Harmful for peace process to exclude Kabul from conferences — Afghan envoy

Afghanistan’s ambassador to Islamabad Atif Mashal speaks during an interview with Arab News at this office in Islamabad on Sunday, 23 June, 2019. (AN photo)
Updated 25 June 2019
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Harmful for peace process to exclude Kabul from conferences — Afghan envoy

  • Urges international community to emphasize Kabul lead the peace process
  • More than 50 Afghan leaders arrived at the Pakistani hill station of Bhurban on Saturday for a peace meet

ISLAMABAD: All meetings and conferences would be harmful for the Afghan peace process if they are not coordinated with the Kabul government, Afghanistan’s top envoy in Islamabad said on Sunday after Pakistan hosted a conference for Afghan leaders to bolster a faltering peace process aimed at ending a lengthy civil war in the neighboring country.
More than 50 Afghan leaders, including politicians and tribal elders, arrived at the Pakistani hill station of Bhuran on Saturday for the meet, but there were no representatives of the Kabul government or the Afghan Taliban militants, who have been fighting for years to expel foreign forces and defeat the US-backed government in Kabul.
Envoy Atif Mashal said he was present at the first session of the Bhurban conference in his personal capacity, just to meet guests from Afghanistan. 
“When meetings and programs for peace are not coordinated with the Afghan government and the other parties in the country, especially with the Afghan government, it harms the peace process rather than benefiting it,” the Afghan ambassador told Arab News in an interview at his office in Islamabad. “Agenda of all meetings and conferences, which are held in the region and other countries, should be open and should be coordinated with the Afghan government.”
Relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan have been strained in recent years amid long-standing allegations by Kabul and Washington that Pakistan has been sheltering the Taliban militants since US-led forces removed them from power in 2001, something Islamabad denies. Pakistan also says its influence over the Taliban has waned over the years.
The United States has been pushing Pakistan to use its influence with the Taliban to open direct negotiations with the Kabul government, which the Taliban regard as an illegitimate foreign-imposed regime. Since December last year, US and Taliban officials have held several rounds of talks but the Taliban have repeatedly refused to talk directly to the Afghan government.
“Afghan political leaders understand there is a chance for peace. The international community should emphasize that Afghan government leads peace efforts,” Mashal said. 
In April, thousands of Afghans congregated in Kabul for a rare ‘Loya Jirga’ consultative meeting aimed at finding ways to negotiate a peace deal with the Taliban. But opposition political leaders and government critics, including former president Hamid Karzai, boycott the assembly accusing President Ashraf Ghani of using it as a platform to boost his status as leader in an election year.
Without naming anyone, Mashal said the people of Afghanistan would decide about those who had shunned a Loya Jirga aimed at finding peace for the country. 
When asked if the Afghan government supported talks between the Taliban and the US in Qatar from which the Ghani government had been excluded, he said the US and the Afghan government were moving forward with the peace process with consensus.
“All details are shared with each other,” Mashal said. “Besides this, we work on a common agenda. We also want other countries to coordinate all of their efforts with the Afghan government and move forward with understanding to achieve the required results.”
Notable attendees at the Bhurban conference included Hizb-e-Islami chief Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, presidential candidate Haneef Atmar, chief of the High Peace Council Mohammad Karim Khalili, Jamiat-e-Islami leader Ustad Atta Mohammad Noor, Wali Masood, the brother of Ahmad Shah Masood, Hizb-e-Wahdat leader Mohammad Mohaqiq, ex-MP Fauzia Kofi, presidential candidate Latif Pedram, former minister Anwar ul Haq Ahadi, and Pir Hamid Gailani.


No change in instructions on purchase of foreign currency by banks, clarifies central bank

Updated 22 July 2019
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No change in instructions on purchase of foreign currency by banks, clarifies central bank

  • Some media outlets misinterpreted the updated version of Foreign Exchange Manual, causing confusion
  • Commercial banks cannot replace exchange companies, says Malik Bostan

KARACHI: Pakistan’s exchange companies would continue to play their role in the country’s economy, clarified the State Bank of Pakistan on Monday, noting that there was no change in the instruction on purchase of foreign currency notes by banks who were already allowed to deal in international currencies through authorized branches.
The confusion was caused when some local and foreign media outlets misinterpreted the updated version of the central bank’s instructions in its Foreign Exchange Manual, thinking that the country’s currency exchange companies were being drive out of business and commercial banks were going to assume their role. 
“SBP is in process of revision of Foreign Exchange (FE) Manual in phased manner. In this respect, seven chapters (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7 & 20) of FE Manual have been revised and circulated through FE Circular dated November 29, 2018, in the first phase. In phase II, three chapters 8, 9 & 11 have been revised through FE Circular No. 03 of 2019 dated July 16, 2019,” a statement issued by the central bank said. 
One of these revised chapters, 11, includes regulations on “Dealings in Foreign Currency Notes and Coins etc. by the Authorized Dealers (banks).”
“With respect to revised Chapter 11, it has come to our notice that there are some confusions/misinterpretations regarding Para 2 suggesting that SBP has allowed the banks to sell/purchase foreign currencies to/from public by amending the existing regulations,” the SBP said while clarifying that no such amendment had been made.
Currency dealers also said they were playing a vital role for the country’s economy "that cannot be downplayed."
“Banks were already authorized to undertake foreign exchange currency business through authorized branches, but they did not take interest in currency dealing which is evident from the fact that only a few of them established such branches,” Malik Bostan, president of the Forex Association of Pakistan, told Arab News on Monday.
Bostan added that “we are operating on meager profit that commercial banks can’t afford to make.”