Humanitarian crisis: FM Qureshi again urges world to unfreeze Afghanistan’s assets

ISLAMABAD: Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi Monday once again urged the world to unfreeze Afghanistan’s assets and make it available for Afghan people. 

Speaking on a foreign media outlet’s talk show, FM Qureshi asked the international community to engage with the new government in Afghanistan, “so that things do not fall apart and so that there is a semblance of order.”

“Afghanistan needs an economic injection and that money could become handy if available. Unfreeze it and make it available for the Afghan people. There is a humanitarian crisis in the making. Use that money to address the crisis,” he said.

The foreign minister was of the view that there could be ways and means to ensure that the money be reached to the needy and not misused and in this connection, the UN could play a role.

Responding to a question, FM Qureshi said that it certainly concerned them if there was a total economic collapse in Afghanistan.

‘Collapse could lead to exodus’

A collapse could lead to an exodus and a huge influx of refugees moving in different directions towards, Pakistan, Iran and Tajikistan, Qureshi said, adding that it could destabilise the entire region. 

“We are very concerned about that,” he said.

He further said that an economic collapse could give space to terrorists. It would have serious consequences not only for Pakistan but for the entire region, he said, cautioning that the consequences could roll out of the region.

To a query, Qureshi said that there was uncertainty when the Taliban took control of the government on August 15, but the anxiety had gone down because there was no bloodshed and chances of a major civil war had been averted. Moreover, there was an announcement of general amnesty and commitment by the Taliban that there would be no revenge, he said, adding that there was more calmness.

“So I don’t think people are restless at the moment, but yes, things remain uncertain and if some challenges are not addressed — taken rigidly, they can take a different turn,” the foreign minister opined.

Recognising the Taliban govt 

On Pakistan recognizing the Taliban set up, the foreign minister said, “We are watching and observing as things unfold and we will make a decision at an appropriate time.”

About US’ invasion of Afghanistan after 9/11, the foreign minister observed that perhaps, they had no choice as there was compulsion due to public opinion. He said the US should have focused on what they had after disseminating the al-Qaeda network. 

They should have worked towards reconciliation, peace, and reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan, he said. 

“The country could have gone to normal. The bulk of the money had been spent on security and less on development. The government of Ashraf Ghani lost credibility because the Afghan people felt that life under them was not improved and not secured. There was squabbling and infighting and they were not certain about their future,” he added.

Responding to another query about allegations of Amrullah Saleh, former acting president of Afghanistan, Qureshi said that he used to speak someone else’s language. He was briefed by India and is on their payroll, Qureshi said.

The foreign minister said Pakistan had undertaken a number of operations to clean up its tribal areas of terrorists and it did it successfully at the cost of huge losses. Safe havens and fighters were operating across the border of Pakistan and were inside Afghanistan, he said, adding that Pakistan had identified those safe havens which were used against it. 

There was surveillance and monitoring on its part, he said, adding that whenever Pakistan was accused of having safe havens for terrorists, the blaming quarters were invited to come to these areas and see the situation themselves.

Inclusive government in Afghanistan

About an inclusive government in Afghanistan, the foreign minister said that gradually, it appeared that the Taliban had accepted the idea mentally of inclusion of ethnicities. “Pakistan has been advocating for a more inclusive approach,” he said, adding that in politics, you have to make compromises and make moves to accommodate all points of view.

The foreign minister, to another query, replied that Afghans were very independent-minded people who took their own decisions. “We, as policy, decided not to interfere in their internal matters. We will help when asked to help,” he said, reiterating the aim to achieve peace and stability in Afghanistan. 

He asserted that Pakistan would do whatever it could to achieve peace and stability in Afghanistan. ”We have no business in interfering with their internal matters,” he maintained. Qureshi said it concerned Pakistan if the TTP elements had been set free from jails in Afghanistan.

To a question about female education in Afghanistan, he said that to his information, girls were going to schools and colleges and not being restricted. The women could be accommodated in the cabinet, he said.

Qureshi said the Taliban had urged the people who were in the government service to come back and resume work. “It takes time to bridge the trust deficit,” he added. 

The foreign minister said Pak-Afghan borders were kept open and not closed. “The question is — would you allow people in to your country without documentations visa or passports. You won’t. There are certain norms you have to follow,” he contended.

Qureshi said that in the past, these borders were porous and Pakistan paid the price and it was accused of cross border movements, but eventually, Pakistan fenced the border for better management and regulations.

Responding to a question, he said the Taliban had made a clear commitment that Afghan soil would not be used against any country, including Pakistan. “I hope they will live up to that promise,” he added. About sophisticated weaponry left behind by US forces, the foreign minister said if it went in the wrong hands, it obviously concerned them.