Alice Wells in Pakistan to discuss Afghan peace, regional security

Adviser to the Prime Minister on Commerce, Industries & Production and Investment Abdul Razak Dawood, 3rd left, is seen in a meeting with Alice Wells, 2nd right, Acting Assistant Secretary of State, Bureau of South & Central Asia Affairs alongwith Ambassador Paul Jones, right, in Islamabad on Jan. 20, 2020. (Supplied)
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Updated 20 January 2020

Alice Wells in Pakistan to discuss Afghan peace, regional security

  • The US deputy secretary of state for South and Central Asia visited Sri Lanka and India prior to her arrival
  • On Friday, FM Qureshi reminded Washington of Pakistan's help in Afghan peace process and asked for help in FATF issue

ISLAMABAD: Alice G. Wells, chief US diplomat for South Asian affairs, arrived in Islamabad on Sunday on a four-day visit centered on discussions regarding the peace process in Afghanistan, bilateral and regional issues, the US embassy in Islamabad said in a statement on Sunday.
Wells — US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs — was received at the airport by foreign office and US embassy officials. She has been on a tour of South Asia since Jan. 13 and has been to Sri Lanka and India prior to her arrival in Pakistan.
Wells’ visit to Islamabad comes immediately after Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Qureshi concluded his trip to the US where he interacted with senior United Nations and American officials in New York and Washington. 




The U.S, Acting Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs, Ms. Alice Wells met with Adviser to Prime Minister of Pakistan for Commerce, Textile, Industry & Production and Investment in Islamabad on January 20, 2020. (Photo Courtesy: Abdul Razak Dawood Twitter Account)

According to Amir Rana, director of prominent Islamabad-based think tank, Pakistan Institute of Peace Studies, the Afghan peace deal will be top of Wells’ agenda during her Pakistan tour.
Pakistan’s role in recent developments in the Middle East has positioned it as “an effective backdoor communication channel between Iran and the United States,” he added. 
In a news briefing in Washington on Friday, Qureshi strongly urged the US to help get Pakistan off the grey-list of global anti-money laundering watchdog, the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) at a decisive meeting in Beijing next month. A downgrade from the grey-list could result in crippling economic sanctions.
During the briefing, Qureshi said Pakistan had fulfilled its commitments to the US on facilitating the Afghanistan peace process, brought the Taliban to the negotiating table and assisted in releasing western hostages from insurgents — and had met FATF’s demands. 
The foreign minister reminded Washington: “Pakistan fulfilled your expectations. Now, we too had some expectations, what have you done (for us)?”— hinting Pakistan expected the US would help Islamabad in turn.
The US has consistently enlisted Pakistan’s help in facilitating rocky US-Taliban negotiations, which are reported to be inching near a peace deal this month.
“This is a sequel to Foreign Minister Qureshi’s visit, to coordinate the expected peace deal signing with the Taliban and potential US troops’ pullout from Afghanistan,” leading security analyst, Imtiaz Gul, told Arab News. 
Political expert Taimur Shamil told Arab News: “FATF is a tool to politically pressure Pakistan to do America’s bidding in Afghanistan. It... will likely continue till the Afghan issue is resolved.” 
Wells is expected to meet Prime Minister Imran Khan and army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa during her visit, as well as foreign minister Qureshi.
Her last visit to Pakistan was in August last year.


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.