressure in the days ahead due to a widening current account deficit, which stood at a provisional $1.5 billion in the July-Oct period, compared with $541 million in the same period last year.

In the money market, overnight rate ended at its top level of 11.90 percent, amid tight liquidity in the interbank market. (Reuters)

 
 
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ISLAMABAD: Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority (OGRA) is likely to increase petrol price by Rs1/liter and diesel by Rs4/liter from December 1, 2011, Geo News reported.

OGRA officials told Geo News that international crude oil prices have shot up to $112 form $109 per barrel, therefore new imports would be sourced at a higher cost.

Moreover diesel has also registered a 7 percent hike in the global market.

Owing to the bullish overseas oil prices government was bound to raise local prices, the officials said.

 
 
LAHORE: US Ambassador to Pakistan Cameron Munter said Friday that the Pak-Iran gas pipeline was not a good idea, Geo News reported.

The plan to get gas from Turkmenistan is a “better idea,” Munter added.

Speaking during a lecture at a private Lahore University, the US Ambassador denied having met Imran Khan and ISI chief Pasha together.

Munter also said that the US wanted to strengthen both civil and military ties with Pakistan.

On the memo issue Munter commented that it was treated with seriousness in the US along with the resignation of Husain Haqqani.

Munter added that on the protest of Army Chief Kayani, some US officials in Pakistan were sent back
 
 
ISLAMABAD: Information Minister Firdous Ashiq Awan said Friday that Pakistan would not take dictation on the gas pipeline issue, Geo News reported.

Awan added that Pakistan would take those steps which are beneficial for the country.

The information minister also commented on the NRO and said a strategy following the Supreme Court’s decision not to review the governments review petition would be unveiled soon.
 
 
4 November 2011 –
The United Nations envoy for Myanmar today called on the authorities to keep up the momentum of recent initiatives to strengthen national unity and advance dialogue and reconciliation, stressing the ‘historic opportunity’ they have to set the country on a new path.

This was the third visit since last year’s election for Special Adviser Vijay Nambiar and the second since the establishment of a new Government seven months ago. It also comes amid the ongoing dialogue between the Government and pro-democracy leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, and the release last month of a significant number of detainees.

“At this juncture, it is of crucial importance, for Myanmar’s regional and global standing, to maintain the positive momentum that these initiatives have generated,” Mr. Nambiar, who is also Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s Chief of Staff, said in a statement issued in Yangon at the end of his five-day visit.
He said the UN strongly encourages the continuation of such efforts as well as the reform agenda led by President Thein Sein as the best way to strengthen domestic and international confidence in Myanmar’s commitment to a reform process that is incremental, systematic and sustainable.

“In particular, we encourage all concerned to build on the steps taken thus far through an inclusive and broad-based political process to strengthen national unity,” said the envoy.

“The release of the remaining political prisoners as part of the recent amnesty process and the enactment of the proposed amendments to the political party registration law are steps that can and should be taken as a matter of priority. Continuous dialogue is also needed to bring about peace and development in border areas.

“If sustained, these and other efforts offer a historic opportunity to set the country on a course that can fulfil the promises made to the people of Myanmar,” he stressed.

During his visit, Mr. Nambiar met with a number of Government officials in Naypyitaw, including Vice-President U Tin Aung Myint Oo, as well as with the Union Peacemaking Group and with the Union Election Commission.

In Mandalay and in Pathein, he was received by the Chief Ministers of Mandalay region and Irrawaddy region, respectively, and in Yangon, he met with Ms. Suu Kyi at her residence. He also met with representatives of several political parties and with civil society groups, as well as with the National Human Rights Commission.

Mr. Nambiar also participated earlier this week in the first Green Economy Green Growth conference, which he said showed that it is now possible for a wide range of actors to come together to openly discuss common concerns.

“It is an indicator of the direction in which Myanmar must continue to move if its democratic transition process is to succeed and if the country is to contribute to the global agenda by effectively addressing such concerns at home,” he stated.

He told the gathering of business leaders, academics, government officials, civil society groups and private citizens that in Myanmar, as elsewhere, green growth is an integral part of efforts to protect the environment while creating decent jobs, reducing poverty and inequality, and achieving globally agreed development targets.

“As Myanmar opens up to a changing world, the green growth agenda can help drive the advancement of sustainable development: it is good business – good politics – and good for society,” he stated.

The Special Adviser also addressed a ceremony yesterday to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the swearing-in of U Thant, a “great son of Myanmar” who served as the third Secretary-General of the UN.

