OIC leaders resolve to help unlock frozen Afghan assets

PM Khan warns of biggest man-made crisis in Afghanistan if world does't act now

— Saudi Arabia pledges one billion riyal in aid

— Afghanistan teetering on ‘brink of disaster’

ISLAMABAD: The delegates of the OIC exclusive moot Sunday resolved to work with the United Nations to try to unlock hundreds of millions of dollars in frozen Afghan assets in a bid to tackle a growing humanitarian crisis.

The delegates of the specially convened meeting of the OIC Council of Foreign Ministers also vowed to play a leading role in delivery of humanitarian assistance to the people of war-torn Afghanistan.

The meeting of the 17th Extraordinary Session of the OIC Council of Foreign Ministers, held on the initiative of Saudi Arabia and hosted by Pakistan was attended by around 70 delegates from the member states, international aid agencies and special representatives.

The meeting unanimously agreed on establishing a Humanitarian Trust Fund, launch a Food Security Programme and engage with the World Health Organization for securing vaccines and medical supplies.

The unanimously adopted resolution brings a glimmer of hope for the 22.8 million people – more than half the population of Afghanistan – who face acute food shortage; while 3.2 million children and 700,000 pregnant and lactating women are at a risk of acute malnutrition.

The document adopted after day-long deliberations here at the Parliament building also expressed solidarity with the Afghans and reiterated the commitment of the OIC Member States to help bring peace, security, stability, and development to Afghanistan.

The extraordinary meeting was convened as the UN’s estimates warned that 60% of Afghanistan’s 38 million people face “crisis levels of hunger” and that the situation was getting worse every day. The OIC also expressed deep alarm at the deteriorating humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan.

The Council of Foreign Ministers also took into account the fact that the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, has pointed that 665,000 people have been newly displaced within Afghanistan between January and September 2021 – in addition to the 2.9 million people already internally displaced by conflict in Afghanistan.

Expressing deep concern over the breakdown of Afghanistan’s health system, disease outbreaks and severe malnutrition, in particular in the face of Covid-19 pandemic, the OIC decided to establish a Humanitarian Trust Fund, under the aegis of the Islamic Development Bank; which would serve as a vehicle to channel humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan including in partnership with other international actors.

The Council of Foreign Ministers decided that the OIC General Secretariat, together with the Islamic Development Bank and Humanitarian Trust Fund, shall commence discussions with the UN system organizations to device a road map for mobilizing actions in relevant fora to unlock the financial and banking channels to resume liquidity and flow of financial and humanitarian assistance.

It would also devise a mechanism for the disbursement of urgent and sustained humanitarian assistance to the people of Afghanistan.

In this regard the Islamic Development Bank was urged to expeditiously operationalize the Humanitarian Trust Fund by the first quarter of 2022.

Meanwhile, the meeting called on the OIC Member States, the Islamic Financial Institutions, donors and other international partners to announce pledges to the Humanitarian Trust Fund for Afghanistan as well as to provide humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan.

The meeting expressed deep alarm at the worsening economic situation in Afghanistan, which it pointed was further compounded by the continued freeze of overseas Afghan assets as well as other international assistance, exacerbating the urgent cash-flow problems, including payment of remuneration to public officials, and hindering the provision of essential public and social services to the people of Afghanistan.

PM warns of biggest man-made crisis in Afghanistan if world did’t act 

Addressing the participants, Prime Minister Imran Khan warned the world against brewing crisis in war-torn Afghanistan, saying that Washington must “delink” the Taliban government from the 40 million Afghan citizens who are suffering due to crisis situation.

“If the world doesn’t act now, this will be the biggest man-made crisis which is unfolding in front of us,” said the premier while delivering the keynote address at the 17th extraordinary session of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation’s (OIC) Council of Foreign Ministers convened to discuss the situation in neighbouring Afghanistan here at the Parliament House.

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.

Khan said that Afghanistan could potentially become the biggest “man-made crisis in the world” if the world did not act now.

“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 that the OIC also had a “religious duty” to help the Afghans.

“They (US) 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).

PM Imran said that Pakistan was currently housing over three million refugees, adding that country was also providing shelter to more than 200,000 refugees who had overstayed their visas.

“The situation in Afghanistan means they can’t go back. We are already suffering from the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. We are not in a position to deal with a influx of refugees.”

He questioned how poorer countries, that were still struggling to get their economic back up, would be able to cope with an influx of refugees.

Addressing the participants, the premier said he was impressed by the suggestions put forward by Islamic development banks for providing immediate assistance.

“I look forward to the fact that you will come up with a road map by the end of this evening,” he said, reiterating that “chaos in Afghanistan suited no one”.

