Islamic co-operation countries urge world to prevent chaos and collapse in Afghanistan

International donors suspended foreign funding to the aid-dependent nation following the Taliban takeover

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Pakistan’s prime minister gave a warning on Sunday of imminent chaos in neighbouring Afghanistan, which, if it happens, will not be in any country’s interests.

Prime Minister Imran Khan made the comments during an Organisation of Islamic Co-operation meeting in Islamabad, held to discuss the situation in Afghanistan amid deteriorating humanitarian and economic conditions in the war-ravaged country.

“My big worry is that unless action is taken immediately, we are heading for chaos. But chaos does not suit anyone. It certainly doesn't suit the United States,” Mr Khan said during the opening session.

Following the Taliban takeover in August most international donors suspended funding to the aid-dependent nation, which pushed millions deeper into poverty and food insecurity.

Foreign ministers and representatives from the 57-member coalition said they would on Sunday work on a road map to help prevent a collapse that would cause the mass departure of Afghan refugees and put the country again at risk of becoming a haven for international terrorists.

Speaking after the summit, Pakistan's foreign minister said the OIC had agreed a number of measures, including the setting up of a humanitarian trust fund.

The body would also launch a food security programme, appoint a special representative to Afghanistan and look at ways to disburse any money raised so it would reach those who need it.

“There's a collective feeling that we have to unlock financial and banking channels because the economy cannot function and people cannot be helped without banking services,” Shah Mahmood Qureshi said.

Speakers at the summit underlined stark warnings about the scale of the crisis in Afghanistan, where hundreds of thousands of government workers' salaries have gone unpaid and the banking sector has become paralysed.

UN estimates show some 23 million Afghans cannot feed themselves and more than three million children are at risk of malnutrition. More than a million are at risk of dying of hunger.

Martin Griffiths, the UN Undersecretary General for Humanitarian Affairs, told delegates the country was in free-fall.

“I fear that this fall with pull down the entire population with it,” he said.

Three quarters of the Afghan government budget was funded by foreign donors before the Taliban takeover and that money stopped overnight when the insurgents took power in August.

The US has frozen around $9 billion of Afghanistan's foreign reserves. Its sanctions against Taliban leaders mean the country is being shunned by international banks.

But Mr Khan said America had to separate ordinary Afghans from their former Taliban foes.

“I address the United States specifically that they must de-link the Afghanistan government from the 40 million Afghan citizens,” he said. “Even if they have been in conflict with the Taliban for 20 years.”

A man carries his daughter as people queue to enter the passport office at a checkpoint in Kabul on December 19, after Afghanistan's Taliban authorities said they will resume issuing passports. AFP

He urged caution in tying recognition and engagement with the new Afghan regime to Western ideals of human rights.

“Every country is different, every society's idea of human rights is different,” he said.

Mr Qureshi, Pakistan's foreign minister, said the deepening crisis could bring mass hunger, a flood of refugees and a rise in extremism.

“The consequences of a major humanitarian crisis and economic collapse in Afghanistan will be horrendous: massive human suffering, mass departure of Afghan refugees, radicalisation, terrorism, and instability, with grave consequences for regional and international peace and security,” he said. “We must not allow this to happen.”

Dr Muhammad Al Jasser, president of the Islamic Development Bank, said the lender would volunteer to administer a humanitarian trust fund that would provide not just food, but also salaries to civil servants and the state.

Sunday's summit marks the latest attempt by Pakistan to get the world to re-engage with Afghanistan after the Taliban takeover. Afghanistan's neighbour fears it will be left to deal with an influx of refugees that it can ill afford, if the country's crisis worsens.

The scale of the challenge was underlined by reminders to delegates that the OIC first held an emergency summit to address Afghanistan's woes in January 1980, just after the Soviet invasion.

Tamim Asey, a former Afghan deputy defence minister and now chief executive of the Institute of War and Peace Studies think tank, said on Twitter he was not optimistic the body could deliver.

“The OIC track record in Afghanistan is symbolic and filled with declarations of no worth or value. On this summit, the best one can expect is a lot of photo ops, media fanfare, a declaration and some planeloads of humanitarian aid.”

Updated: December 19, 2021, 4:04 PM