TEHRAN: Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi has called for devising a long-term roadmap for Afghanistan in order to advance the agenda of political engagement, economic integration, and regional connectivity.
Speaking at the second Ministerial Meeting of Neighbouring Countries of Afghanistan in Tehran on Wednesday, he stressed the need for exploring possibilities of collaboration with key international actors that can support the reconstruction and economic development efforts in Afghanistan.
Foreign ministers of host country Iran Dr Abdullahian, China, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan attended the meeting.
Mr Qureshi said achieving economic sustainability in Afghanistan was a crucial step at the moment as the country was experiencing a severe economic crisis for reasons internal as well as external.
He said there had been severe drought in Afghanistan for the past two years and the situation had been compounded by a high inflation rate.
He pointed out that following the Taliban takeover of Kabul, major donors had stopped funding the Afghan government, stressing that earlier the donors used to cater for roughly 70 per cent of Afghanistan’s budget.
The minister said the sudden withdrawal of foreign assistance had created a huge gap and warned that 90pc of the Afghan population could fall below the poverty line next year.
He said Pakistan was trying its best to help stem the downslide and continued to provide urgently needed food-stuff and medicines to Afghanistan.
He mentioned in this regard facilitating provision of international humanitarian assistance by land and air and revising customs duties on Afghan products.
Mr Qureshi welcomed the pledges of more than $1.2 billion announced during the flash appeal by the United Nations, but noted that these pledges had not been converted into disbursements yet.
He said it was important that Afghanistan was allowed access to its frozen assets to reverse the economic downturn.
“Our collective efforts can halt economic meltdown. An economic collapse will yield instability, conflict and a refugee influx into neighbouring countries and onward to other regions,” he said.
The foreign minister said terrorist organisations operating inside Afghanistan posed a threat to international peace and stability and needed to be monitored properly.
“The Afghan interim government must ensure that there is no safe haven for such elements and that Afghan territory is not used to harm any country,” he said.
Mr Qureshi expressed the hope that the Taliban would take all necessary steps to meet this most important expectation of the international community.
Published in Dawn, October 28th, 2021