“It is for the Government and people of Myanmar to maximize opportunities and to lead the changes they want to see for their country,” said Mr. Nambiar. “We in the United Nations wish and want Myanmar to succeed. But it has to be a success that is inclusive and includes all elements in the country to the extent that we can help facilitate the efforts which are essentially nationally owned.”
 
 
4 November 2011 – It is vital for authorities in Moldova to ensure an independent judiciary, tackle discrimination and protect the rights of minorities as it works to strengthen democracy, the United Nations human rights chief said today. “I welcomed the positive spirit of my meetings, as well as the engagement of the Government to seriously contemplate human rights reform,” High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said at a press conference in Chisinau, the capital, at the end of her four-day visit.

“I was nevertheless troubled by the message of some that certain groups must wait for human rights,” she added. “I have been clear in emphasizing that, where human rights are concerned, the time is now.”

Ms. Pillay noted that her visit, the first to the country by a UN human rights chief, has been a timely one. “The country is clearly on the road to strengthening its democracy, and aims at a number of ambitious reforms.”

At the same time, she said the economic circumstances of the country are troubling. “I saw with my own eyes the poverty and material deprivation in which many Moldovans live. Issues such as very low pay and a weak public infrastructure have serious implications for the effective realisation of economic and social rights.”

She outlined a number of concerns, including strengthening the independence of the judiciary, the need to tackle the scourge of trafficking, especially of women and girls, and protecting the rights of certain groups in the country.

One group she particularly focused on were people who were confined to psychiatric institutions. She visited the Chisinau Psychiatric Hospital, where she spoke with numerous patients and with hospital staff, and was struck by the “very limited extent” to which forcibly interned patients have access to processes that could lead to their release.

“It is clear that comprehensive reforms are needed to ensure equality and dignity for people suffering from mental and intellectual disabilities,” she said. In general, people with disabilities need as far as possible to be integrated, not segregated, and strenuous efforts need to be made to help people lead an active life in the community rather than be locked away in institutions.”

During talks with senior Moldovan officials, Ms. Pillay highlighted a range of problems related to discrimination against various religious minorities, especially Muslims, Jews, Protestants and Jehovah’s Witnesses; the Roma, who are “systematically excluded” and “almost completely unrepresented” in government; and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered people.

In order to combat such discrimination, she stressed the need to enact as soon as possible a truly comprehensive law banning discrimination on all grounds.

“My message to the Government – and to the public – is that diversity is among our highest values. A democracy is only as strong as its ability to protect its most vulnerable,” she stated.

She also voiced concern at a punitive fine issued against the weekly journal Ziarul de Garda, adding that such measures are “incompatible with democratic societies based on the rule of law.”

The education system, said the High Commissioner, can and should play a key role in combating discrimination and promoting diversity. At the same time, well-constructed and properly implemented laws are also essential.

“It is deeply troubling that, despite all the problems facing the wide range of groups I have mentioned, the legal system in practice remains inert in redressing discrimination and violent acts motivated by intolerance,” she said.

Ms. Pillay’s mission included a visit to the Transnistrian region, where she held meetings with the de facto authorities on issues concerning violations of minimum international standards relating to conditions in places of detention, as well as persistent allegations of arbitrary detention, torture and ill-treatment in custody.

She noted that the work of her office (OHCHR) with de facto authorities on human rights issues does not amount to their legitimisation.

 
 
4 November 2011 – United Nations humanitarian agencies announced today that they are stepping up their support for Somalia as the country faces the combined impact of heavy rains, widespread famine and continuing insecurity in the streets. Thousands of displaced Somalis have been affected by downpours during the current rainy season in parts of Somalia, Kenya and Ethiopia, the United Nations refugee agency reported, adding that it is speeding up efforts to provide emergency assistance in refugee camps.

According to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the rains have flooded some 2,800 people in the Sigale camp in Mogadishu, disrupted the transport system and slowed the pace of internal displacement in the impoverished country.

UNHCR spokesperson Andrej Mahecic told a press briefing in Geneva that the agency has distributed 4,500 assistance kits so far, which include plastic sheets, plastic buckets and soap. He also said that despite the rains slowing down the movement of people, many continue to move away from areas of conflict.

“We are still seeing some movement. In the last week, more than 2,200 people have moved from Afgooye and Daynile, north of Mogadishu, to areas south of the capital in Banadir district. Some say they fled due to general insecurity, while others were trying to return to their home areas in anticipation of deteriorating security,” he said.

