Sunday October 24, 2021

Afghan economy about to collapse: Shah Mahmood Qureshi

September 28, 2021
Afghan economy about  to collapse: Shah Mahmood Qureshi

ISLAMABAD: Foreign Minister Makhdoom Shah Mahmood Qureshi has once again urged the international community to engage with the new reality in Afghanistan and unfreeze the assets so that things did not fall apart.Appearing in a foreign media outlet talk show programme, the foreign minister said they had been urging the “international community to engage with the new reality in Afghanistan, so that things do not fall apart and so that there is semblance of order.”

The foreign minister, expressing his view over freezing of about $10 billion in Afghan assets, said “Afghan needs an economic injection and that money could become handy if available. Unfreeze it and make it available for the Afghan people. There is a humanitarian crises in the making and use that money to address the crises.” He suggested that there could be ways and means to ensure that the money be reached to the needy and not misused and in this connection, the UN could play a role.

Foreign minister Qureshi, to a query replied, that it certainly concerned them if there was a total economic collapse in Afghanistan. “The collapse could lead to exodus, a huge influx of refugees moving in different directions towards, Pakistan, Iran and Tajikistan. It could destabilise the entire region. And we are very concerned about that,” he elaborated his point of view.

He further said the economic collapse could give space to terrorists. It would have serious consequences not only for Pakistan but for the entire region. The consequences could roll out of the region, he cautioned.

To a query, Qureshi said that there was uncertainty when Taliban took control of the government on August 15, but the anxiety had gone down due to the reasons that there was no bloodshed and chances of major civil war had been averted. Moreover, there was announcement of general amnesty and commitment by Taliban that there would be no revenge. There was more calmness, he added.

“So I don’t think people are restless at the moment, but yes, things remain uncertain and if not some challenges are not addressed -- taken rigidly, they can take the different turn,” the foreign minister opined. About recognising Taliban set up by Pakistan, the foreign minister said, “We are watching and observing as the things unfold and we will take a decision at an appropriate time.”

About US’ invasion of Afghanistan after 9/11, the foreign minister observed that perhaps, they had no choice as there was compulsion due to public opinion. He said the US should have focused on what they had after disseminating al-Qaeda network. They should have worked towards a reconciliation, peace and reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan. “The country could have gone to normal. The bulk of the money had been spent on security and less on development. The government of Ashraf Ghani lost credibility because the Afghan people felt that life under them was not improved and not secured. There was squabbling and infighting and they were not certain about their future,” he added.

Responding to another query about allegations of Amrullah Saleh, former acting president of Afghanistan, Qureshi said that he used to speak of someone else language. He was briefed by India and on their payroll.

The foreign minister said Pakistan had undertaken a number of operations to clean up its tribal areas of terrorists and it did it successfully at the cost of huge losses. The safe havens and fighters were operating across the border of Pakistan and were inside Afghanistan, he said, adding Pakistan had identified those safe havens which were used against it. There was surveillance and monitoring on its part, he said, adding whenever Pakistan was accused of having safe havens for terrorists, the blaming quarters were invited to come to these areas and see the situation themselves.

About an inclusive government in Afghanistan, the foreign minister said that gradually, it appeared Taliban had accepted the idea mentally over inclusion of ethnicities. “Pakistan has been advocating for more inclusive approach,” he said, adding in politics, you have to make compromises and make moves to accommodate all points of views from both sides.

The foreign minister to another query replied that Afghans were very independent minded people who took their own decisions. “We as policy decided not to interfere in their internal matters. We will help when asked to help,” he said reiterating to achieve peace and stability in Afghanistan. He asserted that Pakistan would do whatever it could to achieve peace and stability in Afghanistan. ”We have no business in interfering with their internal matters,” he maintained. Qureshi said it concerned Pakistan if the TTP elements had been set free from jails in Afghanistan.

To a question about female education in Afghanistan, he said to his information, girls were going to schools and colleges and not being restricted. The women could be accommodated in the cabinet.

Qureshi said Taliban had urged the people who were in the government service to come back and resume work. “It takes time to bridge the trust deficit,” he added. The foreign minister said Pak-Afghan borders were kept open and not closed. “The question is -- would you allow people in to your country without documentations visa or passports. You don’t. There are certain norms you have to follow,” he contended.

Qureshi said in the past, these borders were porous and Pakistan paid the price. And it was accused of cross border movements, but eventually, Pakistan fenced the border for better management and regulations.

Responding to a question, he said Taliban had made a clear commitment that Afghan soil would not be used against any country including Pakistan. “I hope they will live up to that promise,” he added. About sophisticated weaponry left behind by US forces, the foreign minister said if it went in the wrong hands, it obviously concerned them.