IN the backdrop of strong warnings by global institutions including the United Nations that Afghanistan was at the verge of economic collapse with serious consequences for about 97% of its entire population, the Foreign Ministers of the member states of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) are meeting in an extraordinary session in Islamabad to mull over the single point agenda of humanitarian situation in Afghanistan.
The moot, convened by Saudi Arabia and hosted by Pakistan, is also being attended by representatives of the UN system, International Financial Institutions (IFI), international and regional organizations and non-OIC members, would hopefully go a long way in sensitizing the world community to shun indifference towards the emerging crisis and fulfil its responsibility in saving precious lives.
As Afghanistan was one of the founding members of the OIC, it was natural for the organization to take serious notice of the situation and firm up a collective strategy to help people caught in the cobweb of regional and global politics and discriminatory attitude by some powerful countries that are more interested to pursue their agenda than help alleviate sufferings of the Afghan people.
Pakistan has already announced a comprehensive relief package for Afghanistan and on the eve of the conference, KSA has established an air bridge between Riyadh and Kabul to deliver humanitarian assistance and the moves of the two countries have set good precedents for other members and non-members of the OIC to follow the suit without further delay in view of fast deteriorating situation in Afghanistan.
The reports about humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan are credible as besides the UN, WFP and UNDP, prominent former diplomats and ex-military leaders, in a joint communication, have warned about the impending humanitarian catastrophe and free fall of Afghan economy due to institutional break down, cut off of most external assistance and freezing of most of Afghanistan’s monetary reserves, eliminating 75% of the Government budget.
As calls for unfreezing assets fall on deaf ears and commercial transactions are hampered due to fear of sanctions, Afghanistan is unable to do trade and commerce and lack of employment or livelihood opportunities is causing havoc with the life of the people.
If left unattended, the situation is ripe for a fresh vicious cycle of instability and mass exodus of refugees (with attending consequences for neighbouring countries) besides terrorist threat emanating from an ungoverned country that could adversely affect regional and global peace and security.
Afghanistan witnessed wars and strife for four decades but establishment of a strong central government offers a historic opportunity for durable stability, which in turn could help exploit the potential for regional and global economic cooperation.
There is no reason for the world to show hesitancy in extending a helping hand to a government in Kabul, which, contrary to the propaganda by vested interests, has, so far, done nothing to disappoint the world.
Instead, it showed magnanimity in offering general amnesty; including different linguistic groups in government in line with its commitment of forming a broad-based administration and encouraging women to equip them with knowledge and play their role in national development.
It is, therefore, the collective responsibility of the international community to come forward and help prevent further deterioration in economic conditions of the people and cooperate with the Taliban in stabilizing the country.
As has been pointed out by former diplomats and ex-generals of the United States, in addition to food and medicines, Afghanistan needs a stable medium of exchange and a functioning banking system to avoid experiencing widespread economic and governance failure.
Under these circumstances, it is hoped that the Islamabad moot would not just express complete solidarity with Afghan people but agree on concrete steps to alleviate the precarious situation.
Apart from assistance in kind (food, medicines and essential goods), the Afghan Government badly needs cash to pay salaries to civil servants, teachers, health workers/professionals and engineers/technicians.
The Conference needs to send an unequivocal message to individual countries and multilateral institutions, which have withheld Afghan funds, to release them immediately.
The OIC countries may also work together at the UN to get sanctions lifted so that Afghanistan is able to do trade with the world and overseas Afghans could send money back to their homes.
We also expect that the OIC Secretariat, under the dynamic leadership of Hissein Brahim Taha, would make extra efforts to coordinate prompt implementation of the steps agreed to by the conference.