Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi welcomes special envoys from the United States, Russia and China prior to their meeting on Afghanistan on Thursday.—White Star
Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi welcomes special envoys from the United States, Russia and China prior to their meeting on Afghanistan on Thursday.—White Star

• Forum to continue engagement with Taliban for implementation of moderate, prudent policies • Expresses concern over severe humanitarian, economic situation in war-torn country • Calls for access to education for women and girls at all levels • PM assures Afghan team of aid

ISLAMABAD: The Troika Plus comprising Pakistan, China, Russia and the United States on Thursday called on the Taliban to take steps to form an inclusive and representative government in Afghanistan.

A joint statement issued after a meeting of the Troika Plus here stressed that the representative government should protect the rights of all Afghans and provide equal opportunities to women and girls to participate in all aspects of Afghan society.

It recalled relevant Afghan-related UNSC resolutions, including respect for the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of Afghanistan that is free of terrorism and drug-related crimes, and that contributes to regional stability and connectivity.

The forum agreed to continue practical engagement with the Taliban to encourage the implementation of moderate and prudent policies that could help achieve a stable and prosperous Afghanistan as soon as possible.

The participants expressed deep concern over the severe humanitarian and economic situation in Afghanistan and reiterated unwavering support for the people of Afghanistan.

Emphasising that access to education for women and girls at all levels is an international obligation, the Troika Plus encouraged the Taliban to accelerate efforts to provide for full and equal access to education countrywide. It called on the Taliban to ensure unhindered humanitarian access, including by women aid workers, for the delivery of humanitarian assistance in Afghanistan to respond to the developing crisis.

Condemning in the strongest terms the recent terrorist attacks in Afghanistan, the forum called on the Taliban to cut ties with all international terrorist groups, dismantle and eliminate them in a decisive manner, and to deny space to any terrorist organisation operating inside the country.

The participants reaffirmed their expectation that the Taliban will fulfil their commitment to prevent use of Afghan territory by terrorists against its neighbours, other countries in the region and the rest of the world.

They called on the Taliban to take a friendly approach towards neighboring countries and uphold Afghanistan’s international legal obligations, including universally accepted principles of international law and fundamental human rights and to protect the safety and legitimate rights of foreign nationals and institutions in Afghanistan.

Earlier, in his inaugural address at the forum, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, while noting that the current situation in Afghanistan offered an opportunity to end the prolonged conflict in Afghanistan, asked the international community not to repeat mistakes of the past in the country.

He called for an active engagement of the world community to stave off an impending civil war in Afghanistan. “The engagement with Afghanistan must not only continue but should be enhanced for multiple reasons. Nobody wishes to see a relapse into civil war, no one wants an economic collapse that will spur instability; everyone wants terrorist elements operating inside Afghanistan to be tackled effectively and; we all want to prevent a new refugee crisis,” he remarked.

Mr Qureshi said there were common concerns related to Afghanistan and the stakeholders had a shared interest in the country’s peace and stability. He observed that bringing about peace in the country was also a shared responsibility. In this situation, he said, the Troika Plus had assumed greater significance and had a critical role to play.

“We are confident that Troika Plus’s engagement with the new Afghan government will help consolidate peace and stability, promote sustainable economic development and help constrict space for terrorist outfits operating from and within Afghanistan,” he remarked.

Pointing out that the Troika Plus was meeting after a gap of three months, he said that during this period Afghanistan had gone through a fundamental transformation.

He was of the view that Afghanistan was on the brink of an economic collapse. “With international funding dried up, it has become difficult to pay even salaries, let alone pursue development projects.”

Observing that the common man was reeling under the effects of a severe drought, the minister warned that any further downward slide would severely limit the new administration’s capacity to run the government.

He said it was therefore imperative for the international community to buttress provision of humanitarian assistance on an urgent basis. He said health, education and municipal services required urgent attention.

“Enabling Afghanistan to access its frozen funds will dovetail into our efforts to regenerate economic activities and move the Afghan economy towards stability and sustainability,” he stressed.

Similarly, he noted, the United Nations and its agencies must be urged to find ways to reach out to the common Afghan and help stabilise the situation. He emphasised that being an immediate neighbour, Pakistan had a direct stake in Afghanistan’s peace and stability. “Located next door, we have borne the brunt of four decades of conflict and instability in the shape of refugees, drugs and terrorism.”

Referring to a number of steps already taken by Pakistan to facilitate the common man in Afghanistan, Mr Qureshi said these included waiver of customs duties on perishable food items to support farmers in Afghanistan, provision of humanitarian assistance, facilitating pedestrian movement, keeping the border open during Covid-19 and visa on arrival for medical cases.

He said Pakistan’s consistent message to the international community and the new Afghan government had been to remain engaged and find a mutually agreed way forward. He said his visit to Kabul last month helped understand the new Afghan government’s expectations from the international community.

“It also provided us the opportunity to share our assessment with the Taliban leadership and highlight the international community’s expectations of them. We believe Taliban are interested in engagement, as they seek international acceptance and support,” he said.

The foreign minister said it was therefore crucial that the international community avoided repeating mistakes of the past and continued with positive engagement. “For our part, I reaffirm my prime minister’s resolve to help Afghanistan on its path towards peace, progress and prosperity,” he said.

The participants also met an Afghan delegation, led by interim Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi, on the sidelines of the of Troika Plus meeting. Views were exchanged on humanitarian assistance and other issues of mutual interest between the Troika Plus and Afghanistan.

Afghan delegation meets PM

The Afghan delegation also called on Prime Minister Imran Khan and Foreign Minister Qureshi.

PM Khan assured the delegation that Pakistan would provide all possible humanitarian aid to the Afghan government in order to mitigate a massive humanitarian crisis brewing in the war-torn country.

“Pakistan has always stood with the Afghan people in their hour of need,” the premier wrote on Twitter. He said his government was sending “essential food items, emergency medical supplies and winter shelters” for the people of Afghanistan.

Mr Khan said his government would also vaccinate the Afghans travelling across the border into Pakistan. He once again urged the global community to intervene so that the Afghan crisis could be averted.

Published in Dawn, November 12th, 2021

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