Pakistan’s role in Middle East deescalation hailed, says Qureshi

In this file photo, Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi leaves after addressing the United Nations Human Rights Council on Sept. 10, 2019 in Geneva. (AFP)
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Updated 25 January 2020

Pakistan’s role in Middle East deescalation hailed, says Qureshi

  • Says the country’s diplomatic efforts have produced positive results in the region
  • Informs that US President Donald Trump is planning an exclusive visit to Pakistan this year

ISLAMABAD: Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi told Arab News in an exclusive interview on Thursday that Pakistan’s mediation gesture during the Middle East crisis in the beginning of the year was applauded by Saudi Arabia and Iran.
“Both Saudi Arabia and Iran have appreciated Pakistan’s positive intentions behind the mediation effort,” Qureshi said, adding that the Saudi foreign minister, Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud, told him during a meeting in Riyadh that Pakistan was “on the right track and all the regional countries should immediately join hands to deescalate the situation in the Middle East.”
On the directives of Prime Minister Imran Khan, Qureshi visited Iran, Saudi Arabia and the United States earlier this month to urge all stakeholders to practice “maximum restraint” in the wake of the killing of a top Iranian commander, Qassem Soleimani, in a US drone strike in Baghdad.
“With the help of other countries, Pakistan succeeded in its efforts to deescalate the Middle East situation. The country assured everyone it was willing to be partner in peace but could not become part of any other conflict,” Qureshi said.
“I also contacted foreign ministers of other regional states. Everyone understood the importance of convincing the countries concerned to exercise maximum restraint,” he continued.
“I met with the Iranian foreign minister and president. My meeting with President Hassan Rouhani lasted for an hour wherein we discussed how to defuse the situation and minimize tensions in the region,” the foreign minister said, adding: “I shared all the findings of my discussions in Tehran with my counterpart in Riyadh, saying it was Pakistan’s utmost desire to reduce tensions in the region.”
The minister continued that Pakistan wanted to minimize misunderstandings among Muslim states.
“Saudi Arabia is our very close friend while Iran is our neighbor. We don’t want tensions to mount among Muslim countries since that can be harmful for the whole Muslim Ummah.”
Asked about the expected visit of United States President Donald Trump to Pakistan, he said the American leader would visit Pakistan this year.
“President Trump has expressed his desire to pay an exclusive and independent visit to Pakistan which would not be linked to his visit to India. Pakistan is an independent and important country in the eyes of President Trump, therefore he desires to pay an exclusive visit to Pakistan,” Qureshi said.
The foreign minister said it now depended on President Trump’s “schedule where the visit will fit in.”
“It may come before or after the next US presidential election, but it will take place this year,” he said.

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.