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Prisoner release process ‘delaying’ start to talks: Taliban 

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(Last Updated On: September 8, 2020)

Newly appointed spokesman for the Taliban’s political office in Doha, Mohammad Naeem Wardak, said overnight that the prisoner release process has not been finalized and only once this is complete will negotiations start. 

In what is possibly his first official comment as the new spokesman, Wardak posted his message on Twitter and said: “The process of release of prisoners of the Islamic Emirate [Taliban] has not been finalized yet, the release of some prisoners is still pending and work is underway.”

He then said once the prisoner release process is complete, the group’s negotiating team will be ready to start intra-Afghan negotiations. 

No further details were given but Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said on Monday that there were no “major issues” causing the delay, adding that they were waiting for six prisoners to be released.

These six are responsible for having killed Australian and French nationals and instead of being freed will reportedly be sent to Qatar where they will be held under supervision. 

This comes after the Taliban negotiating team held its first meeting on Sunday to discuss intra-Afghan negotiations, a statement from the group read. 

According to the group, the meeting was chaired by Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar.

Mawlawi Abdul Hakim Haqqani was introduced as the new head of the Taliban’s negotiating team, and Mohammad Naeem Wardak as the spokesman.   

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Desert Vipers secure 7 wicket win against MI Emirates

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(Last Updated On: January 25, 2023)

Alex Hales and Sherfane Rutherford’s sparkling unbeaten half centuries and skipper Colin Munro’s cameo knock carried Desert Vipers past MI Emirates in the 15th match of the DP World ILT20 at the Zayed Cricket Stadium on Tuesday night. 

Desert Vipers, through a fine display of intelligent bowling, had also restricted MI Emirates to 169 for 5 despite half centuries from Kieron Pollard and Nicholas Pooran.

Hales hit an unbeaten 62 runs off 44 balls with six boundaries and two sixes while Sherfane Rutherford scored a breezy unbeaten 56 off 29 balls with four boundaries and three sixes to put on an unbeaten 94 off 52 balls for the fourth wicket. 

Desert Vipers’ skipper Colin Munro set the momentum through a fine knock of 41 runs off 22 balls with four boundaries and three sixes. 

Speaking about their performance Desert Vipers’ Sherfane Rutherford said: “I want to keep things simple and just watch the ball. I was just trying to react to the ball. The key was just to use the pace and that worked for me.”

Meanwhile, MI Emirates’ Trent Boult said: “It becomes easier to bat on in the second innings here. I thought they played extremely well. They timed their innings quite nicely. That’s a luxury when you’re chasing 170.”

 

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Iranian arrested in Germany, suspected of plotting chemical attack

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(Last Updated On: January 8, 2023)

A 32-year-old Iranian man has been arrested in Germany on suspicion of planning an attack with deadly chemicals, officials said Sunday.

Police and prosecutors said the man and another person were detained overnight in the town of Castrop-Rauxel, northwest of Dortmund.

In a joint statement they said the man is suspected to have planned a serious attack motivated by Islamic extremism, for which he had allegedly obtained the potent toxins cyanide and ricin, the Associated Press reported.

German news agency dpa reported that specialists wearing anti-contamination suits carried evidence out of the man’s home.

Tabloid newspaper Bild reported that German authorities had received a tip from an allied intelligence agency about the alleged plans for a chemical attack.

Five years ago, German police arrested a Tunisian man and his wife on suspicion of planning to carry out a ricin attack in the name of the Islamic State (ISIS) group. They were later found guilty and sentenced to 10 and eight years’ imprisonment, respectively.

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Traders expect Pakistan’s Rupee to lose ground in coming week

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(Last Updated On: January 8, 2023)

Traders expect the Pakistani rupee to weaken further in the coming week owing to a sharp decline in foreign exchange reserves brought on by fresh repayments of external debt.

Traders say this is causing concern for investors who are worried about how the country’s economic situation will develop.

“We expect the rupee to depreciate much further during the course of the upcoming week due to declining foreign reserves and repayment of foreign loans. Any developments on the IMF (International Monetary Fund) front are being eagerly watched by the market,” a forex trader said.

The local currency closed at 226.94 against the US dollar on Monday while it ended the week at 227.14 against the dollar on Friday.

Pakistan paid back $600 million to the Emirates NBD Bank and $420 million to the Dubai Islamic Bank, causing the State Bank of Pakistan’s (SBP) reserves to fall to a critically low level of $4.5 billion.

The coming week is turning out to be significant for Pakistan’s economy as a donors’ conference is set to begin on Monday, January 9, which will be led by the US in partnership with Pakistan to garner support for post-flood aid, according to Geo TV.

Currently, Pakistan’s chief of army staff is visiting Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Experts have said “no one is second guessing what this trip is about.”

Meanwhile, the delay in IMF funding of $1.1 billion has made Pakistan struggle to allay default fears.

Islamabad and the IMF differ over a review of policy and reforms the Fund is requiring in the country. The IMF’s programe review was supposed to be finished in November, Geo TV reported.

The IMF programe is connected to another essential foreign financing, making it difficult for the country to meet its external funding requirements. Up until June, they amounted to more than $30 billion and included imports, especially energy, and debt repayments.

The decline in the forex reserves put pressure on the rupee owing to the government’s slow progress in rolling over and securing foreign inflows from international lenders.

Given that elections are slated to take place this year, the government keeps delaying the IMF’s requirements out of concern for further political capital loss.

The local currency has lost 28.3% of its value against the dollar in 2022.

Finance Minister Ishaq Dar has assured that the government would complete the IMF programe.

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