Fixing the humanitarian disaster in Afghanistan | By Ayaz Ahmed


Fixing the humanitarian disaster in Afghanistan

THE OIC organized an extraordinary session of foreign ministers in Islamabad on 19 December to find a solution to stymie the looming humanitarian crisis unfolding in war-ravaged Afghanistan.

The daylong emergency conference of the 57-nation body agreed to establish a humanitarian trust fund to resolve the unfolding humanitarian and economic catastrophe in Afghanistan. It was also agreed to establish a Humanitarian Trust Fund and Food Security Programme to deal with the crisis in Afghanistan.

The Fund will be managed by the Islamic Development Bank and will be made operational by March next year. On its part, Pakistan strove to make sure the presence of delegates from the US, China, Russia, the European Union and the UN.

The spectre of hunger and starvation is hanging like the Sword of Damocles over half of Afghanistan’s 40 million people.

Ominously, a freezing winter is also hurtling towards the war-torn country. Therefore, besides the OIC, the rest of the world – especially the West – should walk the talk by supplying needed edible items to Afghanistan to avert the impending starvation and hunger.

Pakistan has been at pains to persuade the divided world community to afford financial support to the war-weary Afghans since the fall of Kabul to the Taliban. In this regard, though the initial efforts of Pakistan hit a brick wall, it has lately made telling strides in convincing some countries to rush money and food for the Afghan people.

What is shocking is to note that India – the closest ally of the former regime of Afghanistan – has left the Afghan people in the lurch to brave hunger and starvation.

Between 2001 and August 2021, It remained an open secret that New Delhi pursued only wily and smarmy policies in Afghanistan to entrench its power over there.

The OIC moot in Islamabad is indicative of the fact that the US wishes to provide support for ordinary Afghans. Washington presumably instigated Saudi Arabia to arrange the conference on Afghanistan in collaboration with Pakistan. Due to some technical issues, the US seems both unable and unwilling to loosen the chokehold on the frozen finances of Afghanistan.

The OIC meeting in Islamabad carries a lot of weight. It has sent a clarion call to the slumbering world about the humanitarian disaster looming large in Afghanistan.

Some countries have decided to financially stand by the Afghans. The gathering has helped the de facto Afghan government verbalise its grievances to the world.

Many states, especially African, have now come to realise the severity and intensity of the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan. Though the US spent over $ 1 trillion in Afghanistan, it dismally failed to build a sustainable economy for the graveyard of empires.

Today, the most pressuring issue is urgent financial assistance for Kabul. The Afghan people badly lack food and millions are bereft of shelter in the midst of a chilling winter.

They are unable to import edibles from the world due to the lack of cash and the presence of stiff sanctions. Nor do they have a workable strategy to bank on their indigenous sources to avoid starvation and hunger.

The OIC cannot dictate the US to release the $ 9.5 billion in frozen assets of Afghanistan. But, it can find a way to put pressure on the US to unlock the amount and spend it on the Afghan people through a reliable third party. On their part, the 57 Muslim countries should ensure the supply of food items for the Afghan people for the time being.

This is likely to bring a temporary lull in the storm of starvation in Afghanistan. Afghanistan needs self-sufficiency on the economic front. Once the world tackles the ongoing financial crisis, it should help the Afghan people to learn the requisite skills so that they can catch the fish as well. Afghanistan has always lacked an effective economic team.

The world community should work with the new political dispensation in Kabul to prepare an economic team comprising indigenous Afghans. An imported team can’t bring the stuttering Afghan economy out of the woods as seen from Pakistan’s experience.

Afghanistan cannot afford regressive and retrograde governance. The Afghan Taliban have a greater responsibility on their shoulders. They should not deprive Afghan girls of educational rights.

They need to adopt a more inclusive political set-up, giving a greater say to other ethnic groups. More importantly, they shouldn’t confine Afghan women behind four walls. The future of Afghanistan lies in pluralism and women empowerment.

The Taliban need to realise the fact that Afghanistan cannot stand on its feet if it does not equip young Afghans with modern education. Sooner or later, the Afghan government should impart modern education to its people so that they can compete with the world.

The US cannot absolve itself of the responsibility of the ongoing humanitarian crisis of Afghanistan.

It should show seriousness and lend a helping hand for the sake of ordinary Afghans. It shouldn’t let ordinary Afghans suffer due to its disliking of Afghan political culture.

Washington should work in tandem with the UNO to remove all technical issues which have choked the banking system of Afghanistan. This would enable a great number of Afghan Diaspora to send money to their loved ones residing in Afghanistan.

The US should find a way to bring back the looted money of Afghanistan and spend it on the Afghan people. According to the Russian embassy in Kabul, former president Ashraf Ghani fled the country with four cars and a helicopter full of cash.

Uncle Sam should discard its policy of nation-building and social engineering in the world. This policy has turned out to be an experiment in despair. This ill-conceived policy has spelt disaster in Libya, Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan.

American realpolitik has compelled some Arab and Asian countries to jump into the Chinese bandwagon. These wars have increased the fortunes of the military industrial complex in the US at the cost of Washington’s prestige and power in the world.

If the US cherishes the dream of being firmly in the driving seat as the sole superpower, it should adopt a benign approach and refrain from turning weak states into debris by its military campaigns and proxies

For its part, the OIC should live up to its “charter of objectives” for the Muslim world. Unfortunately, only Pakistan and Saudi Arabia announced financial packages for Afghanistan; the rest of the member countries didn’t.

Today, Afghanistan stands at a crossroads. The Muslim world should chart a comprehensive strategy geared to provide a promising future to Afghanistan.

Developing members of the OIC should provide scholarships to Afghan students and equip them with modern democratic and economic tools. An educated Afghan nation would take up the reign of its ailing economy and outdated political structure in the future.

The world community should bear in mind that it is not the time for politics on the disaster brewing in Afghanistan; terrorist outfits such as Daesh could capitalise on the collapse of Afghanistan to unleash a reign of terror in the Pak-Afghan region.

In the end, the OIC needs to be more proactive and robust to provide urgent relief to the Afghan people.

It should employ all means and techniques to let the West delink the Taliban from the ordinary Afghan people so that they do not brave a harsh winter and starvation in the coming days.

—The writer is a former senior researcher at the Pakistan Institute of International Affairs (PIIA) and now an editor and commentator, based in Karachi.


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