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ISLAMABAD: Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi on Monday warned the world powers against failure in Afghanistan, saying that instability in the country will have negative consequences for the entire world which will lead to a fresh influx of refugees, enhanced space for terrorism and a rise in drug trafficking.

Speaking at a seminar on “Perspectives on the Evolving Situation in Afghanistan”, organised by the Institute of Strategic Studies, Islamabad (ISSI), Qureshi said that Afghanistan witnessed a watershed event on 15th August 2021 and since then, the interim Afghan government has remained embattled with humanitarian and economic crisis, as well as, a liquidity crunch, exacerbated by lack of a functional banking system.

At the same time, he added that the positive aspects are internal stability, no civil war, opening of girls’ schools, and the interim government’s commitment to address terrorism.

Afghanistan currently stands at a critical crossroads, he said, adding that for the first time in over 40 years there is a single unified dispensation over its entire territory.

He said that four decades of war and bloodshed are over and there has been a demonstrable decrease in corruption, leading to an increase in revenue. “Hence, there is hope that Afghanistan has the potential to move towards a viable and sustainable future. Therefore, the immediate task that the international community, in general, and regional countries in particular need to focus on, is the stabilization of the country,” he added.

“If the wheels of the economy remain jammed, the gains can be reversed. We must not allow that to happen again,” Qureshi stated, adding that Pakistan has always advocated consistent engagement with Afghanistan.

At this critical juncture, he added that the importance of delinking humanitarian assistance from political considerations cannot be overstated. He stated that the situation in Afghanistan has a wide-ranging impact on the region and beyond.

“Pakistan believes that a continued engagement between the interim Afghan government and the international community would help ensure sustainable and prosperous future for Afghanistan. If the international community repeats its mistakes of the past and abandons Afghanistan, the fallout would not only affect our region but will be felt globally,” he warned.

Besides the immediate need to avert a humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan, he stated that we also have to focus on long-term infrastructure and connectivity projects in Afghanistan. In the long run, he added that Afghanistan has the potential to develop as the trade and energy corridor for the region.

“We are working with Afghanistan in following up on key infrastructure and connectivity projects, a facilitative regime to assist the easy movement of people and goods across the border, and to augment the capacity of Afghan institutions,” he stated.

Pakistan, he added that being a neighbouring country has a major stake in the peace and stability of Afghanistan. He pointed out that Pakistan established the “Neighbouring Countries of Afghanistan” forum to forge a regional consensus regarding Afghanistan, adding that Pakistan has been a key partner in all Afghanistan-centered mechanisms for assisting our Afghan brethren in these testing times.

He further pointed out that Pakistan hosted the Troika Plus meeting and the 17th Extraordinary Session of the OIC-CFM on the situation in Afghanistan. Pakistan also successfully hosted the regular session of OIC-CFM in Islamabad on 22-23 March 2022, he stated, adding that Pakistan has pledged in-kind humanitarian assistance of Rs5 billion (around $30 million) to Afghanistan.

He added that Pakistan is acting as a channel to facilitate the flow of international humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan. “We have even enabled India to supply 50,000MT wheat to Afghanistan by allowing it transit facility,” he added.

Qureshi said that stability in Afghanistan is crucial for prosperity of South Asia and the wider world, adding that Afghanistan must not be seen through a regional prism, but as a shared and collective responsibility.

“Instability in Afghanistan will have negative consequences for the entire world. Failure is not an option. If the world community fails Afghanistan yet again, it will result in a fresh influx of refugees, enhanced space for terrorism and a rise in drug trafficking,” the foreign minister further warned.

He said that the emergence of new conflicts does not mean that the world can afford to forget old ones, adding that the wounds of 40 years of war and bloodshed in Afghanistan will take a long time to heal.

“However, we have no doubt that with the help of regional countries and international partners, the proud Afghan nation can once again rise to become an important country in terms of regional peace and stability, economic trade, and regional connectivity,” he added.

General Zubair Mahmood Hayat, former chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee, stated that Afghanistan is Afghanistan and must be seen in that context. He stated that the geography and culture of Afghanistan have not changed along with the culture which has remained constant; however, the environment has altered.

He stated that the context has altered as has the construct, which have impacted the political and geopolitical dimension. In the current circumstances, the world’s attention has been diverted from Afghanistan which is not a good development.

Talking about the challenges being faced by Afghanistan, he said that the country struggles with a weak economy, as well as, hunger and poverty along with an uncertain security situation. Regional engagement remains the best bet and that we must respect the Afghan future and the world must release the blocked funds and consider recognition, he added.

The seminar was also addressed by Amina Khan, director Centre for Afghanistan, Middle East and Africa (CAMEA), Ambassador Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry, director general ISSI, Dr Niels Hegeswisch, country director FES, Pakistan, Shah Farman, Governor Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, and others.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

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