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ISLAMABAD: Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi Friday urged the United States to unfreeze around $9.5 billion assets of Afghanistan, frozen after the Taliban takeover, particularly, $2 billion which is not tied to the US legal formalities, with a view to averting the looming humanitarian crisis in the war-torn country.

Qureshi stated this during his interaction with the media ahead of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) extraordinary session of its Council of Foreign Ministers (CFM) on Afghanistan’s situation being hosted by Pakistan on Sunday.

The foreign minister also stressed the need for rebooting the banking system of Afghanistan, adding that it will be the first big step towards the economic stability of the country.

Referring to his interaction with US Secretary of State Antony J Blinken in New York in September, Qureshi said that he also talked with him about the $9.5 billion frozen assets of Afghanistan, adding that Blinken in return citied the US legal formalities to unfreeze the Afghan funds.

However, the foreign minister stated that out of the total frozen assets, some $2 billion is not tied to the legal formalities and could be unblocked. “I think, they [the Americans] should consider this, as this would be an appropriate and timely step to prevent the imminent economic collapse of Afghanistan,” he asserted. Qureshi also warned that terrorism may flourish again in Afghanistan in case of an economic collapse of the country.

He said that rebooting of the banking system was also very important, adding that the OIC countries may contribute to the capacity building of the Afghans. He pointed out that many Afghan nationals living abroad want to help their families back home by remitting the money, but they are unable to do so, as the banking system is not functioning.

The foreign minister urged the international community to reach out to ordinary Afghans who are suffering immensely for no fault of theirs. Warning the world of the looming humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan, he said that Pakistan being an immediate neighbour is concerned over the situation because it has an interest in peace and stability of Afghanistan.

He dispelled the impression that Pakistan was acting as spokesman of the Taliban. “Pakistan is neither an advocate nor a spokesman of the Taliban. Rather, we are speaking for the 38 million Afghans who need an urgent attention of the world community,” he added.

He said that the extraordinary session of the OIC-CFM is aimed at drawing the world attention towards the plight of Afghan people, adding that the OIC has been supporting the Afghan people over the years.

“If attention is not paid to avert the humanitarian crisis and economic collapse in Afghanistan, this will become the largest humanitarian crisis in the world and all the gains of the last 20 years will evaporate,” he further warned, adding that the international terrorist organisations could also take advantage of the situation and increase their footprints in Afghanistan.

He said that there is a possibility of peace and stability in Afghanistan after 40 years. “If this is missed, we should be prepared for a new exodus of refugees which will not only affect Pakistan, the neighbouring countries but also the whole world including the European countries,” he further warned.

Qureshi said that Pakistan has transported relief goods to Afghanistan. He, however, stressed that mitigating the challenges faced by the Afghan people is a shared responsibility.

To another question, the foreign minister said the US Special Representative on Afghanistan has confirmed his participation in the OIC-CFM extraordinary session, which will provide them an opportunity to judge and assess the Afghan situation.

Similarly, he added that the acting Foreign Minister of Afghanistan Amir Khan Muttaqia long with a high-level Taliban delegation will also attend the OIC meeting, which would also provide an opportunity for the world community not only to understand their point of view, but also to share their concerns with regard to the human rights and other issues of governance in Afghanistan.

To another question, he said that Afghan former president Hamid Karzai’s “revelations” should be an eye-opener for those still advocating the former president Ashraf Ghani’s government. Qureshi maintained that Karzai had recently stated that Taliban had not entered Kabul by using force, but it was he [Karzai] who invited them to take control of the situation on August 15, 2021 when all the responsible Afghan authorities including Ashraf Ghani had fled the country and there wasa chaotic situation in the Afghan capital.

Besides the Foreign Ministers from the OIC Member States and Observers, participants would also include special invitees from the United Nations system, International Financial Institutions, and some non-member states including the United States, the United Kingdom, France, China, Russia, Germany, Italy, and Japan, as well as the EU.

The Council of Foreign Ministers (CFM) will be preceded by the Senior Officials Meeting today (Saturday). The visiting guests have started arriving in Islamabad, as strict security arrangements have already been taken in the federal capital to avert any untoward incidents.

Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Qureshi also visited Islamabad International Airport to review the arrangements made for the arrival of the foreign guests. As per the tentative schedule of the moot, Prime Minister Imran Khan would deliver a keynote address to the participants, besides statements presented by Foreign Minister Qureshi, as chair of the extraordinary session.

Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal Bin Farhan Al-Saud, OIC’s Secretary General Hissein Brahim Taha, and others would also present their statements to the moot.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021

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