Drought and insecurity in Somalia has forced more than 330,000 people to flee the country this year, with the vast majority going to neighbouring Kenya, Ethiopia, Yemen and Djibouti.

In the Dadaab refugee complex in Kenya where some 5,000 people have lost their homes due to the flood waters, UNHCR and its partners have moved them to dryer parts of the camps, and provided blankets and sleeping mats while working to improve drainage in the flooded areas.

Mr. Mahecic also expressed concern for the increasing number of cases of flood-related illnesses in refugees.

“We are seeing a worrying rise in the number of watery diarrhoea cases and a general deterioration of the health situation among refugees, with some 600 people approaching the health centres daily. As part of efforts to prevent disease outbreak, we have started awareness campaigns to encourage refugees to wash their hands, boil water and drink only safe water,” he said.

In addition to providing emergency relief for floods, other UN agencies continue to increase their efforts to help Somalis who suffer from famine and insecurity.

The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) announced today that it is opening its first transit hub in the port of Dubai to accelerate the delivery of nutrition supplies to Somalia.

According to a news release issued by UNICEF, an estimated 5,000 tons of corn soya blend flour will be moved through the warehouse each month to the worst-affected regions of the country.

There are currently 1.5 million children in southern Somalia who are in dire need of humanitarian assistance, including some 190,000 who are severely malnourished and at high risk of death within weeks if they do not receive the necessary support.

“The humanitarian transit hub will make a major impact in widening our pipeline and also improving the predictability of supply delivery,” said Shanelle Hall, Director of UNICEF’s supply division. “It will help us ensure a regular flow of nutrition supplies for the worst-affected children and their families.”

Over 100 days have passed since famine in southern Somalia was formally declared. Since then a significant scale-up of relief activities have reached 2.2 million people, giving them access to food and water. Insecurity in the country however, has continued, increasing the number of weapons-related injuries and casualties.

During the press briefing, Tarik Jasarevic of the World Health Organization (WHO) said that according to health partners on the ground there were 70 injuries and 12 weapons-related deaths just last week due to fighting in the Lower Juba region, in addition to the 441 casualties that were treated in one hospital last month in Mogadishu. He added that WHO is responding by dispatching trauma kits for surgeries.

 
 
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MECCA: More than 2.5 million Muslim pilgrims began on Friday the rites of the annual hajj pilgrimage, leaving the holy city of Mecca for Mount Arafat, where the prophet Mohammed (PBUH) is believed to have delivered his final hajj sermon.

Dressed in white, they flooded the streets as they headed towards Mina, around five kilometres (three miles) east of the holy mosque.

The day is known as Tarwiah (Watering) Day, as pilgrims traditionally watered their animals and stocked water for their trip to Mount Arafat, some 10 kilometres further on.

Many pilgrims took buses, while others set off on foot for a village that comes to life for just five days a year.

Others were using the Mashair Railway, also known as Mecca Metro, to go to Mount Arafat and its surrounding plains where they will gather for the peak Day of Arafat on Saturday.

The Chinese-built railway will operate for the first time this year at its full capacity of 72,000 people per hour to ease congestions and prevent stampedes in which hundreds have been killed in past years.

The dual-track light railway connects the three holy sites of Mina, Muzdalifah and Mount Arafat, areas that see massive congestion during the five-day pilgrimage.

It will replace 30,000 cars previously used, said project director Fahd Abu-Tarbush.

“The train this year is restricted to the pilgrims coming from inside Saudi Arabia and Gulf states, as well as 200,000 pilgrims coming from south Asia,” Tarbush told AFP.

“Mashair Railway will transport 500,000 pilgrims from Mina, passing by Muzdalifah, reaching to Arafat, in addition to one million pilgrims on the Tashreeq days,” which are on the 11th, 12th and 13th of the Muslim month of Dhul Hijjah.

Around 1.7 million Muslims descended on Mecca from around the world while between 700,000 and 800,000 pilgrims are coming from inside Saudi Arabia.

The hajj is one of the five pillars of Islam and must be performed at least once in a lifetime by all those who are able to make the journey, and it is a dream that can take years to come true.

 
 
KARACHI: Former players and family members of guilty Pakistan players on Thursday said the whole episode was sad and should serve as a harsh lesson for the sport’s administrators and future players.
Former Pakistan cricket captain Salman Butt, bowlers Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Aamer, and their corrupt agent, have all been jailed for their part in a fixing scandal which has rocked the international game to its core.

Former Pakistan captain Rashid Latif said the sentences were due.

