EDITORIAL: The government of Pakistan is right to suggest a "Marshall Plan" for Afghanistan because the country is clearly overwhelmingly dependent on aid and grants in order to survive. But the best Islamabad can do is suggest and lobby for such funding because only the rich countries of the world can be of any help in this matter. Their active participation also acts as a green light for the International Financial Institutions (IFIs) that have the kind of ready money that Afghanistan is in desperate need of at this moment. Therefore, the Americans couldn't have done any worse than pull the plug on Afghan funding after the return of the Taliban and also freeze Afghan central bank's assets abroad, because such measures hurt the man on the street more than anybody in any position of power in the capital.
It is also very wrong to assume that Afghan survival and reconstruction are strictly Afghanistan's problems and they will have to learn to stand on their own two feet. That is because as we have seen in the past, when these people are pushed against the wall, they are forced to resort to poppy cultivation, which brings windfall profits to their farmers and helps stabilise the economy, and a lot of people also become what has become known over the years as 'accidental terrorists' - those who are driven by circumstance and desperation to vent their anger on others. And since both the poppy and the terrorism can reach other shores rather easily, it is very much everybody's problem that Afghanistan has once again been left in the lurch when it does not have the capacity to handle its own financial affairs.
One would have thought that the experience of the 1980s and 1990s had taught important lessons to everybody. If the Americans hadn't left in such a hurry after the Soviets retreated, Afghanistan would never have descended into the extremist safe haven that it became and the mujahideen of the good war would never have mutated into hundreds of militant outfits that have now spread all over the world. Of course the Americans had won then, although indirectly, and have squarely lost this time no matter how you look at it, but each time Afghanistan was left a ruin ready to be exploited by its powerful warlords. And just as al Qaeda was in many ways a product of the previous Afghan war, extremist groups like the so-called Islamic State (IS) are a byproduct of this war against terrorism.
So it is in the interest of the whole world to prevent another civil war in Afghanistan. It matters more to Pakistan than anybody else, of course, because more violence there means more TTP attacks here and also more refugees; on top of the millions that we've been hosting for decades. The first order of business, therefore, should be to pump enough money into the country to get people there busy with its reconstruction. That ought to keep them away from drug cultivation and not leave too many people disgruntled to consider a career in suicide terrorism.
Yet none of that will be possible without what should really be a "Marshall Plan" for Afghanistan. The world's richest and more powerful countries are responsible for reducing countries like Afghanistan, Syria, Libya and Iraq to rubble and their people's lives to utter misery. They must now cough up most of the cash needed to make things right again. That is also, quite realistically, all that they are relevant for as things move on, especially in this region. Because it will be a long time before anybody will open the door for them to come masquerading as democracy-spreading, terrorist-busting liberators in this area again.
Copyright Business Recorder, 2021