Afghanistan will become ‘biggest man-made crisis’ if world fails to act, Pak PM Imran warns at OIC Summit

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Islamabad, Dec 19: Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan on Sunday warned that Afghanistan could potentially become the “biggest man-made crisis” if the world failed to act in a timely manner as representatives of the Muslim-majority nations agreed to establish a humanitarian trust fund and to launch a food security program to help the people of the war-torn nation.

Addressing the 17th extraordinary session of the Council of Foreign Ministers of Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) here, Khan highlighted the collapsing hospitals, education sector, and the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Afghanistan and called for the world to take immediate action as the Taliban-ruled nation was heading towards chaos.

“If the world doesn’t act, this will be the biggest man-made crisis which is unfolding in front of us,” Khan said.

The chaos in Afghanistan mean the end of the government which would strengthen the ISIS, enabling it carry out acts of global terrorism, Khan told the gathering, which included the Taliban regime’s Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi, representatives from 57 Muslim nations and delegates from the US, China, Russia, the European Union and the UN.

Khan urged the US to delink its policy towards the Taliban from the 40 million people of Afghanistan.

He also said that the Taliban would also have to understand that formation of an inclusive government, respect for human rights, particularly women, and disallowing the use of Afghan soil for terrorism in other countries would pave the way for international aid to Afghanistan.

Afghanistan’s economy is facing a major crisis after the Taliban seized power in Kabul in mid-August, amid a chaotic US and NATO troops withdrawal from the war-torn country.

Following hardline Islamists assuming power in Afghanistan, the international community froze billions of dollars’ worth of assets abroad and stopped all funding to the country.

According to UN figures from early November, almost 24 million people in Afghanistan, around 60 per cent of the population, suffer from acute hunger. That includes 8.7 million living in near-famine. Increasing numbers of malnourished children have filled hospital wards.

Khan also raked up the Kashmir issue in his speech. He also highlighted the threat of Islamophobia. Addressing a press conference along with the OIC Secretary General Hissein Brahim Taha, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi later said that the conference agreed to establish a humanitarian trust fund and it also agreed to launch a food security program.

The participants also agreed to “unlock financial and banking channels,” he said.

To a question about pledges, Taha said that it would be done at a late stage. “We have not yet received any donation but we will start getting that after getting in touch with the Afghan authorities and knowing their needs,” he said.

Qureshi in response to the same query said that some countries wanted to donate but they needed an account and some mechanism for it. “So we have decided that the Islamic Development Bank will open an account to facilitate the donations and then pledges will be made,” he said.

He also mentioned that there was a positive statement by US special representative Tom West who said that he has a mandate to engage with the Taliban and he also met with the Taliban leaders present in Afghanistan.

“West also said that humanitarian assistance would not be made conditional,” Qureshi said, adding that West also indicated that USD 1.2 billion unutilized funds available with international institutions could be utilized.

Qureshi also said the meeting discussed how the aid should be provided. It was also agreed that the OIC secretariat should engage with the WHO to get COVID-19 vaccines and medicines for Afghans.

He said that it was a view as well as a call by the participants for the international community that sanctions on Afghanistan should not impede the provision of humanitarian aid and economic resources should be made available without letting the sanctions come in the way of aid being given to Afghanistan.

To a question about recognition of the Taliban government, Qureshi said that “there is no appetite for recognition. That stage will come (later on).” Qureshi also shared that in his interaction with Afghan foreign minister, he urged him to create a conducive environment so that the world should recognise their government.

Martin Griffiths, head of the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) speaking on the behalf of the UN Secretary General, António Guterres, painted a very alarming scenario of the Afghan problem.

“The Afghan economy is in free fall, needing urgent steps…About 23 million people are facing hunger,” he said, adding that the world should come forward to help the people of Afghanistan.

He also called for international engagements with the de-facto authorities in Kabul.

Qureshi said that Pakistan has decided to provide USD 30 million to Afghanistan in help in addition to essential goods.

He said notwithstanding ties with India, Pakistan has allowed India to send wheat and life-saving drugs through Pakistan.

India has contributed to the humanitarian requirements of the Afghan people. This included providing more than 1 million metric tonnes of wheat to Afghanistan over the past decade.

Pakistan made elaborate security arrangements for the meet. Capital Islamabad was locked down, fenced with barbed wire barriers and shipping-container roadblocks were installed where police and soldiers stood guard.–(Agencies)