With global funding pledges, Pakistan’s efforts to avert Afghanistan humanitarian crisis coming to fruition

ISLAMABAD:The United Nations’ largest-ever $5 billion funding appeal, the US additional aid of $308 million and over $1 billion pledge from the European Union indicate the success of Pakistan’s repeated calls for the world to help avert looming humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan.

Since the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan on August 15 last, Pakistan had been convincing the world not to abandon the war-torn country where around eight million people were at risk of starvation during this winter.

Despite its own COVID-hit economy, Pakistan announced Rs 5 billion in-kind aid for Afghanistan besides allowing 246,144 Afghan refugees to enter Pakistan. The country is already hosting over three million refugees.

During interaction with their counterparts and other world leaders, Prime Minister Imran Khan and Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi had repeatedly called for engagement with the Taliban government and not to miss an opportunity of peace created after four decades of conflict.

Pakistan also created a platform of six neighboring countries to formulate a uniform strategy on the Afghan situation.

On December 19, Pakistan also hosted an extraordinary meeting of the Council of Foreign Ministers of Organization of Islamic Cooperation on Afghanistan attended by over 70 delegates from the member states, international aid agencies and special representatives.

The hastily called session had unanimously agreed on establishing a humanitarian Trust Fund, launching a Food Security Programme, besides appointing a special envoy on Afghanistan.

The session also called for US and other nations to ease sanctions, including the release $10 billion in frozen funds with PM Imran Khan also urging Washington to drop preconditions to releasing desperately needed funds and reviving Afghanistan’s banking systems.

Prime Minister Imran Khan welcomed the UN initiative which followed Pakistan-initiated special OIC CFM’s meeting pledged support.

“I have been making this appeal to the international community to prevent a humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan where the people have suffered ravages of 40 years of conflict,” he tweeted.

Following the OIC moot in Pakistan, the UN Security Council adopted a resolution to provide aid to Afghanistan to support the basic needs.

The United States also announced the exemption on US and UN officials doing permitted business with Taliban from US sanctions to help ease aid flow.

Amidst the diplomatic efforts, Pakistan also continued extending relief aid to the Afghan people.

Pakistan had so far provided 5,277 tons of aid through 288 trucks and four C-130 flights.

Pakistan’s embassy in Kabul functioned round the clock for evacuation of the people from various nationalities and international organizations – a gesture lauded by world leaders through direct calls to Pakistani leadership.

Through smooth and swift visa processes, Pakistan facilitated the Afghans destined for settling in third countries and for NGOs desiring to help the Afghan people.

Pakistan also issued on-spot visas for the patients and Afghan students. The country also increased annual scholarships from 1,000 to 1,500 for Afghan students.

Keeping in view the dilapidated condition of Afghanistan’s health sector, Pakistan Afghanistan Cooperation Forum also organized free eye camps at Kabul and Khost where Pakistani doctors had performed 530 cataract surgeries and examined 8120 patients without any charge.

A Pakistani doctor, serving at the free camp, referring to the WHO data, said around 400,000 people in Afghanistan were blind and another 1.5 million people suffered a visual disability.

In collaboration with Al-Khubaib Foundation and Al-Khidmat Foundation, food and medical supplies were also made for the people of Afghanistan.

In order to support the Afghan economy, Pakistan eased visa for Afghan businessmen, announced tax exemption in 30 Afghan items, free movement of Afghan trucks and allowed air to land transport of cargo from Pakistan to Afghanistan.