News Buzz

April 2023

PBA launches a national, blockchain based, eKYC platform

Seated in the picture from left to right; PBA Chairman, Mr. Muhammad Aurangzeb, (President HBL); Mr. Tawfiq Hussain, CEO PBA (signatory); Mr. Omer Khan, CEO, Avanza Solutions (Pvt) Ltd. (signatory); Mr. Waqas Mirza, CEO Avanza Innovations and Mr. Akhter Javed, Director BPRD, SBP.

Pakistan Banks’ Association (PBA), on behalf of all its member banks, signed the project contract for the development and execution of Pakistan’s first, blockchain based, national eKYC banking platform with the Avanza Group. The signing ceremony was held at the PBA office in Karachi on March 2, 2023.

The ceremony was attended by PBA Chairman, Muhammad Aurangzeb, who is also President HBL, Akhter Javed, Director BPRD, SBP; Tawfiq Hussain, CEO PBA, the signatory for PBA, Waqas Mirza, CEO Avanza Innovations; and Omer Khan, CEO, Avanza Solutions (Pvt) Ltd, the signatory for Avanza.

The eKYC (electronic Know Your Customer) project is part of SBP’s on-going efforts to strengthen the control infrastructure for Anti Money Laundering (AML)/Terrorist Financing (TF) in the country. The PBA has been overseeing the planning and management of the project on behalf of the banking industry, under the aegis of the State Bank of Pakistan. The deployment of this platform will bring about efficiencies at participating banks and will result in improvement in customer experience, especially at the time of account opening, thus facilitating financial inclusion.

Harry and Meghan invited to Charles coronation

Prince Harry and his wife Meghan Markel have been invited to King Charles III’s landmark coronation in May but are yet to decide whether to attend.

The California-based couple, who quit the British monarchy in 2020 amid growing internal tensions, “recently received email correspondence from His Majesty’s office regarding the coronation”, a spokesperson for them said.

“An immediate decision on whether the Duke and Duchess [of Sussex] will attend will not be disclosed by us at this time,” their representative added, using their formal titles. Buckingham Palace declined to comment.

The report comes with Harry, 38, increasingly estranged from his father, brother Prince William and the rest of the family, after exposing the extent of their fractured relations in a book, Netflix documentary and numerous interviews.

In his latest public comments, the prince reportedly told a trauma expert that he has long felt “slightly different” to other British royals, came from a “broken home” and was trying not to pass “trauma” onto his children.

In his explosive memoir published in January, he claimed William attacked him during an argument about Meghan.

Sarwat Gilani rises to the occasion

To provide aid to earthquake victims in Türkiye, the Art House by Sarwat Gilani has decided to play its part and contribute funds for the greater cause. Of late, Jawani Phir Nahi Aani actress took to her social media handle to announce the initiative being undertaken by her - on her own.

Sarwat Gilani wrote, “Deepest condolences for our brothers and sisters of Türkiye. The images and news do not come close to the devastation occurred by continuous earthquakes affecting 11 cities as well as destroying over a million of lives and homes.”

Wolf Blitzer to Receive Top Journalism Award

The International Centre for Journalists (ICFJ) will honour CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer with the ICFJ Founders Award for Excellence in Journalism. The veteran journalist, who has delivered in-depth coverage of some of the world’s biggest stories in a career spanning more than five decades, will receive the award at the ICFJ Tribute to Journalists 2023 event in Washington, D.C.

Blitzer has anchored CNN’s “The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer” since 2005, providing reliable and insightful coverage of the fractious U.S. political system. Today, he is one of the world’s most recognized journalists. On his nightly programme, he covers breaking news, politics and global events – including most recently the war in Ukraine, the earthquakes in Syria and Turkey, and U.S.-China relations.

Blitzer has kept coverage of the war in Ukraine – and U.S. involvement in it – front and centre since Russia invaded last year. He regularly interviews senior officials about the invasion, from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, and highlights the plight of Ukrainian civilians, such as in a 2022 reporting trip to Poland, home to more than 1.5 million refugees from Ukraine. He is often on the ground reporting from major global political stages, covering meetings between G20 leaders such as the 2021 summit between President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The ICFJ Tribute to Journalists 2023 will take place on Nov. 2 at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Centre and will be broadcast virtually as well. At the same event, ICFJ will present the Knight International Journalism Awards, which honour journalists whose pioneering work has made an impact on the lives of people in their countries or regions. The winners of those awards will be announced in May.

AIFD showcases students’ crafts at PFW

The Asian Institute of Fashion Design (AIFD) is Pakistan’s first fashion school to exhibit its students’ work at the famed Paris Fashion Week (PFW).

The presentation was special as the Pakistani school showed the film prior to the showcase, unlike any other participant at the PFW, held from February 27 till March 7.

This was said by the AIFD CEO and creative director, following the display of ten bright costumes on the runway. The AIFD completed the PFW exhibition with a fashion video including 29 garments, including those seen on the runway. Eight final-year students collaborated on the project.

This milestone will help Pakistani designers step up their game, eventually bringing Pakistani fashion in the international limelight. On March 5, AIFD exhibited a collection of its students’ work at the Hôtel d’Évreux at Place Vendôme in Paris, France. Maheen Lakhani Ahmar, co-founder and CEO of AIFD, aced this significant feat.

AIFD’s show in Paris commenced with their first-ever student-made Fashion Film, ‘Enchanted Odyssey.’ The fashion film was followed by a showcase of the Top 10 looks from the AIFD Thesis Collection 2022.

Knock down Taj Mahal, Lal Qila and Qutub Minar: Naseeruddin Shah

Veteran Indian film actor Naseeruddin Shah is playing the character of Mughal Emperor Akbar in ‘Taj - Divided by Blood,’ a 10-part web series inspired by true events. The war-themed series is currently streaming on the OTT platform Zee5.

