Ms Ayesha Zafar is currently pursuing her Bachelor's in International Relations from National Defence University, Islamabad. She has authored multiple academic publications including research articles and book chapters. Her areas of interest include Middle Eastern politics, the geopolitics of Central Asia, and the Indo-Pacific region
Pakistan’s Efforts for Stability in Afghanistan
In a quest to ensure peace and stability in Afghanistan, Pakistan has organized the OIC meeting in Islamabad today. The country has shown commitment to maintaining friendly ties with the neighboring state and toiled assiduously to uphold stability in Afghanistan and the region at large. Be it the US-led Global War on Terror (GWOT) or the support to espouse peace in Afghanistan after the Taliban takeover, Pakistan stood shoulder to shoulder with the international community.
Lately, Pakistan has also opened border crossings and put efforts to evacuate more than 80,000 people of 42 different nationalities from Afghanistan, an effort recognized by the international community as well. In pursuit of peace, Pakistan cannot afford to have hostile neighbors on both flanks, therefore it has been taking all the necessary actions to guarantee good governance in Afghanistan.
In this regard, Pakistan’s Foreign Minister, Shah Mahmood Qureshi, while addressing a seminar in Thailand on 2nd March 2021, stated, “Pakistan will not become a party in any regional conflict and would continue to support negotiated settlement of all regional disputes.” Underscoring the importance of amity, Mr. Qureshi calls Pakistan a peace-loving country that has always forged peaceful relations with its neighbors including India and Afghanistan, and that it is only through dialogue that the instability in Afghanistan can be fixed.
Likewise, Prime Minister Imran Khan has long accentuated the significance of political negotiations to end the conflict in war-torn Afghanistan since a military solution is inconceivable. Maintaining cordial relations with all and enmity towards none has always been the top foreign policy agenda of Pakistan and is clearly manifested by its participation in multiple UN Peacekeeping Missions’ efforts in strife and war-torn countries across the globe.
Desiring Peace & Prosperity in the Region
Today, no state is more desirous of peace in Afghanistan than Pakistan because it has suffered the most in all domains due to the long instability in the neighboring state and has been hosting the largest number of Afghan refugees to date. Consequently, Pakistan has always played a constructive role in bringing conflicting parties to the table and is still devoted to nudging all stakeholders to talk on the issue and suggest a way forward.
Praising Pakistan for its efforts, US Charge d’Affairs to Pakistan, Angela Aggeler, in a talk with the Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa at the General Headquarters (GHQ) in Rawalpindi stated “Pakistan did sincere efforts for peace and stability in the region, especially the Afghan peace process.”
Even the Taliban leadership has reaffirmed Pakistan’s longstanding contributions towards the people of Afghanistan. Zabiullah Mujahid, Spokesperson for the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan stated, “Pakistan, Qatar, and China were playing an active role for stability in Afghanistan. We will welcome the role of countries which are interested to work with good intent for peace and stability in Afghanistan.”
Henceforth, it is in the great interest of Pakistan to promote a stable government in Afghanistan, since the transit trade through Central Asia is only possible if Afghanistan is at peace. Keeping this in mind and with Pakistan being a major stakeholder in the Afghanistan situation, it has decided to host the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) meeting in Islamabad on 19th December 2021.
The OIC Meeting on Afghanistan to Be in Pakistan
The decision came out after the suggestion by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia as it decided to discuss the latest situation in Afghanistan. The news released by Saudi Press Agency (SPA) stated, “Guided by principles of Islamic solidarity with the people of Afghanistan, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, as Chair of the Islamic Summit, and in line with relevant OIC decisions on Afghanistan, called upon the OIC to, urgently, convene an Extraordinary Ministerial Meeting to discuss the humanitarian situation in the country and pathways for an urgent humanitarian response.”
Thus, while appreciating the initiative of Saudi Arabia, Pakistan’s foreign office replied, “Pakistan fully endorses this initiative. We have also offered to host this meeting in Islamabad on the 17th of December 2021. We are confident that the OIC member states will endorse this offer”.
