After OIC FM's meeting, ball now in Taliban’s court  

By: Ashraf Mumtaz      Published: 01:03 PM, 20 Dec, 2021
Afghanistan's Taliban Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi (C) arrives to attend the opening of a special meeting of the 57-member Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in Islamabad on December 19, 2021. AFP
Afghanistan's Taliban Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi (C) arrives to attend the opening of a special meeting of the 57-member Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in Islamabad on December 19, 2021. AFP

The 17th extraordinary meeting of the Council of Foreign Ministers of the OIC, held at Islamabad on Sunday - some four months after the takeover of Afghanistan by the Taliban - has taken a commendable decision of setting up a humanitarian fund to be operated by the Islamic Development Bank (IDB) to help avert the humanitarian and economic crises in Afghanistan.

The step will enable the intending donors to channel their contributions to the war-ravaged country in the absence of a banking system there. This will also be a mechanism for the countries that don’t like to hand over money directly to the Taliban.

While oil-rich Saudi Arabia has already donated one billion riyals, other countries will follow suit.

But what is more important is the shift in the attitude of the ruling Taliban.  

In his address, Prime Minister Imran Khan had urged the world not to link their support to the Afghan people with the Taliban, but they should think of the 40 million Afghans heading towards disaster.  

He had also a piece of advice for the Taliban.  

He said the Taliban would have to understand that the formation of an inclusive government, respect for human rights -- particularly women's rights -- and disallowing the use of Afghan soil for terrorism in other countries will pave way for international aid to Afghanistan.  

Then he referred to his meeting with the interim Afghan foreign minister Mr Amir Khan Muttaqi in which the latter had categorically assured him to comply with all the conditions.

This change will certainly be very helpful to the impoverished state in the times ahead.

People remember that it was the rigid attitude of the Taliban that isolated it from the rest of the world and prevented the international community from recognizing the Taliban government during 1996-2001. Only Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and UAE had accorded recognition to the Mullah Omar-led setup.  

The situation had changed drastically after the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Centre that had provided the US with a pretext to invade the country.

The OIC leaders present at the Sunday conference have taken no decision about recognizing the Taliban government. Not even the three countries that had taken the initiative last time.

This clearly means that the OIC would now monitor the policies of the Taliban leadership, as well as the reaction of other countries, before taking any decision on the subject.

This careful attitude of the OIC would certainly bring the Taliban under pressure to mould their policies to make themselves acceptable to the world. By showing flexibility the Taliban will, in fact, be helping themselves and their countrymen.   

The conference provided the participants with a good opportunity to have a better idea of the prevailing situation in Afghanistan and what is likely to be in store for it in case the world did not come to its immediate help.   

UN Relief Chief Martin Griffiths, who delivered the address on behalf of the global body’s secretary-general, painted a very disturbing picture of the situation in Afghanistan.  

According to him, “Some 23 million people are already facing hunger. Health facilities are overflowing with malnourished children. Some 70 per cent of teachers are not getting paid and millions of children, Afghanistan future, are out of school,” Martin said.

Martin Griffiths said the Afghan economy was on free fall -- something that would take down the entire population. He also warned that as per the UN Development Programme, 97 per cent of the Afghan population could slip below the poverty line by June next year if urgent steps were not taken to mitigate their sufferings.  

Over 20 foreign ministers, including those from Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Iran, Jordon, Kuwait and Bangladesh attended the day-long meeting at the Parliament House.  

The permanent members of the UN Security Council, European Union and international financial institutions also came to the meeting, making it the biggest international gathering on Afghanistan since the Taliban takeover.

By hosting the conference, Pakistan played the role of a friend in need and a sincere neighbour when  Prime Minister Imran Khan urged the world not to link their support to the Afghan people with the Taliban, but they should think of the 40 million Afghans heading towards disaster.

Needless to recall that Pakistan has been helping the Afghans for the past four decades. Even today some three million refugees are living in Pakistan, earning their livelihood through different sources.  

Now it is the moral duty of other countries, especially the rich ones, to help Afghanistan and save it from any new crisis in future.

Categories : Opinion
Ashraf Mumtaz

The writer is the Deputy Editor of 24 Digital.