Afghanistan has a long history of destruction and suffering, be it man-inflicted or natural. Since the Russian invasion in December 1979, Afghanistan has become a battleground of world superpowers and is surrounded by an unending wave of destruction.
After the foreign forces withdrew from Afghanistan, Pakistan hosted an exclusive Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) conference to discuss the Afghanistan issue. The conference focused on the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan and exploring new avenues to address the rapidly worsening humanitarian situation in terms of food shortage and potential economic collapse. Foreign ministers of member countries, special invitees from the United Nations (UN), international financial institutions, and non-member states, including the US, UK, European Union, and Russia attended the session. Afghanistan’s delegation was headed by the acting foreign minister.
Pakistan’s initiative to host the 17th session of the emergency meeting of the Council of Foreign Ministers of the OIC demonstrated Pakistan’s strong will to promote peace and stability in Afghanistan. All member countries unanimously agreed that peace and stability in the region can only be achieved by forming a broad-based and inclusive government that is representative of the entire Afghan society.
Decades of conflict and instability in Afghanistan have left millions of people on the brink of starvation. Some 24 million Afghans were already in need of humanitarian assistance because of the economic crisis and lack of development aid. The situation was further exacerbated after the recent earthquake in Paktia and Khost, which left nearly 1,500 dead and many more injured.
Following the earthquake, the Afghan government appealed for international support to address the crisis. The Pakistani government responded immediately by dispatching consignments of relief goods. On 22nd June, the first convoy of 8 trucks carrying tents, tarpaulin, and blankets from the National Disaster Management Authority reached Afghanistan. On 24th June, another consignment of relief assistance was sent through aircraft. Besides this, Pak-Afghan Cooperation Forum (PACF) also sent 5 trucks carrying 37.5 tons of food, winter bedding, tents, tarpaulins, and clothes.
Earlier, PACF had also organised free eye camps in the hospitals in Kabul and Khost where thousands of Afghan patients were provided free treatment by Pakistani doctors. The forum also facilitated the first batch of Afghan children with congenital diseases who will receive free medical treatment in Pakistan.
To promote bilateral trade with Afghanistan, the Pakistani government decided to relax the visa policy to ensure long-term and sustainable trade between the two countries. Under the new policy, six months of multiple entry visas will be issued to transporters from Afghanistan. Pakistan has also decided to import coal from Afghanistan, which can help Pakistan generate cheaper electricity and save nearly $2.3 billion.
Since August 2021, the economic crisis and collapse of the banking sector have made it extremely challenging to get money into Afghanistan. International humanitarian organisations and the UN have scaled up assistance to address rising needs, but aid cannot replace the services of the state. To institutionalise financial support, a trust fund was established at the OIC conference. However, the international community remains reluctant to allow cash inflow.
During this difficult time, the international community must lift sanctions and release Afghan funds as the country has descended into a serious economic crisis. The international community must realise that this is not the time to settle scores or debate on issues of legitimacy or recognition. They must resume aid and support the Afghan people to mitigate their miseries.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 6th, 2022.