Taliban aim to sign deal with US by end of month

Afghan Taliban militants and residents stand on an armoured Humvee vehicle of the Afghan National Army (ANA) as they celebrate a ceasefire on the third day of Eid in Maiwand district of Kandahar province. (AFP)
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Updated 18 January 2020

Taliban aim to sign deal with US by end of month

  • Washington has for weeks been calling on the militants to reduce violence
  • The Taliban and the US had been negotiating the deal for a year

KABUL: The Taliban are aiming to reach a withdrawal agreement with the US by the end of January and are prepared to “scale down” military operations ahead of signing the deal, according to their chief spokesman.
The statement by Suhail Shaheen to Pakistani daily Dawn comes as the group and the US held discussions in Doha this week, after insurgent sources told AFP they had offered to initiate a brief cease-fire.
“We have agreed to scale down military operations in days leading up to the signing of the peace agreement with the United States,” Shaheen told Dawn in a report published Saturday.
He added that the Taliban were “optimistic” a deal with Washington could be signed before the end of the month and that the reduction in fighting across the country would also include the targeting of Afghan forces.
“It’s now a matter of days,” said the spokesman.
Washington has for weeks been calling on the militants to reduce violence, posing it as a condition for resuming formal negotiations on an agreement that would see US troops begin to leave the country in return for security guarantees, after a near two-decade fight.
The Taliban and the US had been negotiating the deal for a year and were on the brink of an announcement in September 2019 when President Donald Trump abruptly declared the process “dead,” citing Taliban violence.
Talks were later restarted between the two sides in December in Qatar, but were paused again following an attack near the Bagram military base in Afghanistan, which is run by the US.
Any agreement with the Taliban is expected to have two main pillars — an American withdrawal from Afghanistan, and a commitment by the insurgents not to offer sanctuary to militants — and would ultimately have to be given final approval by Trump.
The Taliban’s relationship with Al-Qaeda was the main reason cited for the US invasion more than 18 years ago.
A deal would hopefully pave the way for intra-Afghan talks.
Many observers agree that the war can no longer be won militarily, and that the only route to a lasting peace in Afghanistan is for an agreement between the Taliban and the US-backed government in Kabul.
The Taliban have until now refused to negotiate with the Afghan government, which they consider an illegitimate regime, raising fears that fighting will continue regardless of any deal ironed out with the Americans.


Pakistani banks to offer home cheque pickup services to contain coronavirus 

Updated 29 March 2020

Pakistani banks to offer home cheque pickup services to contain coronavirus 

  • Central bank has allowed banks to facilitate customers through doorstep and drop box cheque collections 
  • Businessmen and bankers have hailed the decision as efficient and timely 

KARACHI: As most of Pakistan undergoes near complete lockdown to combat the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, the central bank has allowed commercial banks to start ‘Doorstep Cheque Collection’ and ‘Direct Cheque Deposit’ facilities to limit social interaction, a circular issued by the State Bank of Pakistan said on Saturday.

Bankers and businessmen say the central bank’s move will minimize the risk of the virus spreading and ensure the timely supply of liquidity to industries in the South Asian country where over 1,500 people have so far tested positive for the virus with at least 13 deaths. 

Eastern Punjab province is leading the tally of total cases with 570 cases, followed by Sindh with a reported 469 cases on Sunday.

For the continued supply of food, medicine and other necessities, the government has declared banking among “essential services,” permitted during the lockdown. 
Under the ‘Doorstep Cheque Collection Facility,’ commercial banks and Micro Finance Banks (MFBs) may make arrangements to collect cheques from the registered addresses of customers upon request, the state bank circular said, while addressing the presidents and CEOs of commercial banks.

It added that as part of the service, a crossed cheque may be presented by the payee/beneficiary directly into the paying/drawee bank, instead of their bank branches.
In order to minimize footfall in banks, the central bank has also allowed banks and MFBs to offer drop box cheque collection facilities under which customers can simply drop their cheques into drop boxes installed in select bank branches.

“Banks may allow their Corporates/Priority customers to send them the scanned image of the cheque along with relevant details of the Beneficiary either through registered emails or through mobile Apps of their banks to push funds from their accounts to the payee bank,” the circular further said.

Bankers say the central bank’s move will expedite the cheque clearance process that normally takes at least two days. 
“It will lead to sort of real time transactions and will minimize the time of cheque clearance. It will also ensure ease of dealing with customers with limited person to person interaction, ”Ahmed Ali Siddiqui, senior banker and director for the Center for Excellence in Islamic Finance (CEIF) at the Institute of Business Administration in Karachi, told Arab News.

 

Businessmen say the move is expected to quicken the process of cheque clearance, which is the need of the hour for industries and traders.
“In the current situation, this move of central bank will ensure the supply of much needed liquidity to the industries at fast pace,” Shaikh Amjad Rashid, a convenor at the Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry, told Arab News.