CJP expresses reservations over rupee depreciation

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–Top judge directs NAB to probe rising utility bills

 

ISLAMABAD: Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Mian Saqib Nisar on Wednesday expressed his concerns over the economic turmoil that is plaguing the country, including the rising inflation rate and depreciation of the rupee.

The CJP has directed the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) to probe the rising utility bills. “Inflation is not being addressed,” he stated.

Informing the court that the NAB was probing LNG imports, Auditor General of Pakistan (AGP) Anwar Mansoor Khan accused the previous government of nepotism with regard to the appointments in Pakistan State Oil (PSO). The national exchequer incurred a loss on this account, the AGP said.

The PSO counsel said the Public Procurement and Regulatory Authority (PPRA) may aid in correcting prices. He said prices may reduce to a degree if management gave the authority some time.

To this, the CJP said the people should be provided relief even if a differential amount to one paisa. He added that the PSO should look into the matter along with the government.

The chief justice then grilled the PSO counsel on the alleged illegal appointments. The counsel said only the PSO MD had been appointed by the previous government.

The court was informed the top functionary was paid a monthly salary of Rs 3.7 million. On being made cognisant of the figures, CJP Nisar took a jibe at such munificence having been shown to the individual in question.

He said the SC had summoned him earlier but in vain. The counsel said no notice had been received on this account.

The court then questioned the counsel on compensation packages determinants. The counsel said they were decided in line with prevailing market conditions. The lawyer said the MD preceding the last appointee, who retired in 2012, was paid 1.2 million per month.

The chief justice asked the NAB should look into the matter. Directing the bureau to hasten probe pace, he said the anti-graft watchdog should make the court cognisant of developments in four weeks. The top court also slashed audit fees paid by PSO from PKR4.3 million to PKR1.5 million.

FIA TAKES NOTICE:

Earlier in the day, the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) took notice of the steep decline in rupee’s depreciation against the US dollar.

The notice was taken by FIA Director General Bashir Memon, directing to initiate a crackdown against hundi and hawala system involved in the transfer of foreign exchange.

According to reports, upon Memon’s directives, teams have been constituted in all provinces over the matter which will initiate the crackdown from Wednesday night.

The rupee weakened by 10.24 per cent against the dollar in the inter-bank market, touching an all-time low of Rs 139 on Tuesday. The rupee eventually closed the day at 133.6431 against the dollar in the inter-bank market, declining by Rs 9.371 or 7.542 per cent, according to the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP).

The sharp decline in the value of the rupee comes as the country prepares to approach the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for a bail-out package.

“The market is aware of the overall macroeconomic conditions and based on those conditions, they are having their own expectations about the exchange rate, so that is driving (the rupee valuations) currently,” said SBP spokesperson Abid Qamar.

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