Prime Minister Imran Khan on Sunday issued a clear warning to the global community, stating that Afghanistan could potentially become the biggest "man-made crisis in the world" if it did not act now.
The premier expressed the views while delivering the keynote address at the 17th extraordinary session of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation's (OIC) Council of Foreign Ministers to discuss the situation in neighbouring Afghanistan at the Parliament House in Islamabad.
Envoys from 57 Islamic nations as well as observer delegations are participating in today's session. The premier, who was the last to speak before the televised portion of the event concluded, began his speech by welcoming the participants to Pakistan.
"Forty one years ago, an extraordinary session of the OIC was held in Pakistan to discuss the situation in Afghanistan," he told the gathering, which also included Taliban foreign minister Amir Khan Muttaqi alongside delegates from the United States, China, Russia, the European Union and UN.
PM Imran said no other country had suffered as much as Afghanistan, adding that even before the Taliban seized control, half of the population was below the poverty line. He said that 75 per cent of the country's budget was also supported by foreign aid.
He noted that any country, in a situation similar to that of Afghanistan, would collapse.
Commending the other speakers for highlighting the gravity of the situation in the war-torn country, he said: "If the world doesn't act, this will be the biggest man-made crisis which is unfolding in front of us."
PM Imran said that the OIC also had a "religious duty" to help the Afghans.
Specifically addressing the United States, the prime minister said that Washington must "delink" the Taliban government from the 40 million Afghan citizens.
"They have been in conflict with the Taliban for 20 years but this [concerns] the people of Afghanistan," he said, adding that it was important to take immediate action.
He noted that the Taliban had to fulfill the commitments they had made to the international community, which included forming an inclusive government and ensuring women's rights.
"[However], the idea of human rights is different in every society," he said, giving the example of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province which borders the war-torn country.
"The city culture is completely different from the culture in rural areas [...] we give stipends to the parents of the girls so that they send them to school. But in districts bordering Afghanistan, if we are not sensitive to the cultural norms, then they won't send them to school despite receiving double the amount. We have to be sensitive about human rights and women rights," he said.
He reiterated that Afghanistan was headed for chaos unless the world took immediate action. Such a situation will not suit the US because "chaos means the inability to fight terrorism," he said, adding that Pakistan also faced a threat from ISIL (Daesh).
PM Imran said that Pakistan was currently housing over three million refugees, adding that country was also providing shelter to more than 200,000 refugees who had overstayed their visas.
"The situation in Afghanistan means they can't go back. We are already suffering from the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. We are not in a position to deal with a influx of refugees."
He questioned how poorer countries, that were still struggling to get their economic back up, would be able to cope with an influx of refugees.
Addressing the participants, the premier said he was impressed by the suggestions put forward by Islamic development banks for providing immediate assistance.
"I look forward to the fact that you will come up with a road map by the end of this evening," he said, reiterating that "chaos in Afghanistan suited no one".
Pledge to help unlock frozen Afghan assets
According to an OIC resolution released after the meeting, the participating countries resolved to work with the United Nations to try to unlock hundreds of millions of dollars in frozen Afghan assets in a bid to tackle its growing humanitarian crisis.
Delegates said they would work “to unlock the financial and banking channels to resume liquidity and flow of financial and humanitarian assistance”.
The Islamic Development Bank would lead the effort to free up assistance by the first quarter of next year, the resolution read.
It also urged Afghanistan's rulers to abide by “obligations under international human rights covenants, especially with regards to the rights of women, children, youth, elderly and people with special needs”.
The 31-point resolution was short on specifics and gave no figure for financial assistance.
Qureshi proposes six-point framework to support Afghans
The session began with the recitation of Holy Quran, following which Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi formally declared the extraordinary session "open". He was the first to address the summit.
"Let me start by commending Saudi Arabia for their leadership in convening this session," Qureshi said. "I want to welcome OIC Secretary General Taha. this is first the foreign ministerial meeting after his appointment."
"Pakistan is also gratified by the trust reposed in us by the OIC. Your presence here on a short notice affirms the importance the world and OIC holds for the people of Afghanistan. The significance of this gathering goes beyond mere symbolism. It is a matter of survival for them."
The foreign minister detailed the plight of people in Afghanistan, saying: "Over half their population — 22.8 million people — face food shortage. Millions of Afghan children are at risk of dying from malnutrition. This situation has been brought about by a multiplicity of factors such as years of conflict, poor governance and excessive dependence on foreign aid."
"August 2021 may have altered the political landscape in Afghanistan, but the needs of the people are the same."
Qureshi said that as per the UN, the Afghanistan situation "could become the biggest humanitarian crisis in the world", adding that those with "direct knowledge" have been giving "dire warnings" in this regard.
"It is unfortunate that the hardship and suffering of the Afghans has not eased," he said as he urged the Islamic world to stand with the people of Afghanistan just as it backed the right of "self-determination of the Palestinians and the Kashmiris".
"This is the moment to extend a collective helping hand. This is not the time to withhold support," he added.
"This organisation (OIC) has consistently supported the rights of the people and called on the rest of the world to think beyond their economic and domestic compulsions."
