Emerging humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan | By Prof Dr Muhammad Khan


Emerging humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan

IN the absence of sufficient economic resources and without adequate international assistance, Afghanistan is heading towards humanitarian crisis.

Since the domestic means of economic uplift are too meagre to meet the requirements of the masses, therefore, this war-torn country has to depend on the external resources.

In last two decades, economic sustainability of the country was mainly dependent on the US and western world.

In the post-US/NATO pull-out, the US and European States have abruptly stopped the economic assistance to Afghanistan under Taliban Government which resulted into economic crisis in the country.

The economic crisis coupled with uncertainty of political situation and blurred future course of action under Taliban is resulting into humanitarian crisis. The people of Afghanistan are confused about the future of their country under Taliban and its economic survival.

Most of the people are lacking the basic necessities of life and job opportunities. Then, there will be onset of winter after a month which will restrict the mobility of the people.

There are two perspectives of emerging humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan. One perspective is purely the US and Western originated and the other perspective is pertaining to the ground realities in Afghanistan.

The debate initiated by western media, human rights organizations, selected scholars and their government officials are about the impending Taliban ill-treatment and vengeance against all those who supported the US and NATO forces in the last two decades.

This school of thought believes that there must be evacuation of all these people before they are victimized by Taliban.

So far more than 1.3 million Afghans have been evacuated from Afghanistan following the Taliban takeover of Kabul on 15 August 2021.

There are thousands of such people who had directly and indirectly supported the US and NATO forces and the American contractors during their stay in Afghanistan from 2001 to 2021.

As per the reports of UNHCR, it is expected that thousands of Afghans are getting ready to flee the country in the next few months.

A careful estimate shows that over a million Afghans will leave the country in the next 5-7 months, mainly owing to political uncertainty in the country and likely victimization by the Taliban.

On their part, Taliban have already announced a general amnesty for everyone including those who supported the US and NATO even.

However, there are conflicting reports about the incidents of victimization and any inhuman act against any person by Taliban in last over a month, since they took over power.

The second perspective (second school of thought) talks about the ground realities in Afghanistan; which emerged owing to hasty pull-out of US and NATO forces without any reconciliation process, stabilization and future planning for Afghan masses.

As per current situation in Afghanistan, even before the Taliban took over the power in mid-August 2021, more than 18 million Afghans required humanitarian assistance which mean the previous Government of Asharaf Ghani and the US and NATO were also not taking care of the masses uniformly.

Besides, more than 5.4 million Afghans are already displaced within the country that is battling drought and the COVID-19 pandemic. Poverty and hunger have further risen since the Taliban takeover.

The UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres confessed that Afghans are facing “perhaps their most perilous hour”.

If food supplies and financial assistance remain suspended over 14 million Afghan may face the food crisis and hungry.

According to the World Food Programme (WFP), One-third of Afghanistan’s total population of 38 million is facing food insecurity, including two million children who are already malnourished. Afghanistan has faced severe food shortage even before the Taliban takeover.

In the last few years, over 40% of Afghan crops were destroyed because of shortage of water with devastation of livestock in the country.

The previous governments under Ghani and Hamid Karazai did not address the basic issues of the Afghan masses.

Furthermore, despite their promises, Taliban have not accommodated the concerns of the people.

Indeed, Taliban promised and were expected to form an inclusive government with all ethnic groups included while giving a substantial representation to women-folk.

They too were expected to regard and respect human rights of everyone including the women and girls which is not done.

Women educational institutions are still closed which is beyond any logic. This is tantamount to depriving them of education; a practice goes against the spirit of Islam. Besides the women-folk should not be deprived of the jobs, they were already undergoing.

Taliban need to get the acceptance of the Afghan masses which is only possible by addressing their concern before it is too late.

At regional level, the states adjoining Afghanistan expect Taliban to bring peace and stability to home by discarding any support to terrorism and terrorists.

Terrorist Networks within Afghanistan need to be dismantled and drug trafficking has to be stopped altogether.

Whereas, we expect a lot from Taliban Government, the regional states and international community must play a part to overcome the looming humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan.

International community must deliver at least the essential humanitarian aid for the people of Afghanistan.

The United States and international financial institutions must unfreeze Afghanistan’s reserves as soon as possible.

An urgent and sustained support from the international community will prevent larger humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan.

Besides, international community must engage with Afghanistan rather isolating it because of Taliban rule.

Alienation of Afghanistan at this critical stage will have regional and global security implications. Indeed, Afghanistan has been ravaged by four decades of war.

Before the coronavirus pandemic, at least 54.5% of the country lived below the poverty line which has reached 72 % now.

“Afghans must not pay twice over for failures of the international community: first for war and now for neglect.”

While the western attention has been focused on evacuation of a few, what about the 38 million Afghan masses who are on the verge of a humanitarian crisis.

— The writer is Professor of Politics and IR at International Islamic University, Islamabad.

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