ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan on Monday approved Rs5 billion humanitarian aid for Afghanistan, besides allowing transportation of Indian food assistance for the war-torn country through Pakistan.
The decision was taken at the first meeting of the apex committee of the newly established Afghanistan Inter-Ministerial Coordination Cell (AICC). PM Khan chaired the meeting that was attended by Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, Adviser on Finance Shaukat Tarin, Chief of the Army Staff Gen Qamar Bajwa, National Security Adviser Dr Moeed Yousuf and senior civil and military officers.
The PM Office said that the prime minister “ordered immediate shipment of in-kind humanitarian assistance worth Rs5 billion”.
The aid would include food commodities including 50,000 tonnes of wheat, emergency medical supplies and winter shelters, according to the PMO. A delegation of health officials from Afghanistan will visit Islamabad later this week to work out modalities for Pakistan’s support to Afghanistan’s health sector.
Allows transportation of Indian food assistance through Pakistan
The assistance approved by the prime minister was earlier announced on October 1 during the visit of FM Qureshi to Kabul for meeting with the Taliban leaders.
Humanitarian supplies are already being transported from Pakistan to Afghanistan almost on daily basis since September.
United Nations’ Special Representative for Afghanistan Deborah Lyons had on Thursday warned that the country was “on the brink of a humanitarian catastrophe” with nearly 60 per cent of its population expected to face extreme level of hunger.
The food emergency is expected to aggravate over the winter.
The participants of the meeting, while expressing concern about the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Afghanistan, vowed not to abandon the Afghans in their time of need.
Mr Khan urged the international community of fulfill its “collective responsibility” to help Afghanistan stave off the impending humanitarian crisis.
He announced the government’s decision to permit 50,000 MT of wheat India had offered to Afghanistan as humanitarian assistance to go through Pakistan after finalisation of modalities.
“Pakistan will also facilitate the return of Afghan patients who had gone to India for medical treatment and are stuck there,” he further said.
While directing the ministries to extend maximum facilitation to Afghans, the prime minister said that it had been agreed in principle to reduce tariff and sales tax on key Afghan exports to Pakistan.
This would help support Afghanistan’s economy. Since Taliban takeover in August this year, imports from Afghanistan to Pakistan are higher than exports from Pakistan to Afghanistan.
Mr Khan instructed that no arbitrary closures of borders for trade should be allowed.
He further ordered revival of bus service between Peshawar and Jalalabad for facilitating cross-border travel. Measures for facilitating visas for Afghanistan were also approved.
The prime minister ordered that the facility of free Covid-19 vaccination for the Afghans entering Pakistan from land borders be continued. Pakistan has initiated free vaccination of the Afghans since November 13.
NSA Moeed Yusuf was asked to visit Afghanistan for exploring specific areas where immediate capacity building support was required by the Afghans.
Mr Yusuf, who is also the convener of AICC briefed the civil and military leadership on the current economic situation in Afghanistan and the progress made by the AICC in coordinating national efforts for humanitarian assistance and border facilitation for Afghans.
Published in Dawn, November 23rd, 2021