The minister highlighted that Pakistan would also be impacted by a humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan, adding that a "complete economic meltdown" could not be ruled out.
"The consequences of a humanitarian crisis and an economic collapse will be horrendous [...] we must not allow this to happen," he said, adding that Pakistan was doing all it could to help its Afghani brethren.
Qureshi said that the OIC session must usher in "visible change" and show the people of the war-torn country that it is united in helping them stabilise their economy and country.
Qureshi proposed a six-point frame work for the OIC to lead which included creating a vehicle with the OIC to channel "immediate and sustained humanitarian and financial support to the Afghan people".
"We should also agree to increase investment in the people of Afghanistan, bilaterally or through the OIC, in areas such as education, health and technical and vocational skills to the Afghan youth," he said.
He also proposed establishing a group of experts to consider ways and means to facilitate Afghanistan’s access to legitimate banking services. He also called for enhancing food security in the war-torn country, investing in building the capacity of Afghan institutions in countering terrorism and combating illicit trade in narcotics, and engage with Afghan authorities to help advance the expectations of the international community.
Concluding his speech, the foreign minister called on the countries to seize this "historic opportunity" to turn the tide in Afghanistan.
'Afghans have suffered for too long'
Addressing the OIC session, Saudi Minister of Foreign Affairs Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud said that the economic difficulties could trigger a humanitarian crisis and lead to further instability which could impact regional and international peace.
He said that the OIC meeting expressed solidarity with the Afghans and demonstrated to the world the need for immediate action to put an end to the situation in the war-torn country.
"The people of Afghanistan have suffered for too long," he said, adding that they had faced years of instability.
The Saudi minister urged OIC member states to play a part in providing the Afghans with the necessary support and to prevent an economic collapse in the country.
Highlighting the assistance provided by the kingdom in the past, he said that Saudi Arabia had recently airlifted food supplies on the directives of King Salman bin Abdulaziz.
He said that the kingdom also condemned terrorist actions targeting minorities in Afghanistan. "We promote peace and security as it requires cooperative action from the international community," he said.
Concluding his speech, he expressed the hope that the OIC meeting would come up with a proper resolution as well as recommendations to alleviate the difficulties being faced by the Afghans.
'OIC moot sends universal message of harmony and solidarity'
OIC Secretary General Hissein Brahim Taha began by thanking the participants for electing him. He also voiced his appreciation for Saudi Arabia for supporting "Islamic solidarity", and thanked Pakistan for the cordial welcome.
"By hosting this event, Pakistan reaffirms its total commitment to the issues facing the Muslim community with a keen dedication to security and peace for region and world," he said.
He also thanked the participants for travelling for the OIC meeting despite the pandemic and the spread of the Omicron variant. "This effort gives a universal message of harmony and solidarity," he said, adding that the Afghan issue has always been high on the OIC agenda.
"The OIC has always taken a strong position which supports its member countries [...] the joint secretariat calls for the sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity of Afghanistan," he said.
The OIC secretary general said that the role of OIC members in delivering humanitarian assistance was more important now than ever before as the pandemic had exacerbated existing challenges.
"We commend the humanitarian assistance provided by some member states to the Afghan people. We also call for all parties concerned to cooperate with the OIC mission in Kabul to provide relief to the affected Afghan people," he said.
"The OIC is ready to carry out a follow-up of the outcome and to play its role in supporting humanitarian action in coordination with the relevant OIC missions and relief agencies across the Muslim world,' he said.
Capital on lockdown ahead of moot
On Sunday, the capital was on lockdown, ring-fenced with barbed wire barriers and shipping-container roadblocks where police and soldiers stood guard.
The foreign ministers of about 20 countries are attending the meeting, while 10 other countries are being represented by their deputy ministers. The rest have sent senior officials for the session.
Moreover, officials of the UN, global financial institutions, international and regional organisations and important non-OIC countries like Japan and Germany have also been invited.
No nations have yet formally recognised the Taliban government and diplomats face the delicate task of channelling aid to the stricken Afghan economy without also propping up the hardline group.
FM Qureshi said the meeting would speak “for the people of Afghanistan” rather than “a particular group”.
Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates were the only three countries to recognise the previous Taliban government of 1996 to 2001.
Qureshi said there was a difference between “recognition and engagement” with the new order in Kabul.
“Let us nudge them through persuasion, through incentives, to move in the right direction,” he told reporters ahead of the OIC meeting.
“A policy of coercion and intimidation did not work. If it had worked, we wouldn't have been in this situation.“
OIC moot to focus spotlight on Afghan issue: PM Imran
On Sunday, Prime Minister Imran Khan expressed the hope that the Council of Foreign Ministers (CFM) of the 57-member Muslim bloc would focus spotlight on humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan.
“I welcome delegations from OIC member states, observers, friends, partners and international organisations to Pakistan. The extraordinary session of OIC CFMs is an expression of solidarity with the Afghan people and to focus our collective energies on addressing the dire humanitarian situation in Afghanistan,” the premier said on Twitter.