ISLAMABAD: The 17th extraordinary session of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation’s (OIC) Council of Foreign Ministers (CFM) concluded with no immediate financial assistance and pledges, but established a “Humanitarian Trust Fund” which would serve as a vehicle to channel humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan including in partnership with other international actors.
Speaking at a joint news conference along with OIC Secretary General Hissein Brahim Taha, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi stated that since the banking system of Afghanistan is not functional and in absence of a proper mechanism for channelising the monetary assistance, the countries were not able to donate or make any pledge.
“I am aware of some countries that wanted to donate or willing to donate. But it required some kind of [bank] account acceptable to all of them. There are many who wanted to donate, but do not wanted to donate directly, as they wanted to have some mechanism which they are comfortable with.
So, this mechanism has been devised through the Islamic Development Bank’s account. Pledges would now be made into this account,” Qureshi clarified when asked if there were any pledges made in terms of money to help assist the Afghans and avert the looming economic collapse of Afghanistan. He said that the countries are aware of the importance of the time. “I am sure once this account is offerable, the pledges would start coming in,” he expressed the optimism.
He said that the Humanitarian Trust Fund was established to serve as a vehicle to channel humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan including in partnership with other international actors. He said that the Islamic Development Bank was asked to expeditiously operationalize the Humanitarian Trust Fund by the first quarter of the next year.
He said that the moot called on the OIC Member States, the Islamic Financial Institutions, donors and other international partners to announce pledges to the Humanitarian Trust Fund for Afghanistan, as well as, to provide humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan. Qureshi said that the moot has made the international community and the Muslim world realize the magnitude of the Afghan problem, adding that there will be further follow-up meetings to alleviate the sufferings of the Afghan people.
To a question, the foreign minister said that the western countries, particularly the United States have now recognized Pakistan’s positive role, whether it was the peace process, the evacuation and now the role Pakistan is trying to play in mobilizing public opinion for humanitarian assistance.
He said that Pakistan’s role has come out “very clear, very positive and it has been appreciated and recognised.”
Referring to the statements by the delegates to the close-door session of the moot, about the statement made by the US special representative on Afghanistan Thomas West, Qureshi said that he could deduce that there is some shift, adding that West stated in his statement that he has a clear mandate from US Secretary of State Antony Blinken to engage with the Taliban.
Qureshi said that the US special envoy met with the Taliban delegation led by acting foreign minister Amir Khan Muttaqi on the sidelines. He further stated that the US special envoy in his policy statement to the moot stated that the US is “ready to help alleviate sufferings of the Afghan people, and that the US has taken a decision that humanitarian assistance will not be made conditional and also the licensing procedure is being revisited.”
He said that the US envoy also hinted at finding a mechanism for utilizing the US$ 1.2 billion fund of the international financial institutions which were not utilized, adding that the way the World Bank has provided US$ 280 million. “That is quite hopeful that there is an amount unutilized with the financial institutions to the tune of US$ 1.2 billion, for which they can now find a mechanism to be utilized,” he added.
The foreign minister also called by rebooting of the banking system, adding that there was an understanding among the participants to unlock financial and banking channels for Afghanistan, as people cannot be helped without the banking services. He stated that the conference delegates agreed to appoint a special envoy of the OIC for Afghanistan to engage with stakeholders and help in extending assistance to people of Afghanistan. He said that it was decided to forge a partnership between OIC and the United Nations system so that resources can be delivered to Afghanistan.
He said that there was an awareness and recognition in the international community that a humanitarian crisis was looming in Afghanistan, adding that it was felt that if we do not act then an economic collapse in Afghanistan can happen.
He said that 437 delegations comprising 70 delegations with 20 foreign ministers, 10 deputy foreign ministers of the OIC member states, special representatives from the P-5 countries and also from European countries participated in the moot. He said that they in their statements stated that they might have a difference of opinion with the Afghan authorities but their focus would be on 38 million Afghan people. “If things can go wrong, not only Afghanistan but neighbouring countries would also be adversely impacted and the consequences would even be beyond the region,” he added.
He further stated that helping Afghan people is a shared responsibility and despite the desire, Pakistan alone cannot meet their humanitarian needs.
He said that two documents were unanimously adopted at the conference including a joint resolution on the humanitarian situation in Afghanistan and Islamabad declaration on the Palestinian situation.
He said the OIC foreign ministers expressed unity and support for the people of Afghanistan, adding that as COVID 19 was still prevalent it was agreed that the OIC secretariat would engage with World Health Organization (WHO) for securing vaccines and medical supplies for Afghanistan.
The OIC Secretary General in his remarks said the OIC meeting has given a hope to the Afghan people for a better future. He thanked Pakistan and all the member states and non-member countries and all the delegates who participated in the session.
In response to a question, he said that donations have no yet started for the assistance to the Afghan people and hoped that the countries would now start donating generously, as the mechanism has been established for the purpose.
Copyright Business Recorder, 2021