Pakistan proposes six-point roadmap 

Pakistan proposed a six-point strategy — ensuring food security, reviving the national economy and building institutional capacity to counter terrorism — to address the looming economic and humanitarian crises in Afghanistan and enhance its ability to tackle the growing threat of militant violence.

In his opening address at the 17th Extraordinary Session of the Council of Foreign Ministers (CFM) of Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi proposed a vehicle within the 57-nation bloc to sustainable humanitarian and financial support to the war-ravaged nation.

The emergency in Afghanistan, with millions facing hunger as winter sets in, has caused mounting alarm, but the international community has struggled to come up with a coordinated response given Western reluctance to help the Taliban government, which assumed power in August.

Convened by chair Saudi Arabia — and hosted by Pakistan — to discuss the crises in Afghanistan, the session is being attended by 20 foreign ministers, 10 deputy foreign ministers and delegates from about 70 nations.

Taliban foreign minister Amir Khan Muttaqi is among the delegates, alongside others from the United States, China, Russia, Germany, the European Union and the United Nations.

The meeting is the biggest major conference on Afghanistan since the US-backed government fell.

Qureshi called for increasing the investment, bilaterally or through the OIC platform, in the education and skill training of the Afghanistan public.

He proposed the establishment of an expert group of OIC and the United Nations to consider ways and means to ensure the revival of the banking service in that country.

The foreign minister also called for enhanced engagement with Afghanistan to bring in political and social inclusivity besides ensuring respect for human rights particularly women’s rights.

In November, the UN envoy to Afghanistan delivered a bleak assessment of the situation following the Taliban takeover, saying that an affiliate of the Islamic State group has grown and now appears present in nearly all 34 provinces.

UN Special Representative Deborah Lyons told the Security Council the Taliban has been unable to stem ISKP’s growth.

“Once limited to a few provinces and the capital, ISKP now seems to be present in nearly all provinces, and increasingly active,” she said, adding that the number of the group’s attacks have increased from 60 strikes in 2020 to 334 this year.

SAUDI PLEDGES AID

Saudi Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan Al-Saud announced to provide one billion riyals in aid to Afghanistan.

Al-Saud said the issue must be looked at on humanitarian grounds observing people in the war-torn country, including women and children, were suffering. “The economic crisis in Afghanistan could get more serious, the people there are looking forward to our help,” he added.

The diplomat reiterated that “we want peace” in that country and that the tense situation in Afghanistan could have an impact on the region and beyond.

He paid tribute to Pakistan for convening the moot and making the arrangements in the shortest possible time.

AFGHANISTAN TEETERING ON ‘BRINK OF DISASTER’

The United Nations has repeatedly warned that Afghanistan is on the brink of the world’s worst humanitarian emergency with a combined food, fuel and cash crisis.

Any aid pledges were set to be announced in the evening.

No nations have yet formally recognised the Taliban government and diplomats face the delicate task of channelling aid to the stricken Afghan economy without also propping up the hardline group.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) and UN agencies have warned of the humanitarian crisis. Hospitals are desperately short of medicines, up to 95 percent of all households face food shortages, the poverty level is soaring toward 90 percent and the Afghani, the national currency, is in free fall.

Pakistan has been at the forefront in pressing for world engagement in Afghanistan. Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said Friday he has warned in talks with many foreign ministers — including with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Washington — that a total collapse in Afghanistan will hurt efforts to fight terrorism and trigger a massive exodus from the country.

Refugees will become economic migrants, he added, meaning they would not want to stay in neighbouring countries of Pakistan and Iran but will try to reach Europe and North America.

Qureshi also warned that if Afghans are left without help, militant groups such as al-Qaida and the regional Islamic State affiliate will regroup and flourish amid the chaos.

The OIC has leverage because of its nature as an Islamic organisation and Qureshi expressed hope the summit will also be an opportunity for the world’s Muslim nations to press upon the Taliban the imperative of allowing girls to attend school at all levels and for women to return to their jobs in full.

Qureshi said the meeting would speak “for the people of Afghanistan” rather than “a particular group”.

Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) were the only three countries to recognise the previous Taliban government of 1996 to 2001.

Qureshi said there was a difference between “recognition and engagement” with the new order in Kabul.

“Let us nudge them through persuasion, through incentives, to move in the right direction,” he told reporters ahead of the OIC meeting.

“A policy of coercion and intimidation did not work. If it had worked, we wouldn’t have been in this situation.”

 

Mian Abrar
The writer heads Pakistan Today's Islamabad Bureau. He has a special focus on counter-terrorism and inter-state relations in Asia, Asia Pacific and South East Asia regions. He tweets as @mian_abrar and also can be reached at [email protected]

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