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EDITORIAL: As humanitarian crisis deepens in Afghanistan with millions facing hunger or migration, the international community is trying to offer some succour. At its recent extraordinary meeting, hosted by Pakistan, the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) pledged to set up a trust fund. But the nagging issue has been how to channelize assistance in the presence of UN and US sanctions. That hurdle was removed on Wednesday when the UN Security Council unanimously adopted a US-proposed resolution allowing aid to flow into the country for one year without violating international sanctions.

The same day, Washington announced broad authorisations facilitating assistance — bypassing the Taliban government — through NGOs, UN agencies, the Red Cross and regional development banks offering food, health and education services. They are to provide relief to those in need. The exemptions also allow payment of duties, taxes and fees to the Taliban government.

That should improve the situation somewhat. But the country is confronted by serious challenges amid a devastating drought and Covid-19 pandemic whilst $ 9.5 billion in Afghan reserves remain frozen in Washington. That means the government cannot pay salaries or undertake any development work in a country battered by more than four decades of war.

Welcoming easing of some of the UN sanctions Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said it can help Afghanistan’s economic situation, adding that he hoped the international community would also “speed up” removal of crippling economic and banking sanctions imposed on entities linked to the Kabul government.

He should know better than that. The government he represents has itself to blame for its problems. At the time they took over power on August 15, the Taliban had announced general amnesty and assured the international community that the new dispensation in Kabul would be inclusive of all communities, and women’s right to education and work would be respected.

More than four months on, there is no sign of them delivering on these assurances. Hence, even the Taliban government’s well-wishers are reluctant to accord it diplomatic recognition. And as the UN noted earlier this month an “unprecedented fiscal shock” to the country’s economy could aggravate further without international aid, which accounted for 40 percent of its GDP and 80 percent of its budget.

Things cannot go on like this for long. As Prime Minister Imran Khan warned in his address to the OIC foreign minsters’ conference, “chaos in Afghanistan suits no one, it certainly does not suit the Untied State.” Most of all, it does no suit Pakistan, which has suffered immensely from the blowback from America’s two wars in that unfortunate country with more than 80,000 lives lost and over $ 150 billion in financial costs.

Outsiders are ready to help since an Afghanistan at peace with itself is in the interest of all. The Taliban leadership needs to alleviate the sufferings of the people for the sake of its own survival. It would be wise to address international community’s concerns.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021

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