WASHINGTON: Pakistan on Thursday said continued and close US engagement would ensure that needed assistance reaches the people of Afghanistan promptly.

Pakistan’s US ambassador, Asad Majeed Khan, made this statement while thanking US Secretary of State Antony Blinken for sending his envoy to an OIC foreign ministers meeting in Islamabad last week.

“Thank you for your leadership and US participation in the OIC Conference as an observer,” he said in a tweet. “Continued and close US engagement would remain critical in ensuring that direly needed assistance reaches the people of Afghanistan promptly,” he wrote.

Secretary Blinken, who sent his Special Envoy Thomas West to the conference, said in a tweet on Wednesday that the OIC extraordinary session on Afghanistan was “a prime example of our collective determination and action to help those most in-need”.

“We thank Pakistan for hosting this vital meeting & inviting the global community to continue cooperating to support the Afghan people,” he added. The two messages indicate that Pakistan and the US had been quietly reviewing various options for keeping the Afghan economy afloat. Since Aug 15, when the Taliban took over Kabul, Pakistan has been urging the international community not to bring down the Afghan economy as it would multiply the miseries of the Afghan citizens already suffering the consequences of almost half a century of wars and strife.

The US, which provided $474 million humanitarian assistance to Afghan­istan this year, was not against helping the Afghan people but did not want the Taliban to benefit from this assistance.

While welcoming the US assistance, Pakistan argued that humanitarian assistance alone would not work in a country which had no cash, no banking system and no means of receiving or distributing the assistance it received. The Taliban government could not even distribute the remittances received from Afghans living abroad.

Last week, 39 US lawmakers sent a letter to their secretaries of state and treasury, asking them to help rebuild Afghanistan’s failing economy and to unfreeze the country’s assets. Various UN agencies also sent similar messages.

The US reacted to the Taliban takeover by seizing $9.5 billion of Afghan assets in its control. The US and other Western powers also tightened the sanctions imposed by the United Nations, bringing Afghanistan to an economic collapse.

On Monday, a spokesperson for the State Department indicated that the Biden administration was willing to go beyond humanitarian assistance to prevent an economic disaster.

Published in Dawn, December 24th, 2021

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