Pakistan urges new strategy as using aid to pressure on Taliban proves ineffective

NEW YORK: Pakistan’s ambassador to the United Nations, Munir Akram, has called for exploring a “new strategy” of engaging and persuading the Taliban to heed the international community’s concerns over political and human rights in Afghanistan so as to continue the global support for its suffering people.

“The strategy that has been followed so far of leveraging international assistance in order to pressurise the Taliban to do what the international community wants, has not been successful,” Akram said in an interview with BBC.

“Therefore,” he added, “we need to find a new strategy of engaging them and persuading them in order to correct their behaviour and to continue the international support for the Afghan people.”

Responding to questions, Ambassador Akram said that although some of the Taliban decisions are unacceptable to the World, Pakistan has no option but to live with Afghanistan, its neighbour. “Whatever happens in Afghanistan has impacts on Pakistan,” he said.

“We cannot afford not to continue engagement with the Taliban — they are a reality, they are in control of the whole country, and therefore we have to deal with them,” the envoy added.

He said if the international support or humanitarian assistance for Afghanistan was cut off, “we will have a dire situation — famine and hunger, an outflow of refugees, greater instability, rise of terrorism — all those consequences will flow from” such an action.

“So, we believe that we should continue engagement, continue humanitarian assistance and support for economic revival in Afghanistan because that is the way out for the Afghan people to emerge from poverty and the dire situation they face.”

“Because the economy has collapsed — the economy was dependent 75% on foreign assistance,” Ambassador Akram said the people of Afghanistan must continue to be provided international assistance. “That’s basically our approach.”

Replying to a question about the Taliban not fulfilling the promises they made had made, Ambassador Akram posed a question: “Apart from engagement, what is the choice that the international community has because the alternative is an even greater disaster in Afghanistan — so we have no choice but to engage with them and to continue to try to persuade them.

“It is uncertain, obviously, how and when we could persuade them but certainly, if we were able to put on the table, some incentives, perhaps they may respond better than pressure and coercion.”

When questioned about the issue of women and girls, he said Pakistan has been trying its best to persuade the Taliban to allow access to females as certainly their role in the international assistance programme was important. “We see that, but you know, we have to work around that difficulty,” he said.

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