PM Imran orders 'cooperation with friendly countries' to avert Afghan humanitarian crisis

Published January 14, 2022
Prime Minister Imran Khan presides over the third meeting of the Apex Committee on Afghanistan. — PMO Twitter
Prime Minister Imran Khan presides over the third meeting of the Apex Committee on Afghanistan. — PMO Twitter

Pakistan renewed on Friday its appeal to the international community and relief agencies to provide aid to Afghanistan, as Prime Minister Imran Khan directed relevant authorities to "explore bilateral cooperation with friendly countries" to avert a looming humanitarian crisis in the neighbouring state by exporting qualified and trained manpower, especially in the fields of medical, IT, finance and accounting.

He also issued directives for extending cooperation in the fields of railways, minerals, pharmaceuticals, and media to help in Afghanistan’s rehabilitation and development, the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) said in a statement.

"Pakistan is committed to providing all-out support to Afghan people to avert [a] humanitarian crisis," the premier said while chairing the third meeting of the Apex Committee on Afghanistan.

Moreover, the PMO said, Prime Minister Imran welcomed the UN's appeal for aid to Afghanistan, as the committee highlighted the need for the provision of assistance and aid to the war-torn country by the global community at this "critical juncture to avert [an] economic collapse and to save precious lives".

The UN has been urging the global community to provide aid to Afghanistan and also called to unfreeze Afghan assets, citing a looming humanitarian crisis in the aftermath of an economic collapse since the Taliban takeover in August last year.

Earlier this week, the UN and partners had launched their largest ever country-specific appeal for Afghanistan. And yesterday, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres had appealed for the suspension of rules preventing the use of money in Afghanistan to save lives and for a path to the conditional release of frozen Afghan foreign currency reserves, according to Reuters.

UN aid agencies describe Afghanistan’s plight as one of the world’s most rapidly growing humanitarian crises. The UN humanitarian coordination office reported recently that half the population faced acute hunger, over nine million people abandoned their homes and millions of children were out of school.

Similar details were highlighted at the apex committee's meeting today, where the participants were informed that Afghanistan was at the verge of a "hunger-and-crisis situation during this harsh winter".

"The crisis makes it difficult for the people to get enough food and shelter," the meeting was told, according to the PMO.

The PMO said the apex committee expressed concern over the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Afghanistan and "vowed that Pakistan will not abandon Afghans in their time of need".

"The committee resolved to stand together with Afghan people and urged relief agencies to take immediate action."

Earlier in the meeting, the apex committee was updated on the progress made on relief of in-kind humanitarian assistance worth Rs5 billion, which comprises food commodities including 50,000 MT of wheat, emergency medical supplies, winter shelters and other supplies.

The aid was approved by Prime Minister Imran in November last year.

The meeting was attended by Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, Information Minister Fawad Chaudry, Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid, Adviser to the Prime Minister on Commerce Abdul Razak Dawood, National Security Adviser Moeed Yusuf, Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa and senior civil and military officers.

The looming crisis in Afghanistan

Since the Taliban seized control of Afghanistan, the country has plunged into financial chaos, with inflation and unemployment surging.

Billions of dollars of the country's assets have been frozen by the US, while aid supplies have been heavily disrupted.

Global aid agencies have warned that more than half of Afghanistan's 38 million people are expected to face hunger this winter.

Keeping the situation in view, the Taliban had appealed last week for emergency humanitarian aid without “political bias”, saying recent snow and flooding had worsened the plight of the Afghan people.

In a video appeal, deputy prime minister Abdul Ghani Baradar had said, "The world has to support Afghan people without any political bias and carry out their humanitarian obligations.”

“We call for the international community, NGOs and all the countries not to forget our poor people,” Baradar had added in what was the first direct appeal made by a senior Taliban leader to tackle the deteriorating humanitarian crisis.

No country has yet formally recognised the Taliban government and diplomats face the delicate task of channelling aid to the stricken economy without propping up the Taliban.

In December last year, Muslim nations had resolved to work with the United Nations to try to unlock the frozen assets, mainly held in the United States.

The special meeting of the 57-member Organisation of Islamic Cooperation was the biggest conference on Afghanistan since the previous US-backed government fell in August and the Taliban returned to power.

Also in December, the UN Security Council had unanimously adopted a US-proposed resolution to help humanitarian aid reach desperate Afghans, while seeking to keep funds out of Taliban hands.

The Security Council resolution allows aid to reach the country for one year without violating international sanctions aimed at isolating the Taliban.

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