KARACHI: The interim foreign minister of Afghanistan, Amir Khan Muttaqi, has once again asked the world to lift sanctions imposed on the country and expressed the willingness to work together with all nations, including the US.

In an op-ed published in Al Jazeera, Mr Muttaqi, however, didn’t address the friction points — respecting the rights of Afghans, lifting curbs on women’s access to education and work and taking action against terror outfits operating out of Afghanistan — that have made Kabul a near pariah in global politics.

Since coming into power in August 2021, the Afghan Taliban have repeatedly urged the world to recognise their government and lift economic restrictions to help millions of Afghans who are living in deplorable conditions often described by the UN as a ‘humanitarian crisis’.

In his article, the Taliban minister acknowledged the crisis in the country and blamed sanctions imposed by the US and other countries for it.

“The primary cause of the ongoing economic crisis is the imposition of sanctions and banking restrictions by the United States. This impedes and delays our efforts to address the humanitarian crisis,” wrote Mr Muttaqi.

“What moral and political justifications can the US have for imposing crippling sanctions on a war-torn nation?”

The give

He added that over the past two decades, the Afghan economy “was made wholly dependent on foreign aid” and now with zero aid inflows, there was a need to “address the basic and fundamental needs of the Afghan people”.

He also “reminded” the US and other countries that sanctions and pressures do not resolve differences. “There is a need for the international community to establish political and economic relations with the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan while respecting its sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

Mr Muttaqi added that if sanctions result in another failed government in Afghanistan, it would result in grave consequences not only for the country but the whole world.

“[S]uch a scenario will be accompanied by a great human tragedy that will not be limited to Afghanistan, but rather usher in new and unforeseen … challenges for our neighbours, the region and the world.”

The take

While the Afghan minister pleaded with the world to make concessions and work together, his article carried no indication of what his government would do to address the concerns of global powers.

His nearly 1350-word long piece makes not even a single mention of women’s access to education or allowing them to work.

The closest he came to mentioning — not addressing — these issues was when he said that the country’s “internal affairs” have often been “misconceived or misconstrued”.

“The religious and cultural sensibilities of our society require a cautious approach. Any government that has not maintained the proper equilibrium, pertaining to such sensibilities, has ultimately faced serious difficulties. This is a lesson that our recent history has emphasised over and over again,” the minister wrote.

Listing his government’s achievements, the minister claimed that action has been taken to ensure that the territory was not used against other countries while the cultivation of drugs has been banned.

“We celebrate, and take pride, in our diversity and rich history. We don’t believe in imposing the majority’s will on a minority. In our view, every citizen of the country is an inseparable part of the collective whole.”

He said that the government acknowledged its “challenges and shortcomings” and sought time, resources and cooperation to address those issues. “[A]ll countries of the world have problems of their own. Yet, we choose to assist and alleviate, rather than shun and exacerbate.”

Published in Dawn, March 24th, 2023

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