LAHORE: Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi says Pakistan is set to host an ext­raordinary session of the Orga­nisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) to plan to avert a humanitarian crisis which is rearing its head in Afghanistan following US withdrawal.

“It will be a historic and costly mistake to abandon Afgh­a­nistan at this critical juncture, which may lead to a humanitarian crisis, economic collapse and eventual instability in the region,” he said.

Speaking at a press conference at the Governor House here on Saturday, the foreign minister said the session of the OIC Council of Foreign Ministers in Islamabad on Dec 19 would bring world leaders’ attention towards the fact that lack of prompt response would lead to food shortages for some 22.8 million people and affect about 3.2m children with malnutrition in Afghanistan.

He said the conference would help mobilise resources to help Afghanistan and added that Pakistan was already providing wheat, other edible items and medicines. He assured that India would be facilitated if it would send wheat through Pakistani land, as announced.

FM says P5 countries also invited to mobilise resources for Afghanistan

The coming OIC session is being held in Pakistan after a gap of 41 years, Mr Qureshi said and added that Pakistan had also invited special representatives of P5 countries, vice-president of European Union, and representatives of relevant UN agencies and the World Bank. “Germany, Japan, Canada and Australia have also been invited to help develop an international consensus on bringing Afghan­istan out of crisis,” he said.

The foreign minister said Pa­k­istan would invite a high-level delegation from Afghan­istan so that they could engage and be engaged by the world leaders to know about ground realities and take informed decisions.

“Triggering of the crisis in Afghanistan will lead to mass exodus of refugees and Pakis­tan’s resources are not encouraging to host more such guests as it is already taking care of some three million refugees,” the foreign minister said and added that these concerns had been shared with the neighbouring countries.

After the US withdrawal on Aug 15, Mr Qureshi said, India had launched an online campaign against Pakistan with a hashtag “Sanction Pakistan” but the latter’s diplomacy foiled Indian plans. “Pakistan, with its diplomatic outreach, has already convinced the international community that engagement with Afghanistan is in the best interest of all nations.”

He said Pakistan had also been able to establish a platform of “six neighbours of Afghanistan” to develop a coordinated approach on Afghanistan.

Answering a question about Pakistan’s position in FATF grey list, the foreign minister said the country had completed 26.5 steps out of 27 steps and now there was no reason that the Financial Action Task Force would keep Pakistan in the grey list in its next meeting.

Claiming that most of the FATF members agreed that Pakistan had done a lot, Mr Qureshi said there were some nations, including India, that wanted to do arm-twisting of Pakistan. He also said the FATF was a technical forum but India had politicised it.

“If the FATF will keep Pakistan in grey list yet again, it will lose its credibility,” the foreign minister asserted.

Responding to another question about a tweet and a letter by Pakistan embassies in Serbia and Bangladesh, respectively, he said the tweet and the letter were fake as there was no break in payment of salaries to officials of the embassies.

He chided the Indian government for taking every opportunity to malign Pakistan and said New Delhi got exposed after every failed attempt.

Mr Qureshi said Pakistan was having best relations with China and he had talked to Chinese foreign minister on Friday evening and both agreed that no development project would be stopped in Pakistan. He said those disturbed over the development works under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor continued trying to disrupt the projects and strain Pak-China relation but they would never succeed in their nefarious designs.

Asked about Punjab Governor Chaudhry Sarwar’s criticism of the PTI government over accepting all demands of the IMF, Mr Qureshi said such things happened in politics and added that it was “sign of life to think beyond your commitments”.

Allaying media’s apprehension about Mr Sarwar’s departure from the government, the foreign minister said the governor was not going anywhere and such speculations would die down soon.

The foreign minister, however, agreed that Pakistan was facing a severe financial crisis and added that this crisis was also felt by the global economy due to Covid-19. He said inflation was a challenge for the whole world including Pakistan but the developed countries had resources to manage it. “Pakistan has a limited window of maneuverability,” he lamented and hoped that the country would come out of the economic crisis in the next few months.

On a question about Kashmir issue, the foreign minister said Pakistan had diverted attention of the world towards Kashmir issue and managed a debate on this issue thrice in United Nations Security Council. “Pakistan will yet again raise Kashmir issue at international level in March next year,” he added.

About the use of Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) in coming elections, Mr Qureshi said the government always wanted to take the opposition parties on board on the use of EVMs and other important legislation in the parliament.

Published in Dawn, December 5th, 2021

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