ISLAMABAD: Pakistan on Friday urged the United States again to unfr­ee­­ze Afghan assets and condit­ionally allow the Taliban regime to use those funds for dealing with the economic and humanitarian crisis in the war-ravaged country.

Foreign Office spokesman Asim Iftikhar, at a weekly media conference, said the Afghan assets held in the US should be released urgently and “in a manner that would make it easier for the interim authorities to utilise this money.”

He was responding to a question relating to reports that the process for the unfreezing of the funds could face delays because of renewed concerns in the US, after Al Qaeda leader Ayman al Zawahiri’s killing in Kabul late last month, that the money could be diverted to terrorist groups.

The US government had last year frozen $7 billion, ow­­ned by Afghanistan, aft­er the Taliban took over con­trol of the country. President Bid­en, earlier this year, split this amount equally between the families of victims of the Sept 11 terror attacks and aid for suffering Afghans.

Washington has since then been establishing a process for the release of those funds. Zawahiri’s kill­ing has reinforced doubts in the US about Taliban’s cou­n­­­ter-terrorism commit­me­nts.

Mr Iftikhar recalled that Pakistan too wants that the release “shouldn’t be done without strings attached”. He particularly noted that the US provided a lot of hum­anitarian assistance for Afg­hanistan over the past year.

The spokesman, while referring to recent visit by Centcom chief Gen Michael Kurilla and other bilateral engagements said that be­­sides the bilateral agen­­da, the two sides also discussed the situation in Afghanistan.

“As far as this ministry and the political leadership are concerned, we recognise that, and I think similar recognition is there at the other end in Washington, that this is an important relationship, which we have to build on the basis of trust, mutual interest and mutual benefit. We will continue to do that,” he said about the efforts to rebuild ties after the crisis witnessed in the relationship earlier in the year because of allegations that the US government conspired to oust former prime minister Imran Khan from office.

Published in Dawn, August 20th, 2022

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