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Pakistan forced to sustain an isolated Afghanistan The Statesman 14 Sep 2021
In the joint press conference with the Dutch Foreign Minister, Sigrid Kaag, early this month, Pakistan’s foreign minister, SM Qureshi, cautioned the world against abandoning Kabul. He emphasised that the world needed to be conscious of humanitarian requirements of Afghanistan and prevent an economic collapse. In a phone conversation with the Austrian Foreign minister, Qureshi similarly requested the international community to address Afghanistan’s humanitarian and economic needs.
In his interaction with the German foreign minister, Heiko Maas, Qureshi mentioned, ‘The international community must remain engaged. Humanitarian assistance must flow. Do not let the economic collapse in Afghanistan take place.’ Last week, hosting a virtual meet of foreign ministers of countries bordering Afghanistan, Qureshi mentioned, ‘In the wake of recent developments, the key priorities are to prevent a humanitarian crisis and to take steps to prevent economic meltdown.’
General Bajwa, while addressing his corps commanders stated, ‘constructive engagement and sustained humanitarian support for Afghanistan by the world community is imperative for enduring peace and stability.’ Pakistan’s DG ISI, the man who orchestrated the current government in Kabul, held a meeting of his counterparts from neighbouring countries of Afghanistan, seeking similar support for Afghanistan. Sheikh Rashid, Pakistan’s interior minister, stated in a press conference on Sunday, ‘freezing of Afghan accounts could create a humanitarian crisis.’
The UN Secretary General, António Guterres, expressed his concern at the deepening humanitarian and economic crisis as also possible collapse of basic services in Afghanistan. The UN stated that global funding for Afghanistan was not forthcoming. The international community has ignored Afghanistan unlike global response to other humanitarian crises. Pakistan, in a display of solidarity, sent three planeloads of relief to Afghanistan, however reports indicate these were photo-ops with limited aid. China sanctioned USD 31 Million as assistance, which would come with riders attached.
All Pak political and military entities are singing the same tune of global economic and humanitarian support to Afghanistan. The major reason is because Afghanistan has become Pakistan’s responsibility, solely because Pak created an Afghan government contrary to global demands while lacking resources to support it.
When the world was demanding an inclusive government in Kabul, with emphasis on the condition of women and children, in return for financial and humanitarian support, Pakistan was creating a government dominated by pro-Pak elements, UNSC proscribed terrorists and hardliners. The current dispensation in Kabul includes 30 Pashtuns, two Tajiks and one Uzbek, of whom 17 are UNSC proscribed terrorists. Its powerful interior minister is pro-Pakistan Sirajuddin Haqqani, who carries a USD 5 Billion bounty.
Moderates, involved in negotiations in Doha and those who were pro-Iran were side lined. Women were excluded. The Afghan government has made no effort to convince the global community of its intentions to adhere to promises made in Doha.
Terrorist groups in Afghanistan are likely to continue to flourish, rather than be controlled, as globally demanded. The Haqqani’s are suspected to be close to the Islamic State (ISIS-K) which launched the suicide attack on Kabul airport. They are also closely associated with Pak backed terrorist groups, JeM and LeT, which operate in Kashmir. The new Afghan army chief, Qari Fasihuddin, has ties with the ETIM (East Turkestan Islamic Movement). Russian security agencies believe that thousands of ISIS-K cadres are concentrated along Afghanistan’s borders with Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.
Hence, the world rejected the Afghan government and tended to ignore its populace, pushing this responsibility onto Pakistan. Pakistan is itself in financial doldrums and facing food shortages. It cannot afford to fund and feed an additional 40 million, without global support. Pakistan, which should have enforced a globally desired government in Kabul, at least initially, pushed one which it could control, ignoring global demands.
It is possible that Pakistan would have promised to support and fund Afghanistan in return for creating a government which it desires. Now it is saddled with a nation which, though possessing billions of dollars’ worth of US military equipment, lacks basic food stocks and funds to administer the country. Afghanistan may be compelled to export drugs or sell US equipment for immediate financial needs.
As Khalid Umar writes, ‘Afghanistan is a country which has only exported terrorism, drugs and asylum seekers. How can Pakistan think that their already nearly bankrupt country will have a kiss of life by merging with financially, intellectually and morally bankrupt country headed by terrorists?’ The first signs of civil war and disobedience to the Taliban rule are visible. It would grow with time. As the internal situation worsens, pressures would build on Pak. Its policies on Afghanistan could backfire, without global support.
If the intention of Pakistan, in Afghanistan, was to block Indian support to anti-Pakistan groups as the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and Baluch Freedom Fighters, then it was flawed. Attacks on Pak troops have increased since the Taliban takeover and release of senior TTP cadres from Afghan prisons. India was at the forefront in providing financial and humanitarian aid to Afghans. With a pro-Pak hardliner government in Kabul, India has stepped back, letting Pak handle the mess.
China played its cards well. It has not accepted refugees, promised aid with conditions, while pushing Pakistan to the forefront. Iran has no intention of recognizing the current dispensation as Hazara’s and pro-Iran elements were side lined. Tajikistan continues to support the Northern Alliance, which wages a guerrilla war against the Taliban. Russia has strengthened deployment along the border of Afghanistan with Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. None of the countries have made any comments on engaging with or aiding Kabul.
North Korea has been internationally ignored for decades. Its population food shortages food shortages as global support is lacking. Few countries maintain diplomatic outreach with it. China is compelled to fund North Korea to prevent an overflow of refugees and the positioning of a US ally on its immediate borders. In a similar manner, the world community may wash its hands off Afghanistan. Instability and insecurity in Afghanistan will flow across the Durand Line into Pakistan, enhancing concerns. Pak, which attempted to gain by creating the current government will be forced to sustain it.