Afghan govt calls for unfreezing assets abroad

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Freezing money is unethical, against all international laws

Afghanistan’s Taliban government is pressing for the release of billions of dollars of central bank reserves as the drought-stricken nation faces a cash crunch, mass starvation and a new migration crisis.

Afghanistan parked billions of dollars in assets overseas with the US Federal Reserve and other central banks in Europe, but that money has been frozen since the Taliban ousted the Western-backed government in August.

A spokesperson for the finance ministry said the government would respect human rights, including the education of women, as he sought fresh funds on top of humanitarian aid that he said offered only “small relief”.

“The money belongs to the Afghan nation. Just give us our own money,” ministry spokesperson Ahmad Wali Haqmal told Reuters. “Freezing this money is unethical and is against all international laws and values.”

One of the top central bank officials called on European countries including Germany to release their share of the reserves to avoid an economic collapse that could trigger mass migration towards Europe.

“The situation is desperate and the amount of cash is dwindling,” Shah Mehrabi, a board member of the Afghan Central Bank, told Reuters. “There is enough right now … to keep Afghanistan going until the end of the year. “Europe is going to be affected most severely, if Afghanistan does not get access to this money,” said Mehrabi.

“You will have a double whammy of not being able to find bread and not being able to afford it. People will be desperate. They are going to go to Europe,” he said.

The call for assistance comes as Afghanistan faces a collapse of its fragile economy. The departure of US-led forces and many international donors left the country without grants that financed three quarters of public spending.

The finance ministry said it had a daily tax take of roughly 400 million Afghanis ($4.4 million). Although Western powers want to avert a humanitarian disaster in Afghanistan, they have refused to officially recognise the Taliban government.

Haqmal said Afghanistan would allow women an education, although not in the same classrooms as men. Human rights, he said, would be respected but within the framework of Islamic law, which would not include gay rights.—Reuters

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