Aid for Afghanistan

Published December 21, 2021

THE OIC meeting in Islamabad has produced some results but not as much as was hoped. The 57-member body held an extraordinary session of foreign ministers to exclusively discuss ways and means to ameliorate the humanitarian crisis unfolding in Afghanistan.

At the end of the meeting, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi and the OIC secretary general Hissein Brahim Taha announced that the body had agreed to establish a Humanitarian Trust Fund and Food Security Programme to deal with the crisis in Afghanistan. The Fund will be managed by the Islamic Development Bank and will be made operational by March of next year.

However, beyond these two steps, nothing much else appears to be the outcome of the mega event. There were some expectations that if nothing else, the member countries would make financial pledges for Afghanistan. This has not happened except Saudi Arabia’s announcing that it would give $265m for Afghanistan and Pakistan has already said earlier that it would donate $30m.

The OIC has over the years built up a reputation that has not inspired too much confidence. Its words usually speak louder than its actions and something similar appears to have happened at this latest meeting in Islamabad. It is unfortunate that the people of Afghanistan would have to brave the worst winter months on their own and wait till at least March to see the OIC doing anything substantive. This means that if the humanitarian crisis has to be averted, other multilateral organisations like the UN, and influential countries, especially the United States, will need to step up and save Afghanistan from this crisis.

Read: Afghan babies succumb to hunger as winter descends

The OIC meeting, however, was good on optics. Pakistan has done well to organise the high-profile event and it goes to the credit of Foreign Minister Qureshi and the Foreign Office for ensuring very strong participation not just from the member states but also from the P5 countries and other relevant multilateral organisations. The event has made headlines and has focused attention on the plight of the people of Afghanistan.

The conference also provided Pakistan a good platform to highlight its own efforts in Afghanistan and the proactive diplomacy that it has been pursuing which led to the Doha talks and then later also after the Taliban takeover of Kabul on Aug 15. Pakistan has also done well to organise Afghanistan’s neighbours and other regional countries to stay engaged in a bid to stabilise the situation so that Afghanistan does not plunge back into chaos and violence.

Even though the OIC meeting has not produced anything immediate and substantive, it is a good beginning to leverage the power of the Muslim nations to push for greater international engagement with Afghanistan and coax other important countries to think beyond their antipathy to the Taliban and help the people of Afghanistan.

Published in Dawn, December 21st, 2021

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