Oslo meeting

Published January 27, 2022

A DILEMMA continues to confront the international community where Afghanistan is concerned: whether or not to recognise the Taliban government in the country and how to get vital aid to the Afghan people in the absence of international recognition. Five months after the hard-line group took Kabul from the West-backed government, international acceptance eludes them, primarily because of their less-than-stellar human rights record. However, it is also a fact that as the economy faces critical shocks, the Afghan people’s sufferings are compounded. In an attempt to break this deadlock, Taliban representatives met members of Afghan civil society and officials from the UN and Western states in Oslo recently. While the meeting has been described as positive by all sides involved, no particular breakthrough was announced, while some Western officials have said the conclave should not be seen as an attempt to grant the Taliban regime legitimacy.

At the heart of the matter is the Taliban’s attitude towards fundamental rights, particularly women’s rights. During their last tenure, the women’s rights situation in Afghanistan was simply appalling, with women practically banished from the public sphere. This time around, the Taliban promised better things, but these have yet to materialise. For example, the UN’s special procedures group says the Taliban are trying to “erase women and girls from public life”, while adding that the group’s policies serve as a “collective punishment” for women. Moreover, the Taliban have also been accused of targeting journalists, activists and remnants of the former administration. Be that as it may, ordinary Afghans are suffering as the West tries to punish the Taliban. This grim fact has been highlighted by UN Secretary General António Guterres, who has said a “nightmare [is] unfolding in Afghanistan”. An economy in free fall has resulted in widespread lack of healthcare, jobs and food as Afghans brave a harsh winter. Therefore, as the UN chief has rightly stressed, there is a need to separate humanitarian aid and international recognition of the Taliban regime. Indeed, the international community must continue to try and make the Taliban improve their attitude towards basic rights, especially if they seek global acceptance. But these efforts must not block the delivery of vital funds and aid to the Afghan people. Mechanisms must be put in place that can help verify help is reaching the Afghan people, while economic activity in the country should not be obstructed by foreign states.

Published in Dawn, January 27th, 2022

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