Sunday August 14, 2022

Afghans should not be left alone at this critical juncture: Qureshi

September 22, 2021
Afghans should not be left alone at this critical juncture: Qureshi

NEW YORK: Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi has said that the world should engage with the "new reality" in Afghanistan in an effort to promote peace and stability in the region.

Speaking to a group of UN-based correspondents soon after his arrival in New York Monday, he said the immediate need was to avert a humanitarian crisis in the war-torn country as the Taliban settle down to manage the dire situation.

"Afghans have faced war in the last four decades," the foreign minister said. "Now there is hope for peace in Afghanistan, and the international community should not leave Afghans alone at this critical juncture," as he underscored the need for engaging with the "new reality".

Qureshi is here to lead Pakistan's delegation to the 76th session of the UN General Assembly at which discussions are expected to be dominated by the situation in Afghanistan, climate change and the coronavirus crisis. Prime Minister Imran Khan will address the 193-member Assembly on September 24 through video-link.

More than 100 heads of state/government will take part in the debate which begins Tuesday. On Afghanistan, the foreign minister said that concrete steps now needed to be taken, including sending food and medical supplies to help the suffering people in Afghanistan.

In this regard, he underscored the need for unfreezing billions of dollars in Afghan assets blocked by western powers after the Taliban takeover, saying the most urgent priority was averting an even deeper economic collapse that could trigger a humanitarian catastrophe.

"It's Afghan money and it should be spent on Afghan people," he said. Freezing the assets is not helping the situation, the foreign minister said and urged the powers that be that they should revisit that policy and move to unfreeze Afghan funds.

Replying to a question, he said recognition of the Taliban government was not an immediate priority. “The immediate priority is how to avert a humanitarian crisis and if immediate attention was not paid, then there is every likelihood of that happening, and we don’t want that.”

As an immediate neighbour, he said Pakistan will suffer immensely. There will be an influx of refugees, and “frankly, we do not have the capacity to absorb more, we already have over 3 million registered and unregistered Afghans.” “If there’s chaos, terrorist organisations like ISIS and TTP, and the likes of them and others, will take advantage of that situation,” Qureshi warned.

Pressed on recognition, the foreign minister said Afghanistan’s new Taliban rulers should understand that if they want recognition and assistance in rebuilding the country “they have to be more sensitive and more receptive to international opinion and norms.”

He said that countries are watching to see how things evolve in Afghanistan before considering recognition. “I don’t think anyone is in a rush to recognize at this stage.” Qureshi expresses hope the Taliban live up to their promise “that girls and women would be allowed to go to school, college and university.”

“We want peace. Even today, India has an option: If it wants peace in the region, it should stop the ongoing atrocities on Kashmiris and withdraw its unconstitutional measures”, the foreign minister said. Qureshi will participate in several events being held during the Assembly’s high level week including a meeting of the OIC Working Group on Jammu and Kashmir, a Ministerial meeting of the Uniting for Consensus group on Security Council reform, and a high level meeting on Energy.

The Foreign Minister will also meet UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, address think tanks and meet members of the Pakistani community and businessmen in New York besides the Pakistani and international media.