The Extraordinary Session of the OIC Council of Foreign Ministers on the “Humanitarian Situation in Afghanistan” held on 19th December 2021 was extraordinary in many ways. It was extraordinary as it was being held in Pakistan after 40 years. It was extraordinary as 57 countries participated in it. It was extraordinary as 82 delegations took part in it. It was extraordinary that there was unison on the crisis in Afghanistan and solutions. It was extraordinary that the communiqué reflected a firm resolve and action plan on immediate support to avoid a humanitarian disaster. And, it was extraordinary that even the US that was singled out for its lack of support praised the productivity of the session. Thomas West, the US Special Representative for Afghanistan, tweeted: “A productive OIC session today with important outcomes. The US warmly welcomes OIC’s role and contributions.”
This meeting was urgently needed. Afghanistan has faced devastating conflict. Conflict in the form of occupation. Conflict in the form of war. Conflict in the form of terrorism. Conflict in the form of tribal fights. Conflict in the form of increasing corruption creating a huge divide between rich and poor. Twenty years of a failed strategy of eliminating terrorism and conflict with force, occupation and war threw the Afghan people in the never ending spiral of more conflict and devastation. That the US has left Afghanistan high and dry is a fact. A premature rushed exit. A chaotic and bloody departure. And, an almost cold blooded response to the mass drought, famine, hunger and disease. This strange reaction was based on:
The Failure Reaction— For the US to fail in Afghanistan has been stunning. The 20-year, 2 trillion-dollar investment cost thousands of American lives and hundreds of thousands of civilian lives and it was all for nothing. This has stung and will hurt for a long time. Taliban were an enemy that they were finally negotiating with, but not in any their wildest imagination such abject surrender by the Afghan army was envisioned. The result, complete disconnection. It is as if the US was trying to teach a lesson to Taliban by ensuring that they fail in government. It is as if they are trying to punish the Afghan army that conceded to the Taliban. It is as if they are trying to get back at the people of Afghanistan by saying “you asked for it”. All three reactions are immature, inhuman and counterproductive. Response based on anger and retaliation is never likely to bring anything but negative consequences.
Inhuman Human Rights— Afghanistan is just about bankrupt. The economy is frozen and bust. Martin Griffiths, the UN undersecretary for humanitarian affairs and emergency relief coordinator, warned that Afghan economy was in a free fall and said “Universal poverty may reach 97 percent of the population of Afghanistan. That could be the next grim milestone,” he warned. “Within a year, 30 percent of Afghanistan’s GDP (gross domestic product) could be lost altogether, while male unemployment may double to 29 percent.” This meant that almost 38 million people may suffer one of the worst humanitarian disasters of our times. This makes the demand for human rights for women rights, etc., as a precondition look illogical as at least 20 million women are in danger of hunger, disease, death. It is a classic occupation, control, chaos formula of the west. Afghanistan’s economy was 60% dependent on foreign aid. By shutting the financial life line they are shutting human life itself, what to talk about human rights.
Geo-political Fears— Politics will play a pivotal part in this geo-strategic region. For the Indian-American-Israeli nexus the loss of control over this country creates fears. India has used this country to indirectly sponsor terrorism and conflict in Pakistan. With a peaceful Afghanistan and a rising Central Asia, Pakistan gains politically and economically. With China already investing heavily in this region American fears of Chinese economic hold becoming more powerful are real. This is why under the guise of terrorism and then human rights this country has been used to play hide and seek with the puppet governments to keep them towing the famous American line of “do more”.
The Extraordinary Session has set the tone and started the process. The US and the United Nations Security Council have eased sanctions to make way for humanitarian aid to save the Afghan people. Some other crucial steps required are:
An Extraordinary Road Map— Many of the 31 proposals of OIC are extraordinary. The most important one being number 13 that states “Decides to establish a Humanitarian Trust Fund, under the aegis of the Islamic Development Bank, to serve as a vehicle to channel humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan including in partnership with other international actors”. This meeting has set deadlines to the establishment of this fund, appointed a special envoy to lead it as well. These deadlines should be strictly adhered to.
An Extraordinary Implementation Focus— The main reason why meetings are not taken seriously is that minutes and communiqué are never followed up. The real test is whether the actions decided are implemented or not. The Special Envoy appointed has to have a special structural support for OIC to carry out these tasks. The main foreign ministers who were representing various groups at OIC need to form an apex committee that should meet every month maybe virtually to monitor and speed up the progress.
An Extraordinary Leadership Opportunity— This meeting has huge significance for Pakistan. Pakistan has played a major role to engage with Central Asia on Afghanistan. This meeting has put Pakistan as the lead country in OIC too. Prime Minister Imran khan’s leadership to become a real voice for Muslim ummah is gathering force. It is important that Pakistan takes a role in engaging with the West for funds and aid. It is important that a constant social media status update is made on this fund to encourage other countries to contribute.
Many experts thought the Prime Minister’s call to the US in his speech at the inaugural session was better avoided. A real leader is bold and takes calculated risks. The fact that the US Special Representative Thomas West and the US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken have also acknowledged and applauded Pakistan’s contribution is itself a proof of the Prime Minister’s leadership courage and commitment to the cause. After all, it takes extraordinary leadership to establish extraordinary moments in history. As they say “If you have to get results you have never got before, you have to do things that you have never done before.”
(The writer can be reached at [email protected])
Copyright Business Recorder, 2021