Ledes from the Land of Enchantment

The Islamic world is suggesting ways to help desperately poor Afghans

DEVELOP … The story will be updated as new information can be reviewed. Updated 3 times

ISLAMABAD – Islamic countries scrambled on Sunday to find ways to help Afghanistan avert an impending economic collapse that they say would have “dire” global repercussions.

The hastily convened Islamic Cooperation Organization meeting in Islamabad ended with a promise to set up a humanitarian aid fund through the Islamic Development Bank that would provide funding to countries without coming into direct contact with the country’s Taliban rulers .

In a press conference at the end of the summit, Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi also described what he called good news from the US, whose special envoy for Afghanistan, Tom West, was attending the summit.

He said the West had met on the sidelines with the Taliban delegation led by Interim Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi. Qureshi said West had also said he had been tasked with engaging with the Taliban, that US humanitarian aid to Afghanistan was unconditional, and that up to $ 1.2 billion in funding was available through the World Bank That could be released to Afghanistan.

There was no immediate US response to Qureshi’s statements.

The US and other countries are increasingly being asked to release more than $ 10 billion in frozen Afghan assets. However, the US previously stated that at least part of this money would be used for litigation between the survivors and the families of the victims of the terrorist attacks on Sept.

The summit on Sunday brought together dozens of foreign ministers as well as the Afghanistan special envoy from major powers, including China, the US and Russia. These included the UN Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs and the President of the Islamic Development Bank, Muhammad Sulaiman Al Jasser, who made several specific funding proposals. He said the IDB could manage trusts that could be used to move money to Afghanistan, boost businesses and help save the deeply troubled economy.

At the beginning of the summit, several participating states called for the country’s banking system to be opened up quickly and, together with the United Nations and international banking institutions, to provide aid to Afghanistan. Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan addressed his remarks to the US, calling on Washington to drop the conditions for releasing much-needed funds and restarting the Afghan banking system.

Khan appeared to be giving the Taliban a passport to their educational limits for girls, urging the world to understand “cultural sensitivities”, and saying that human rights and women’s rights mean different things in different countries. Still other speakers, including OIC Chairman Hussain Ibrahim Taha, stressed the need to protect human rights, especially the rights of women and girls.

“This gathering is about the Afghan people,” said Qureshi, who warned that without immediate help, Afghanistan would certainly collapse. The consequences would be “terrible,” he said, not only for Afghan lives lost to hunger and disease – but also for what would certainly lead to mass exodus of Afghans. He predicted that chaos would spread and terrorism and drug trafficking would flourish.

Martin Griffiths, UN Undersecretary of State for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, warned that Afghanistan cannot survive on donations alone. He urged donor countries to show flexibility and allow their money to pay the salaries of public service workers and “support basic services such as health, education, electricity, livelihood to give the people of Afghanistan a chance to do so Get through winter and be encouraged to “stay home with their families.”

In addition, Griffiths said, “we need to work constructively with the de facto authorities to clarify what we expect from each other.”

Afghanistan’s volatile economy calls for decisive and compassionate action, or “I fear that this autumn will bring the entire population down”.

Griffiths said families simply don’t have the money for everyday purchases like groceries and fuel as prices rise. The cost of fuel has increased by around 40% and most families spend 80% of their money just to buy groceries.

He rattled off a number of blatant statistics.

“General poverty can reach 97% of the population of Afghanistan. That could be the next dark milestone, ”he warned. “Within a year, a total of 30% of Afghanistan’s GDP (gross domestic product) could be lost, while male unemployment could double to 29%.”

Next year the UN will ask for $ 4.5 billion in aid to Afghanistan – the largest humanitarian request, he said.

In a message apparently addressed to the Taliban delegation, Qureshi and subsequent speakers, including Taha, emphasized the protection of human rights, especially the rights of women and girls.

In an interview with The Associated Press last week, Muttaqi said that Afghanistan’s new rulers are committed to educating girls and women in the world of work.

Four months after Taliban rule, girls in most provinces are banned from secondary schools and although women have returned to work in large parts of the health sector, many women officials have been denied access to work.

Closing the summit, Qureshi said the OIC had agreed to appoint a special envoy for Afghanistan. The 20 foreign ministers and 10 deputy foreign ministers present also agreed to form a closer partnership with the United Nations to help desperate Afghans.

Participants also stressed the critical need to open Afghanistan’s banking facilities, which have largely been closed since the Taliban took over on August 15. The Taliban have capped withdrawals from the country’s banks at $ 200 a month.

“We all have the feeling that we have to open the finance and banking channels because the economy cannot work and people cannot be kept without banking services,” said Qureshi.

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