“I think they deserved this punishment, they had it due. But now the Pakistan government and Pakistan cricket board should also take action against them and the matter should serve as a lesson,” Latif told AFP.

“These convictions will hopefully serve as a deterrent to others in future because cricket should not be allowed to be corrupted by anyone and that is very serious for all of us,” said Latif, known for blowing the whistle on another fixing scam in 1995.

Another former captain Intikhab Alam said it was a sad state of affairs.

“I would call it a black day for Pakistan cricket,” said Alam, also a former manager and coach. “I feel sad for these boys because I have spent so much time with them but what they have done they must pay for it.”

They have let their families and the whole nation and million of fans down, which is very shocking.”Former player and selector Salahuddin Ahmed said Pakistan government should also initiate action against the guilty players.

“I think they deserved this and Pakistan government should also take action because they have let the whole nation down. I think the greed of money prompted them to do this,” said Ahmed.

Former captain Moin Khan said the matter saddened the whole nation.

“It is a sad for us and for the whole country, and tragic day for Pakistan cricket but one hopes it will also result in a new beginning for Pakistan cricket, everyone feels for their families,” said Khan.

However, Butt’s father Zulfiqar said his son was wrongly implicated.

“I am convinced and will do my best to prove that my son has been implicated and made a scapegoat,” said Zulfiqar.

 
 
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WASHINGTON: Advocating a strong linkage between lasting security and economic opportunity, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has urged Congressional support for continued economic assistance for both Pakistan and Afghanistan and noted that reconciliation in Afghanistan offers the best hope for stability in the region.

In a status report on Afghanistan and Pakistan Civilian Engagement, submitted to Congress, the chief American diplomat said assisting the two allied countries would secure American interests in the region.

“We will continue supporting an Afghan-led peace process that meets our red-lines.This won’t be easy, but reconciliation is still possible and is the best hope for peace and stability in Afghanistan and the region,” Clinton said in a statement on release of the report.

“We will continue to build capacity and opportunity in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and across the region, because lasting stability and security go hand in hand with greater economic opportunity,” she added.

She told the lawmakers that the civilian surge in Afghanistan and Pakistan that President Obama launched in 2009 to accompany the military surge in Afghanistan has helped advance American goals of defeating al-Qaeda, reversing the Taliban’s momentum in key areas, and bolstering the economy and civil society of both countries.

“As US troops begin a phased drawdown in Afghanistan as part of the larger plan for transition, our civilian initiatives in both Afghanistan and Pakistan are assuming new importance.”

The report provides a thorough review of our civilian efforts, identifies significant challenges and areas of progress, and outlines the way forward.

It places the work of our diplomats, development experts, and other civilian specialists within the framework of the “fight, talk, build” strategy.

“We will continue the fight, as coalition and Afghan forces increase the pressure on the Taliban, the Haqqani network, and other insurgents.”

In Afghanistan, “build” means supporting Afghans in laying the foundation for sustainable economic growth in the run-up to 2014, while also shifting from short-term stabilization projects to long-term development programs, Clinton noted.

In Pakistan, it means leveraging the resources provided by the landmark Kerry-Lugar-Berman legislation to address major economic challenges that threaten Pakistan’s stability, Clinton remarked.

And across the wider region, it means pursuing a broader, long-term vision for regional economic integration, a New Silk Road, that will lower trade barriers, create jobs, and reinforce political stability, she added.

“Our civilian efforts were never designed to solve all of Afghanistan’s development challenges or to completely turn around Pakistan’s economy. But they do aim to give Afghans and Pakistanis a stake in their countries’ futures and undercut the appeal of insurgency.

This strategy is rooted in a lesson we have learned over and over again, all over the world, lasting stability and security go hand in hand with economic opportunity. People need a realistic hope for a better life, a job, and a chance to provide for their family.

It recognizes the vital role of women and civil society in building more stable and prosperous countries, and in achieving lasting peace and reconciliation. And it puts accountability and transparency at the heart of all our efforts.”

The top American diplomat underscored to skeptical legislators on the Capitol Hill that    “as our commanders on the ground will attest, it is critical to our broader strategy that civilian assistance continue in both Afghanistan and Pakistan.”

“Disengaging now would undermine our military and political efforts and the national security interests of the United States.”

“We know that there will be hard days ahead, but we believe that this strategy    “fight, talk, build” offers the best way forward. As we proceed, the support and advice of Congress will be crucial.

“I look forward to continuing to work closely with members of both chambers and parties to ensure that our diplomats and development experts have the resources and support they need to advance our goals in Afghanistan and Pakistan and our national security around the world.”

 

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