Accordingly, Pakistan’s Foreign Minister, Shah Mahmood Qureshi, while underlining the significance of this conference to bridge the communication gap between the Taliban and the World, stated in a media talk on Tuesday that, “Members of the international community and the Taliban at the same platform, the coming meeting of OIC in Islamabad would prove to be a stepping stone in finding solutions to the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan.”
In this regard, Mr. Qureshi informed the media that a delegation of Taliban headed by the interim foreign minister and special representatives from the P-5, Canada, Australia, Japan, Germany, and the European Union had been invited to attend the OIC meeting in Pakistan. The reason for inviting major powers is to provide a platform where these states together with the Taliban leadership find a way out of the problems and suggest ways to ensure peace and stability in Afghanistan while working to improve human rights conditions in the state.
Foreign Minister Qureshi stated, “Considering the gravity of the situation, Pakistan made an effort and moved ahead to host an international event realizing if not addressed timely, the situation would have dire consequences for Afghanistan, its neighbors as well as the whole region”. So, the OIC meeting on Afghanistan which will be held after forty-one years (the first one was in 1980 in Islamabad) is momentous not only for Pakistan but also for other regional countries whose role in Afghanistan has remained significant throughout.
The Humanitarian Crisis in Afghanistan
With an aim to avert the looming economic and humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan, the meeting will discuss key issues that need an urgent response by the international community. Notwithstanding the fact that Afghanistan is in chaos, with 75% of its budget being dependent on external assistance and around $9.5 billion worth of monetary assistance frozen by the US while around $460 million funds have been blocked by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the international community and especially Muslim states have to ensure peace in Afghanistan and must facilitate coordination of measures to deal with the humanitarian crisis.
Hence, the extraordinary session of the OIC Council of Foreign Ministers scheduled today is a moment of truth for all those states, specifically Pakistan that remain engaged in the state crisis and did its best to bring stability to Afghanistan. Foreign Minister, while highlighting the significance of OIC for Pakistan, which has been a member since 1969, stated, “We are bound by fraternal bonds of amity and brotherhood with the people of Afghanistan. Our Afghan brothers and sisters need us more than ever before.”
Thus, to ensure the meeting turns out successful, Pakistan has also tightened the security situation in the country, and the Interior Ministry announced the suspension of mobile phone services during the OIC meeting in Islamabad. On 17th December 2021, Hissein Brahim Taha, Secretary-General of the OIC met Pakistan’s Foreign Minister, Shah Mehmood Qureshi, and discussed the preparation for the OIC meeting on the Humanitarian Situation in Afghanistan.
Another delegation of Saudi Arabia comprising of Saudi Arabia’s Afghan Affairs department head Prince Abdullah bin Khalid bin Saud al-Kabir and Prince Jiluwi bin Turki arrived in Islamabad on 18th December 2021. Henceforth, it’s high time that Pakistan and other member states of the OIC, which was founded to safeguard the Muslim world’s interests and give them a collective voice, take necessary steps to ensure peace and stability in Afghanistan.
Keeping in view the condition of 22 million people in Afghanistan who are undergoing massive food shortages and around 3 million children that will be malnourished, as a well-wisher of Afghanistan, Pakistan did send 50,000 tons of wheat along with medical assistance and endeavors to maintain harmony in all possible ways. Yet, a lot more has to be done.
Now is the time to learn from the mistakes of the past and take necessary actions to facilitate harmony in Afghanistan. Ignoring this looming catastrophe will not only have consequences for the already unstable Afghanistan but also for the world, since no positive engagement with the Taliban leadership will provide them with a reason to disaffirm the promises they made earlier about respecting human rights.
Henceforward, the world must not abandon Afghanistan, and Pakistan being the host state has the responsibility to bring all states on common ground and must play decisively to make this conference a success and the future of peace in Afghanistan and the region at large a possibility.
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