pakistan afghan-14-1631617357811
A family from Afghanistan cross into Pakistan via Friendship Gate crossing point in the Pakistan-Afghanistan border town of Chaman, Pakistan, on September 4, 2021. Image Credit: REUTERS

Islamabad: Pakistan has called upon the international community to meet the humanitarian needs of the Afghan population, urging that “Afghan people must not be abandoned.”

In a virtual address at the UN conference on the humanitarian situation in Afghanistan, Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi stressed to step up efforts as “the situation is becoming dire for around 18 million people of Afghanistan – directly in need of humanitarian assistance.” He warned that “a sluggish response from the international community can cause grave humanitarian consequences.”

Pakistan’s foreign minister also called for attention and global action towards the Afghan refugees. “We must not forget millions of Afghans in large refugee-hosting coun-tries, for whom the international support has dwindled over the years” he appealed. This support is in line with the principle of international responsibility and burden sharing, host communities must be supported especially during these challenging times of COVID-19, he said.

He said that joint efforts are needed to ensure to basic necessities such as food, health and education for the Afghan people. He called for solidarity with the Afghan people at this pivotal juncture, both in terms of financial and political support.

Foreign Minister Qureshi said that “ensuring sustainable development and promoting respect for human rights requires political stability and peace in Afghanistan. And peace cannot consolidate unless Afghanistan is provided the necessary economic and fiscal space.” Afghanistan’s economy was already extremely fragile and heavily de-pendent on foreign aid. The US Treasury reportedly froze the majority of $9.5 billion of international reserve assets Afghanistan held with American financial institutions fol-lowing the Taliban takeover in mid-August.

Pakistan welcomes and appreciates the efforts of the UN agencies playing a leading role in providing much-needed humanitarian assistance to the people of Afghanistan, he said.

Qureshi shared with the international community the humanitarian support extended by Pakistan, including facilitating the evacuation and relocation of international staff, establishment of a humanitarian corridor for the delivery of relief goods, and in-kind assistance by Pakistan for their Afghan brethren through air and land routes. Pakistan would continue humanitarian assistance comprising food and medicines to Afghani-stan as well as hosting more than 3 million Afghans refugees, he committed.

The meeting was hosted by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres with the participa-tion of heads of various UN agencies including OCHA, UNICEF, WFP, UNFPA, UNHCR and ICRC. US, UK, Germany, Switzerland, Qatar, Turkey and France ministers also attended the meeting.

Meanwhile, Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) flight touched down in the Afghan capital Kabul on September 13 and returned back the same day, making it the first international commercial flight since the Taliban came to power. The commercial chartered flight mostly carried World Bank officials and foreign journalists.