FM Qureshi wants world to support Afghanistan, unfreeze assets

NEW YORK: Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi called upon the international community to support Afghans at a critical juncture through different steps, including unfreezing their assets, as according to him, there is still hope for peace in Afghanistan.

“Afghans have faced war in the last four decades so the international community should not leave Afghans alone now,” said the foreign minister while interacting with the United Nations’s press representatives.

“A peaceful Afghanistan will benefit the whole region. Pakistan wants peace and stability in Afghanistan because if the Afghanistan situation deteriorates, Pakistan will be [the] most affected.”

Qureshi said Pakistan has been hosting more than three million Afghan refugees for the last four decades with limited resources and without financial support from the international community.

Pakistan’s economy can no longer bear the burden of refugees, he added.

Qureshi said his country gave all-out support for the evacuation of citizens, diplomatic staff and media representatives of different countries from Afghanistan.

Shah Mehmood Qureshi said he saw positives from the Taliban, including a declaration of amnesty and a willingness to include ethnic groups.
Shah Mehmood Qureshi said he saw “positives” from the Taliban, including a declaration of amnesty and a willingness to include ethnic groups.

To address the growing humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan, Qureshi said the international community must move forward and take steps to ensure the support of Afghans. 

The federal minister said Pakistan, like other neighbours, seeks a comprehensive coalition government in Afghanistan. He said Pakistan believes that the reconciliation process in Afghanistan cannot be completed without the formation of a government that has a representation of all political parties.

The initial statements made by Taliban leaders are encouraging, said Shah Mehmood Qureshi, adding that respecting international opinion and keeping its promises is in the best interest of the Taliban as they seek recognition by the world.

“I don’t think anybody is in a rush to recognise them at this stage and the Taliban should keep an eye on that as they have to be more sensitive and more receptive to international opinion.” 

“In my opinion, unfreezing the frozen assets of Afghanistan for [the] Afghans may serve as a major step for confidence-building that could also incentivise positive behaviour,” he said.

“On one hand, you’re raising fresh funds to avert a crisis and on the other hand money that is theirs — belongs to them — they cannot use. I think freezing the assets is not helping the situation. I would strongly urge the powers that be that they should revisit that policy and think of an unfreeze.”

The United States froze $9.5 billion in Afghan central bank assets and international lenders have stayed clear of Afghanistan, wary of providing money that could be used by the Taliban.

Qureshi said several positive aspects also emerged during the current transition in Afghanistan. The absence of bloodshed and civil war during this recent change is a positive aspect, he said, adding that the statements made by the Taliban regarding the end of the war, amnesty, respect for basic human rights and protection of women’s rights are encouraging.

On Pakistan-India relations

The federal minister also highlighted the Imran Khan-led government’s good intentions towards India. He said Prime Minister Imran Khan, after taking office, invited India to take one step towards peace which Pakistan will reciprocate with its two steps.

However instead of accepting the offer, India took unilateral and unconstitutional steps in Occupied Jammu and Kashmir on August 5, 2019, which further complicated the situation, the federal minister said.

“We want peace. Even today, India has an option. If it wants peace in the region, it should stop the ongoing atrocities on Kashmiris and reverse all unconstitutional measures of August 5,” he said. He said voices are being heard today from within India against its Hindutva policies.

Pakistan seeks partnership in peace efforts in the region, he said.