ISLAMABAD: Pakistan appears to be facing difficulties in providing technical, financial and expert support to the transition government in Afghanistan in the absence of the regime’s international recognition despite emerging challenges like food crisis in the war-torn country.
At a meeting presided over by Minister for Economic Affairs Omar Ayub Khan on Tuesday, key stakeholders considered various options to support the new Afghan administration through capacity building and technical expertise under crash programmes but the major challenge was how to do that without recognition by the world of the Afghan government.
The meeting called to discuss economic cooperation with Afghanistan was attended by Minister for National Food Security and Research Syed Fakhar Imam, National Security Adviser Moeed Yusuf, State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) Governor Dr Reza Baqir, Water and Power Development Authority (Wapda) Chairman retired Lt Gen Muzammil Hussain and other senior officials.
Key stakeholders at a meeting consider various options to support new Afghan administration
Informed sources said the meeting was told that the biggest challenge for the Afghan administration was the void created by major exodus of technical and financial experts soon after the withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan.
The brain drain left major institutions, particularly of technical and financial nature, incapacitated to take over essential services like electricity, medical and financial facilities for smooth operations.
The meeting noted that the SBP management could arrange and provide crash training courses to Afghanistan by inviting their staff to Pakistan. At this stage, the Afghan central bank is incapacitated and requires urgent international reorganisation and capacity building for financial settlements.
Likewise, the Wapda administration could also help in capacity building of power sector teams because a power breakdown could result in disruption of water supplies and health facilities in major cities like capital Kabul.
The SBP and Wapda managements have been advised to be prepared for short crash courses so that their teams are fully geared to immediately extend technical support and training even at a short notice to benefit from small window of opportunity.
The meeting noted that there should also be a ‘proper need assessment’ of Afghanistan and support could be extended by Pakistan. Preferably such a need assessment should be coordinated with some international organisations.
Omar Ayub emphasised the importance of bilateral economic assistance in the context of current situation in Afghanistan. A statement quoted the minister as telling the participants that the government was keen to support the people of Afghanistan in addressing their socioeconomic challenges.
“In order to save lives and livelihood of the Afghan people, immediate technical and financial support is required on a humanitarian basis,” he said, adding that Pakistan had a reasonable understanding base with already implemented 20 projects costing $148.35 million in various sectors, including education, health and infrastructure, and nine other projects worth $221.83m currently under execution in Afghanistan.
Pakistan is also providing 3,000 Allama Muhammad Iqbal Scholarships to the Afghan students in various disciplines.
Fakhar Imam said the reports about a severe food crisis facing over 14 million Afghan people were alarming. “Expressing his concern over the situation, the minister stressed the need for support and solidarity of the international community for the people of Afghanistan,” the statement said.
SBP Governor Reza Baqir presented various options to support Da Afghanistan Bank (central bank) for its smooth functioning and to achieve price stability and help manage economic fluctuations.
NSA Moeed Yusuf informed the participants that the National Security Division had already started consultations with various stakeholders at a different level for workable policy options. He said a coordinated effort was need of the hour to avoid overlapping of resources.
Published in Dawn, September 29th, 2021