ISLAMABAD: Muslim countries pledged on Sunday to set up a humanitarian trust fund for Afghanistan as, with millions facing hunger and a harsh winter setting in, Pakistan’s prime minister warned of chaos if the worsening emergency was not urgently addressed.
The crisis is causing mounting alarm but the international response has been muted, given Western reluctance to help the Taliban government, which seized power in August.
“Unless action is taken immediately, Afghanistan is heading for chaos,” Prime Minister Imran Khan told a meeting of foreign ministers from the Organization of Islamic Cooperation in Islamabad.
The trust fund, announced by Pakistan’s foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, will be set up under the aegis of the Islamic Development Bank.
Allowing Afghanistan access to reserves frozen outside the country would be key to preventing economic collapse, participants in the meeting — which included representatives from the United Nations, United States, European Union and Japan — said in a statement.
But it was unclear how much the fund would contain and the meeting did not provide official recognition to the Taliban government.
Acting Afghan foreign minister Amir Khan Muttaqi said the government had restored peace and security and done much to address demands for more inclusiveness with respect for human rights, including the rights of women.
“All must acknowledge that political isolation of Afghanistan is not beneficial for anyone, therefore it is imperative that all support the prevailing stability and back it both politically and economically,” he said.
Taliban officials have previously asked for help to rebuild Afghanistan’s shattered economy and feed more than 20 million people threatened with hunger.
Some countries and aid organizations have begun delivering aid, but a near-collapse of the country’s banking system has complicated their work.
Qureshi said unlocking financial and banking channels was essential “because the economy can’t function and people can’t be helped without a banking system.”
The scale of the challenge has been underlined by crowds gathering outside the newly reopened passport office in Kabul, where hundreds have been lining up for passports that would enable them to leave the country.
Beyond immediate aid, Afghanistan needs help ensuring longer-term economic stability. Much will depend on whether Washington is willing to unfreeze billions of dollars in central bank reserves and lift sanctions that have caused many institutions and governments to shy away from direct dealings with the Taliban.
Muttaqi said the Taliban would not allow Afghanistan to be used as a base for attacks on other countries and he said no reprisals would be carried out against officials of the former government.
But the Taliban have faced heavy criticism for keeping women and girls out of employment and education and excluding broad sections of Afghan society from government. They have also been accused of trampling on human rights and, despite their promise of amnesty, targeting officials of the former administration.
Afghanistan will become biggest man-made crisis
if world doesn’t act, says Imran Khan at OIC summit
Prime Minister Imran Khan on Sunday issued a clear warning to the global community, stating that Afghanistan could potentially become the biggest “man-made crisis in the world” if it did not act now.
The premier expressed the views while delivering the keynote address at the 17th extraordinary session of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation’s (OIC) Council of Foreign Ministers to discuss the situation in neighbouring Afghanistan at the Parliament House in Islamabad.
Envoys from 57 Islamic nations as well as observer delegations are participating in today’s session. The premier, who was the last to speak before the televised portion of the event concluded, began his speech by welcoming the participants to Pakistan.
“Forty-one years ago, an extraordinary session of the OIC was held in Pakistan to discuss the situation in Afghanistan,” he told the gathering, which also included Taliban foreign minister Amir Khan Muttaqi alongside delegates from the United States, China, Russia, the European Union and UN.
PM Imran said no other country had suffered as much as Afghanistan, adding that even before the Taliban seized control, half of the population was below the poverty line. He said that 75 per cent of the country’s budget was also supported by foreign aid.
He noted that any country, in a situation similar to that of Afghanistan, would collapse.
Commending the other speakers for highlighting the gravity of the situation in the war-torn country, he said: “If the world doesn’t act, this will be the biggest man-made crisis which is unfolding in front of us.”
PM Imran said that the OIC also had a “religious duty” to help the Afghans.
Specifically addressing the United States, the prime minister said that Washington must “delink” the Taliban government from the 40 million Afghan citizens.
“They have been in conflict with the Taliban for 20 years but this [concerns] the people of Afghanistan,” he said, adding that it was important to take immediate action.
He noted that the Taliban had to fulfill the commitments they had made to the international community, which included forming an inclusive government and ensuring women’s rights.
“[However], the idea of human rights is different in every society,” he said, giving the example of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province which borders the war-torn country.
“The city culture is completely different from the culture in rural areas […] we give stipends to the parents of the girls so that they send them to school. But in districts bordering Afghanistan, if we are not sensitive to the cultural norms, then they won’t send them to school despite receiving double the amount. We have to be sensitive about human rights and women rights,” he said.
He reiterated that Afghanistan was headed for chaos unless the world took immediate action. Such a situation will not suit the US because “chaos means the inability to fight terrorism,” he said, adding that Pakistan also faced a threat from ISIL (Daesh).