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Saturday October 23, 2021

Afghan emergency

September 28, 2021

The situation in Afghanistan is desperate for the people of the country. According to the World Food Programme, one in every three Afghans is desperately food-insecure and unable to manage. At the same time, the UN has been pondering how to get assistance to 11 million Afghans, nearly half the country's population, which desperately need it without removing the leverage it has over the Taliban government as far as human rights go. But at the present moment, it is important to be sure that the world cannot simply let people die of hunger and deprivation. The four nations – the US, Russia, China and Pakistan – which have discussed the issue, have decided that it is imperative aid be provided to Afghanistan as a humanitarian gesture and to ensure the Afghan people do not suffer any further. The UNHCR is also calling for some aid flow for the 22,000 Afghans who have left their country and are taking shelter mainly in neighbouring countries.

The situation is a nearly unparalleled one as far as recent history goes. The measures taken by the four nations most closely involved with Afghanistan to offer aid to its people are welcome. The question is whether disputes will crop up in this arrangement. Pakistan has consistently sought aid for Afghanistan and has asked for its government to be recognised. Russia however has told the UNGA that recognition for the Taliban government is not something that is being considered yet. Amidst this crisis, the US Treasury has sought and obtained two licences to offer aid to the Afghan people – a welcome step. In the past, before 2001, the reluctance to hand over aid to the Taliban government, then in power meant that it was sometimes diverted through warlords in action in various parts of Afghanistan. This led to mass corruption. That problem too will have to be dealt with. The UN, of course, will be leading this assistance effort but at the same time, has also expressed concern over the situation of human rights.

In the long run, the Taliban must be able to keep their promises and uphold human rights and other freedoms such as of expression and assembly. If they fail to prove their commitment to fundamental rights, international recognition of the Taliban regime will remain elusive. Perhaps the only leverage that the world has over the Taliban now is its unwillingness to recognize the new regime unless it comes clear on the rights issue. Though the new rulers have been proclaiming their promises publicly, the public display of executions and rapid summary trials of purported criminals are not helping matters. If the crushing US sanctions continue, their impact will harm the interests of the people in Afghanistan; and the Taliban must strive to get rid of those sanctions by making themselves eligible for recognition by the world.