Economic crisis affecting millions of Afghans: Shah Mahmood Quershi

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ISLAMABAD: Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said on Monday the economic crisis is affecting provision of basic needs to millions of Afghans. In a video statement made at the UN conference on the humanitarian situation in Afghanistan, Mr Qureshi said: “Ensuring sustainable development and promoting respect for human rights require political stability and peace in Afghanistan. And peace cannot consolidate unless Afghanistan is provided the necessary economic and fiscal space.”

Moreover, non-governmental organisations funded by foreign money played a major role in running Afghanistan’s health and education systems before Taliban took over. They too are requiring a safe and secure environment for providing their services.

The foreign minister also urged the world not to forget the countries like Pakistan that are still hosting millions of Afghan refugees.

International support for the host countries has dwindled over the years. Pakistan has been hosting over three million refugees for the past four decades.

“We reaffirm our commitment today to support the provision of humanitarian relief to the Afghan people under the UN umbrella, as well as the continuity of our in-kind assistance to Afghanistan. We will also continue to facilitate the UN in its humanitarian relief efforts by providing logistical and other support through Pakistan,” he further said.

Foreign Minister further said that observance of human rights by the Taliban in Afghanistan was linked to the loosening of economic squeeze on them.

Afghanistan is facing an economic collapse, as well as a humanitarian crisis, after foreign donors suddenly ended assistance after the Taliban takeover.

Afghanistan’s economy has for long heavily depended on foreign aid and it is estimated that about 80% of the war ravaged country’s annual budget was funded by US and international donors even before the collapse of the West-backed Ghani government.

Soon after the change in Kabul, US froze Afghan assets worth approximately $9 billion in its banks out of concerns about human rights under Taliban rule and fears that terrorist groups based in Afghanistan could again threaten global peace and security.

International lending agencies — World Bank and International Monetary Fund — soon followed the suit and blocked Taliban from accessing the funds under their control.

The world has with passage of time become more skeptical about the Taliban because of their failure to meet commitments made with the international community particularly with regard to formation of an inclusive government, upholding women rights, and not persecuting opponents.

Pakistan has, however, been strongly pleading with the world to engage with Taliban regime, unfreeze Afghanistan’s assets, and provide economic assistance.

“Solidarity must be shown with the Afghan people at this pivotal juncture, both in terms of financial and political support. It is time to renew developmental partnerships, support nation-building, and meet the humanitarian needs of the Afghan population,” Mr Qureshi once again said at the donors’ conference that sought to raise $606 million in assistance for Afghanistan.

Emphasising the urgency of the situation, the foreign minister said: “The challenges are daunting. The situation is becoming dire for around 18 million people of Afghanistan — directly in need of humanitarian assistance. A sluggish response from the international community can cause grave humanitarian consequences.”

He said the world would have to ensure access of people of Afghanistan to basic necessities such as food, health and education for the Afghan people.

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