FM Qureshi hopes 2020 will be 'the year of peace in Afghanistan'

This photograph shared by Pakistani foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi on Jan. 17, 2020, shows the minister speaking during a session at CSIS in Washington on Jan. 16, 2020. (Photo courtesy: Shah Mahmood Qureshi/Twitter)
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Updated 17 January 2020

FM Qureshi hopes 2020 will be 'the year of peace in Afghanistan'

  • It is in no one’s interest to repeat the mistakes of the 1980s, says Qureshi
  • Pakistani FM briefed US Under Secretary of Defense on Pakistan’s efforts to defuse ongoing tensions in the Middle East

ISLAMABAD: Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi expressed hope that 2020 could be “the year of peace in Afghanistan” and “no precipitate action” would disrupt it, the Foreign Office quoted him as saying at a Washington-based think tank on Thursday.
Qureshi also said he hoped that the withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghan territory would be “phased and orderly.”
“It is in no one’s interest to repeat the mistakes of the 1980s,” Qureshi said in a speech at Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), referring to the abrupt US pullout from Afghanistan after Soviet withdrawal, according to the Foreign Office’s statement issued on Friday.
“We need to remember that peace in Afghanistan is ultimately a shared responsibility. Pakistan will and is playing its role, but it alone cannot do all that is needed,” he said, warning against “spoilers,” as “sadly, not every country in the broader region wants to see peace in Afghanistan,” he said.
The United States-backed proxy war against the Soviets in Afghanistan in the 1980s and its abrupt withdrawal of forces in 1989, have been linked to the rise of militancy in Pakistan and the whole region. In 2009, then US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton acknowledged that the US too had a part in creating the problem that plagues Pakistan today.
During his CSIS visit, Qureshi said that “for too long, the Pakistan-US relationship has remained hostage to the Afghan issue. We want this rather unhelpful framework to change.”
He also suggested that both the US and Pakistan need to “sharpen” their “focus and preparations for the post-conflict phase.”
Qureshi is currently in Washington for talks with the US officials.
In a meeting with members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, the foreign minister said that Pakistan was committed to the political reconciliation process in Afghanistan.
“The Committee members appreciated Pakistan’s role in the Afghan peace process and requested Pakistan’s continued support,” the foreign office said.
Qureshi also briefed the US Under Secretary of Defense John Rood about his recent visits to Saudi Arabia and Iran in Pakistan’s efforts to defuse ongoing tensions in the Middle East, following a US airstrike that killed the top Iranian commander Qassem Soleimani on Jan. 3.
Foreign relations analyst Rasul Bakhsh Rais told Arab News that US and its allies are trying to make sure that “state institutions, security arrangements and political order they have helped cultivate and build in Afghanistan must continue, while they withdraw their troops.”
“It would require the US to remain engaged in Afghanistan by supporting political stability, intra-Afghan reconciliation and post-conflict reconstruction,” Rais said.
Experts believe that US troop withdrawal from Afghanistan needs a basic expression of will for peace from the stakeholders.
Senior Pakistani diplomat Rustam Shah Mohmand said that the recent cease-fire announced by the Taliban was “not because of pressure from Pakistan.”
“This time when the talks resume, they would most likely lead to an agreement,” Mohmand told Arab News.
Foreign Office spokeswoman Farooqui said on Thursday that Pakistan welcomed the resumption of US-Taliban peace talks. “We hope that the talks would be concluded at the earliest leading the way to Intra-Afghan negotiations.”
“Under this umbrella, all efforts and negotiations whether it is cease-fire or any other aspect of the Peace Process is welcomed by Pakistan,” Farooqui said.


Pakistan’s forex reserves slump 12% in just weeks amid coronavirus outbreak

Updated 06 April 2020

Pakistan’s forex reserves slump 12% in just weeks amid coronavirus outbreak

  • Hit by cash outflow, Pakistani rupee dropped 8% in March
  • Currently at $11.2 bn, the reserves are expected to fall further in coming weeks, expert says

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s foreign exchanges reserves plunged more than 12% or $1.6 billion over just three weeks in March as the coronavirus outbreak roiled global financial markets, the latest data from the central bank showed.
As on March 27, forex reserves totalled $11.2 billion, down from $12.8 billion as on March 6.
Pakistan last year had entered into a program with the International Monetary Fund amid a yawning current account deficit and depleting reserves that have been shored up with temporary deposits from friendly countries like Saudi Arabia and China.
The situation improved until March aided by inflows into treasury bills that had attracted foreign carry trade money on the back of high interest rates and a fall in imports.
But with the first coronavirus case being reported in the country on Feb. 26, things have started to change.
“This is an alarming situation, because Pakistan came out of an external account crisis just last year through IMF funding,” said Muhammad Sohail, CEO of Topline Securities, a Karachi-based advisory firm.
The fall in reserves is due to multiple factors, including panic selling of debt and equities, and reserves are expected to fall further in coming weeks, Sohail said.
Data as of Friday showed a net outflow of $1.9 billion of foreign investments from Pakistan in March from government treasury bills, equity and bonds, more than halving the total net inflow for the ongoing fiscal year which now stands at $1.15 billion.
The outflows have also hit the Pakistani rupee, which has dropped 8% in March to 166.5 per dollar as of Friday.
To mitigate the pressure, the government in late March asked fuel retailers and refiners to cancel imports from April and increase purchases from national refiners.
Refineries had said they were close to shutting down operations due to a drop in demand due to large scale movement restrictions across the country.
Experts, however, believe the decision was driven primarily to protect foreign currency reserves.
“Demand is collapsing for petroleum products because of the lockdowns and the situation we’re in; but this policy is largely driven by the fact that there is pressure on the reserves and the currency,” Sakib Sherani, the head of an Islamabad-based macroeconomic consultancy firm, told Reuters.
Shernai, who is also a former member of the Prime Minister’s Economic Advisory Council, said that the fall in reserves was also due to a fall in export receipts.
“In March we’ve only seen the beginning of the dip in exports. The bulk of the coronavirus hit will come in April, May and June and we’ll see a very substantial decline,” he said.