There was a time when there were no money changers where you could buy all the dollars you wanted. It was a crime to buy and sell dollars. If you wanted to go abroad, it was the State Bank that gave you the dollars (usually five hundred). I remember an actor being arrested at the airport because he was carrying more dollars. He said, "How can one pay for hotel bills and food for fifteen days if one has five hundred dollars only?" One man, an Ismaili originally from Sri Lanka, used to indulge in the dollar trade. He didn't need to do so, as he already had a factory making animal and bird feed from dead fish. He was arrested and served a few months in jail when Martial Law was imposed in 1969.

It was Nawaz Sharif who made it legal for foreign currency to be purchased and sold in the open market. In 1991 or thereabouts I met an Indian at Dubai Airport who wished the same was done in India (sometime later Manmohan Singh allowed it in India).

Pakistan today faces the problem of five million dollars being smuggled to Afghanistan daily. This is because of money changers. They offer more than ten rupees per dollar to overseas Pakistanis than the State Bank does. They sell these dollars to Afghans at a premium. The loss to the country is tremendous. One of the first things the government should do is to arrest those forex dealers who indulge in havala and then sell the dollars to Afghans and others. Only then will the government have enough foreign exchange to import essential goods like medicines and eatables.