Thursday November 18, 2021

Pakistan Urges Lifting ‘Unjustified Freeze’ On Afghanistan’s Assets

New York: Pakistan focused the world community’s attention to the dire humanitarian and economic crisis facing Afghanistan, and fervently called for lifting the “unjustified freeze” on the war-torn country’s assets to enable it deal with the critical situation.

“Cash is needed to revive the economy – to pay salaries, restore small businesses, revive the banking system,” Ambassador Munir Akram told UN Security Council, while highlighting that 28 million Afghans were facing acute food insecurity.

Speaking in the 15-member Council’s meeting on Afghanistan, the Pakistani envoy warned that the consequences of a major humanitarian crisis and economic collapse there would be horrendous — massive human suffering, the outflow of millions of more Afghan refugees, the likelihood of chaos and further conflict and reinforcement of Da’esh and other terrorist groups.

“When the millions of Afghan refugees start flowing across our borders, we who are hosting 4 million Afghan refugees already will not be able to take more, they will have to go elsewhere,” Ambassador Akram said.

“These are consequences which the international community must avoid.”

At the outset, Deborah Lyons, UN Special Representative and Head of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) briefed the Council on the developments in the country since the Taliban takeover in August.

Despite an improvement in the security situation, Ms. Lyons said, Afghans feel abandoned by the international community and anxious about their new leadership.

In his remarks, the Pakistani envoy also said that the security situation in Afghanistan had vastly improved.

“The interim government has allowed and facilitated the provision of direct assistance to the Afghan people, including through women, aid workers,” he said, adding that it is responding positively to engagement with the international community, including the neighbouring countries.

“The glass may yet be half full; yet engagement has yielded progress on several concerns of the international community,” Ambassador Akram said, pointing out that girl schools up to the level of grade six are open as are universities, with women attending based in segregated classes. Secondary school were not yet open because of lack of teachers and the ability to pay them, he said, citing information given by the Taliban.

At the same time, he warned about some in the region who continue to play the role of a “spoiler” in Afghanistan, saying they are still involved in schemes to destabilize the country. “They must be isolated and exposed.”

Underscoring the immediate challenge — humanitarian and economic crisis — the Pakistani envoy said commend the efforts of the United Nations Secretary-General and the UN and international organizations – WFP, OCHA, UNDP, UNICEF, WHO, FAO and others – in responding to the needs of the Afghan people, having received “excellent cooperation” from the government in Kabul in doing so.

“But, more help is needed: to avoid a humanitarian disaster and an economic collapse,” he said

Pakistan, he said, is doing all it can, having committed $30 million in assistance to Afghanistan, as wheat, rice, medical supplies and other essential items are being sent there.

“We have lifted duties on imports of Afghan commodities. We are facilitating transit trade; providing essential medicines, refurbishing Afghan hospitals.

“Pakistan is also facilitating the WFP’s delivery of 10,000 tons of wheat flour, and a humanitarian air service has been set up – an air bridge – between Islamabad and Kabul.”

Pakistan had also initiated the platform of the six neighbouring countries plus Russia which has met twice and will meet again early next year in China to promote a regional consensus aimed at normalizing the situation in Afghanistan, especially through economic integration and connectivity.

The interim government has also reaffirmed assurances in all formats that Afghanistan’s soil will not be used against any country; that it will take effective action against Daesh/IS-K. It has sought assistance in countering the menace of drug trafficking. It has also called for unfreezing of Afghanistan’s assets.

“While pressing its concerns, the international community must also remain responsive and realistic, responsive to Afghanistan’s humanitarian and economic needs, its cultural, historical circumstances,” he said, suggesting that roadmap that would lead eventually to international acceptance and eventual recognition and representation of the new government at the United Nations.

“After 40 years, there is an opportunity for peace throughout Afghanistan and opportunity to root out terrorism from there,” the Pakistani envoy told delegates.

“This opportunity must not be lost at the altar of ego, revenge or disappointment, much less allowed to be sabotaged by those who see personal or strategic gain in continued conflict and chaos in Afghanistan.”

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