OIC members were reluctant to legitimise Taliban rule because of the pressure from the US. Such was the pressure that even the Saudi Foreign Minister avoided a meeting with the Afghan acting foreign minister
Last week, the UN Security Council passed a unanimous resolution allowing humanitarian aid and other assistance for the people of Afghanistan. The US-backed move was to find a way of reaching out to the people of Afghanistan without violating the UNSC sanctions regime against the Afghan Taliban. The resolution passed on Wednesday states that “payment of funds, other financial assets or economic resources, and the provision of goods and services necessary to ensure the timely delivery of such assistance or to support such activities are permitted”. Such assistance supports “basic human needs in Afghanistan” and is “not a violation” of sanctions imposed on entities linked to the Taliban, it adds.
The US government separately also announced measures that would help address the liquidity crunch facing the Afghan private banks. The move came against the backdrop of desperate appeals by international aid agencies including the UN to prevent humanitarian catastrophe. Martin Griffiths, the UN relief chief, at a recently held extraordinary session of the OIC presented a grim picture of the Afghan situation. As per the details, nearly 23 million Afghans are facing food shortage, millions of children are at the risk of malnutrition and if urgent help is not reached 97 per cent of the Afghan population could slip below the poverty line by June next year.
Despite a whopping $2.3 trillion spent by the US and its allies in the last 20 years, Afghanistan’s economy is on the verge of collapse. The US has withheld $9.5 billion worth of Afghan central bank assets. The OIC foreign ministers in their joint declaration urged the US to unfreeze those assets but the US is reluctant to pay heed to such calls as one official claimed that the funds were frozen because of ongoing court proceedings back in the US.
Nevertheless, the latest UNSC resolution would give some relief to the people of Afghanistan. But Pakistan and other like-minded countries feel that providing aid to Afghan citizens may be a short-term measure and in the long run steps have to be taken to revive the Afghan economy. A senior Pakistani official dealing with Afghanistan told me recently that more than the food shortage it was the lack of job opportunities and business activities that were causing problems to the people of Afghanistan. The official said with the exit of the US from Afghanistan, the entire financial and banking system there had collapsed.
But can the Afghan economy be revived without formally recognising the Taliban government? It is clear that without recognition such a revival is not possible. But the worry is that the Taliban government is not going to be recognised anytime soon. It is difficult because there is no consensus even within the OIC member states about the Taliban. It was because of this reason that during the recent OIC foreign ministers’ meeting in Islamabad, Acting Afghan Foreign Minister Amir Muttaqi was seated in the last row. He was not given the podium during the opening session though he was allowed to present his government’s perspective during the closed-door session. He was not even invited for a group photo of the participating countries. “There is no appetite for the recognition of the Taliban government at this stage,” admitted Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi after the daylong meeting of OIC foreign ministers.
According to officials, many OIC members were reluctant to legitimise Taliban rule because of the pressure from the US. Such was the pressure that even the Saudi Foreign Minister avoided a meeting with the Afghan acting foreign minister on the sidelines of the conference. Unless the US takes the first move, no other country including Pakistan would formally recognise the Taliban government. “It will be a long process. Even Pakistan is not going to recognise them soon. It’s a difficult proposition,” the official conceded.