The extremely challenging operational context in Afghanistan unveiled itself after the decision of the US forces to withdraw from the country. In the wake of the Taliban’s takeover, the financial assistance in terms of foreign aid was blocked, which led to a further deterioration in the situation in Afghanistan.
Recently the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) convened a summit in Islamabad, which was attended by Foreign Ministers from 57 countries to discuss the situation in Afghanistan. Pakistan has always been vocal in assisting and raising its voice for their neighbouring country. Saudi Arabia agreed to provide $265 million, while Pakistan committed $30 million in financial assistance through the Islamic Development Bank (IDB). Per United Nations (UN) 2021 data, 22.8 million Afghan people are facing an acute shortage of food, and day by day, the economic condition is slipping into more devastating conditions. According to reports, 8.7 million Afghans are at emergency-level food security, and $220 million is needed per month to sustain World Food Programme (WFP) operations.
Afghanistan’s economy has always been dependent on foreign aid and after the Taliban’s takeover in August, the poverty level was at 54% despite $146 billion spent by the U.S for reconstruction. The Taliban have accused the former Afghan government of involvement in corrupt practices. In a recent interview, former Afghan President Ghani denied the allegations against him of corruption. In these circumstances, Afghanistan’s situation needs to be dealt with quickly as the economic and humanitarian crisis continues to pave the way to extreme poverty.
According to the latest data from World Health Organisation (WHO) and UN, 97% of Afghan people will be living below the poverty line soon if present circumstances persist. Approximately 80% of the previous government budget was managed by the international community. Due to shortage of funds and frozen assets, there is not enough money to fund hospitals, schools, government ministries, and factories. The OIC took the initial step towards aiding Afghanistan find its feet. Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid has claimed that “we intend to ease these problems, and know what the people are facing.”
The end-of-year protest by women in Kabul near the US embassy was a call to release Afghanistan’s frozen assets, and to restore human rights, justice, and freedom. The protesters were objecting to the restrictions imposed on women under the current government. According to the new imposed guidelines, women are banned from long-distance traveling without being escorted by a close male member. The protestors were on the view that in more provinces, the girls are not being allowed to study after sixth grade. The killings of members of the previous government, TTP operations from within Afghanistan, and lack of fulfilment of promises in the provision of women’s rights are the main reasons behind the imposed sanctions. This is the reason that the international community has restricted themselves in the provision of direct funding.
Pakistan has always tried to look out for Afghanistan, for instance, playing host to millions of refugees in crisis. During the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, many Afghans were forced to immigrate to Pakistan. Pakistan paid a heavy price for this generosity but it still remains concerned about the welfare of Afghanistan and its people.
Recently, Pakistan DG ISPR Major General Iftikhar held his first press conference of 2022 in which he stated that 94% of the fencing along the Pakistan and Afghan border has already been completed to regulate the movement of people and to facilitate trade by keeping in mind the security concerns. According to Major General Iftikhar, an operation was conducted in North Waziristan to ensure security along the border of both countries. Further, he stated that post the withdrawal of US forces from Afghan soil, the situation had changed. There has been an adverse impact on the security situation in Pakistan in keeping away the militants. By considering the Durand Line as an international marked border, fencing has been done, and so far, 673 border check posts have been constructed along the border.
Pakistan has tried to view Afghanistan from a holistic point of view. The recent incidents of clashes between local Taliban soldiers from the eastern province and Pakistani security forces on the fence issue is a serious matter which needs to be taken cognisance of. One hopes to see positive understanding from the Taliban government that is based on security issues by abiding by the international law. Enayatullah Khwarazmi, spokesperson of the Afghan Defence Ministry, stated fencing isolates both sides. There is a need to understand the serious issues which both Afghanistan and Pakistan are facing currently. No doubt, Pakistan’s role will always remain positive no matter what the provocation.
The writer is an award-winning columnist and Adjunct Asst. Prof. at Riphah International University, Pakistan.