By Dr Atique Ur Rehman
If we were to give a single message out of the 17th extraordinary OIC meeting being held at Islamabad on 18-19 December, it is “lives of 23 million Afghans are at stake and it needs an urgent world attention”. Every third Afghan is sleeping today with an empty stomach. Racks of medicines are empty in Pharmacies. A long drought has further added to the misery of people. The purchasing power of people is reducing every moment due to the devaluation of the Afghan currency.
Therefore the meeting is extraordinary because it has been convened to urge the international community to come forward and help a needy nation. The summit being hosted by Pakistan was proposed by Saudi Arabia. It is a man-made crisis in Afghanistan. The urgency of help has made this meeting extraordinary. United Nations has already alarmed the bells that it is a severe humanitarian crisis. About 95% of Afghans are surviving under the poverty line. They are facing an acute shortage of shelter, clothing, food, water, and health. Women and children are most hit due to this disastrous condition which has resulted after the withdrawal of the US from Afghanistan.
The organization of the Islamic Committee will focus to find ways and means to persuade the world community to come forward without wasting time to help Afghan people. Alongside the bigger forum of the OIC meeting, on the sideline, a troika meeting between the US, Russia, China is also planned. The stakeholders will deliberate on the formation of inclusive government and urge the Taliban to enforce human rights strictly as desired by a global community
The initiative aims to urge the international community to engage with the Taliban diplomatically and come forward to help the 23 million distressed Afghan population avoid the worst humanitarian crisis in the region. Pakistan had extended all its support during two years-long peace talks between the US and the Taliban and also amidst the withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan. 116 flights landed in Pakistan during the chaotic situation at Kabul airport in Afghanistan on 15 August. Pakistan is continuing its support to Afghanistan for providing relief goods to the needy Afghan brothers. Pakistan has allowed access for Indian aid to reach Afghanistan through Pakistan.
The resilient Afghans are immune to tough conditions but the present crisis is severe in nature and difficult to handle at the individual or family level. The country was dependent heavily on foreign aid and support from the International organization. In the absence of any international umbrella and legitimate government, endorsed by a global community, the problems of Afghans are complicated due to the non-availability of aid.
The interim Taliban government does not have any reserves to preserve the value of their own currency. Afghanistan has reserves of $9 billion in US and European Banks. $7 billion are in US banks and $ 2 billion in EU banks. It is because Afghan banks had been keeping their funds in foreign institutions and drawing on them on monthly basis for liquidation. Since withdrawal from Afghanistan, the US has frozen the $9.5 billion of Afghanistan in US and EU banks. The US has withdrawal from Afghanistan after ensuring that country should remain under stress. All opportunities to govern Afghanistan smoothly have been blocked by creating hurdles.
First time in two decades the dollar is being sold at 102 Afghanis in exchange for one dollar. Presently Afghans are making sale purchase in dollars. In case of more devaluation of currency the purchasing power of people will reduce substantially and the crisis will worsen much before the forecast by the UN. Reducing the dollar rate in the short term is not within the power of the Taliban-led government. At a time when the value of the dollar needs to be stable, the central bank of Afghanistan is trying to reduce the dependence of Afghan markets on the dollar to zero. Achieving these goals at this point in time seems impossible.
Women and Children are most vulnerable under such conditions. It is hard for them to survive under such deplorable conditions and security environment. Millions of children may extinguish due to food and health issues in Afghanistan.
IS- Khurasan is an existing threat to the Taliban regime in Afghanistan. The presence of a terrorist outfit with horrific ideology is not only a threat to Afghanistan but to the entire region. Pakistan, Iran, China are equally threatened due to the presence of IS-K. The global community must come forward to support the Taliban’s interim government because they are the only credible force at the moment to counter the IS. Isolating the Taliban at such a vulnerable time is not in the strategic interest of the world. The human crisis supports the terrorist outfit as more people will join their ranks and file due to prevalent hunger and other issues.
An Afghan delegation has been invited to attend the meeting because they must listen to the reservations of the world community on human rights. It will also provide an opportunity for the Afghan delegation to interact with OIC member countries and explain the prevailing situation in Afghanistan and put forward their requests. Shah Mahmood Qureshi, Foreign Minister of Pakistan two days before the conference addressed the media and said that Pakistan is not the spokesman of the Taliban. He said hosting of OIC meeting in Afghanistan does not mean Pakistan recognizes the interim Taliban government.
It is also being predicted that if aid does not arrive urgently, the refugees’ influx will start towards Iran and ultimately to Europe. Pakistan is also the nearest destination for refugees. Europe is already facing a refugee crisis at the Poland-Belarus border. That will be a catastrophic condition for the EU which is already under stress due to refugees issues.
The Afghan crisis is serious and if it is not handled urgently the repercussions of the crisis will result in instability in the region. OIC needs to urge the US through its representative participating in the crisis that Afghan frozen assets be made available to the interim government and all measures be taken to help the needy Afghan to avert a humanitarian crisis. However, the Taliban also be pursued to an inclusive government in Afghanistan and respect for human rights. Understanding of the US and Taliban on prevailing issues will pull the country out of crisis put it on the way to progress.
Note: The writer is an Islamabad-based researcher and holds a Doctorate in International Relations having a background in the field of Defence and Strategic Affairs.