The Masoom actor has now shared his heartfelt reservations about the Mughals, who, according to him, are being vilified in India, both onscreen and off screen, and that too under the patronage of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. However, instead of showing his anger on the prevailing Hindutva wave distorting and altering the rich Mughal history, Naseeruddin Shah finds it quite amusing.

In his recent interview with an Indian daily, Naseeruddin Shah said, “It amuses me because it is so utterly ridiculous. I mean, people can’t tell the difference between Akbar and a murderous invader like Nader Shah or Babar’s great-grandfather Taimur. These were people who came here to loot, the Mughals didn’t come here to loot. They came here to make this their home and that’s what they did. Who can deny their contribution?”

The Chamatkar actor believes those who find the Mughals responsible for the ‘downfall’ of India, are in fact unable to fully understand the Indian history, as there have been numerous instances where history of the Hindu-majority land has been kind, particularly to the Muslim rulers.

“Sure they are not the only ones. In school, unfortunately, history dwelled mainly on the Mughals or the British. We knew about Lord Hardy, Lord Cornwallis and about the Mughal emperors, but we didn’t know about the Gupta dynasty, the Maurya dynasty, the Vijayanagara Empire, the history of the Ajanta caves, or about the northeast,” he commented. “We didn’t read any of these things because history was written by the Englishmen or the Anglophiles and I think that’s really unfair. So what people are saying is to some extent true, that the Mughals have been glorified at the expense of our own indigenous traditions. Perhaps that’s true, (But) there is no need to villainise them either,” the Chahat actor added.

Joyland’s song plagiarized by Indian music label

Pakistani music composer Farasat Anees has accused T-Series, an Indian music giant, for plagiarising his song ‘BIBA,’ which was featured in the film Joyland, produced by Saim Sadiq.

“What a disgrace! T-Series [is] stealing our work because it has been trending in the world. Me and my brothers, Toshi and Slick Trick, worked day and night to bring this song where it is. PLEASE HAVE SOME SHAME and stop ruining every good song from Pakistan,” Farasat Anees wrote in his online post.

US watchdog warns of risks buying crypto asset securities

The US Securities and Exchange Commission issued an investor alert warning that firms offering crypto asset securities may not be complying with U.S. laws.

Unregistered offerings of such securities may not provide important data, including audited financial statements, for informed decision making, the SEC said.

The securities watchdog has been cracking down on the crypto industry, which its chair has called a “Wild West” riddled with misconduct. Its efforts gathered pace after November’s collapse of Sam Bankman-Fried’s cryptocurrency exchange FTX.

Crypto exchange Coinbase announced on Wednesday that it had received a Wells notice - a formal declaration that SEC staff intend to recommend an enforcement action.

‘Gulabo Rani’ wins international awards

The horror film ‘Gulabo Rani,’ directed by Usman Mukhtar, has won seven more international awards before its official release this month.

The news was recently shared by action-director Usman Mukhtar on his Instagram handle, writing a special thank you note to the entire production team “from the cast to the crew” for all their “hard work and dedication,” as the awards are a testament to their “hard work, creativity and dedication.” “Alhamdulillah, so happy to announce that our film Gulabo Rani has bagged seven more awards internationally.” According to him, the film ‘Gulabo Rani’ won one award at the Indie Short Fest LA, two awards at the Indie X Film Fest LA, and four at the Independent Shorts Awards Los Angeles.

“Despite the challenges we faced, each and every one of you brought your A-game to the table,” he wrote. “You poured your hearts and souls into this project, and it shows in the final product. Your commitment to excellence and passion for storytelling is what made this film a success,” Usman Mukhtar wrote.

IMF says no to fuel subsidy

A long-awaited loan agreement between Pakistan and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) will be signed once a few remaining points, including a proposed fuel pricing scheme, are settled.

The latest issue is a plan, announced by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, to charge affluent consumers more for fuel, with the money raised used to subsidise prices for the poor, who have been hit hard by inflation, which in February was at its highest in 50 years. Petroleum Minister Musadik Malik told Reuters that his ministry had been given six weeks to work out the pricing plan. But the IMF’s resident representative in Pakistan, Esther Perez Ruiz, said the government did not consult the fund about the fuel pricing scheme.

Exports to nine regional states dip 18pc

According to the statistics revealed by the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP), Pakistan’s exports to nine regional countries shrank 18.28 per cent in the first eight months of FY23 mainly driven by a drop in shipments to China.

The decline is not confined to exports but imports especially from China also saw a deep decline during the current fiscal year. As part of government austerity measures, imported containers are awaiting clearance as the opening of letters of credit for consumers’ goods is the least priority of the government.

The country’s exports to Afghanistan, China, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, India, Iran, Nepal, Bhutan and the Maldives dipped to $2.414 billion — just 12.92pc of Pakistan’s total exports of $ in July-February FY23.
China tops the list of Pakistan’s regional exports leaving other populous countries India and Bangladesh behind. But Pakistan’s exports to China posted negative growth in the first 8MFY23 on a year-on-year basis. The bulk of the regional exports share, which accounts for 55.26pc, is with China while the remaining is for eight countries.

Pakistan’s exports to China declined 27.53pc to $1.334 in July-Feb FY23 from $1.841bn in 8MFY22. The decrease in export proceeds was noted for the first time in the post-Covid period. However, the imports from China also declined by 37.38pc to $7.066bn on a year-on-year basis during the months under review.

Pakistan’s exports to Afghanistan posted a positive growth of 17pc to $346.52m in July-Feb from $296.10m in July-Feb 2021. Till a few years ago, Afghanistan was the second major export destination for Pakistan after the United States. The export figures did not include proceeds materialised through the land routes.