Pakistan calls for unfreezing Afghan assets

Qureshi, Qatari FM press world community to help avert humanitarian crisis


Kamran Yousuf September 10, 2021
Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani, Qatar's Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister with FM Shah Mahmood Qureshi. PHOTO: Twitter/SMQureshiPTI

ISLAMABAD:

Pakistan and Qatar urged the international community on Thursday not to take steps that might lead to the economic collapse, as Islamabad called for unfreezing the Afghan assets.

“Humanitarian assistance should be independent of any political progress because we believe that Afghan people deserve to be supported despite what’s happening in the political landscape,” the Qatari foreign minister stressed at a joint news conference with his Pakistani counterpart.

The visit of Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani, who is also Qatar’s Deputy Prime Minister, was the latest in a series of trips undertaken by foreign dignitaries to Pakistan in view of the evolving situation in Afghanistan.

The top Qatari diplomat, whose country, like Pakistan, played a key role in the Afghan peace efforts, held formal talks with Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi and also met Prime Minister Imran Khan.

“We both agree that the immediate challenge is to avoid the humanitarian crises,” Qureshi told the joint press conference, endorsing his Qatari counterpart’s view that no strings should be attached to humanitarian assistance.

Qureshi said the world might assess the conduct of the Afghan Taliban but it must not resort to steps that could lead to the economic collapse of Afghanistan.

“So, the first thing you do is to release their assets…the Afghan assets. Defreeze them and let the Afghan people utilise their money for their benefit,” Qureshi emphasised.

Since the Taliban took control of Kabul, the international financial institutions suspended all kinds of assistance to Afghanistan and the US had frozen foreign reserves of Afghanistan.

At the time of the fall of Kabul, the Afghan State Bank had $9 billion foreign reserves and more than $7 billion were with the US banks that were immediately frozen by Washington. This means that the new interim Afghan government can’t have access to those assets.

Foreign Minister Qureshi may have asked for unfreezing those assets but the US is likely to use them as leverage for its future engagement with Afghanistan.

Despite concerns shown by many countries over the formation of the Taliban government, the Qatari foreign minister said he was encouraged by the support extended by the Taliban in operationalising the Kabul International Airport.

The first commercial flight, carrying foreign nationals including Americans, took off from the Kabul Airport on Thursday. It was the first international flight since August 31 when the US ended its evacuation mission from Afghanistan.

“This is actually what we are expecting from the Taliban to see their positive statements demonstrated into actions,” the Qatari foreign minister said. He added that the Taliban’s help in operationalising the airport showed that they had demonstrated their statements with actions. This, he said, indicated that “Afghanistan has a free passage for people to go in and out”.

“I think this is a positive message,” he added.

Read Qatar says Taliban show 'pragmatism', should be judged by actions

However, he said a lot more needed to be done by the Afghan Taliban. “We encourage the Taliban to be more inclusive and bring all the Afghans under one umbrella,” the Qatari foreign minister stressed. “We want to see a united Afghanistan and we want to see a strong Afghanistan, prosperous and stable Afghanistan.”

Qureshi said that both Pakistan and Qatar agreed that Afghanistan must not become an arena for proxy wars as there were “spoilers within and beyond”. He stressed that a peaceful and stable Afghanistan was vital for Pakistan and regional peace and security.

Qureshi outlined Pakistan’s persistent efforts to promote this objective. He highlighted Pakistan’s assistance to the international community on account of evacuations in the wake of recent developments in Afghanistan.

Qureshi also apprised of Pakistan’s extensive diplomatic outreach, including his interaction with more than 20 foreign ministers and the prime minister’s consultations with a large number of world leaders. The foreign minister also appreciated Qatar’s efforts in support of the Afghan peace process.

The foreign minister underscored the vital importance of supporting the Afghan people, at this critical juncture, to avert humanitarian and economic crises. He emphasised the importance of stabilising the security situation in Afghanistan, preserving peace, and precluding any mass exodus.

Qureshi urged the international community to enhance its positive engagement with Afghanistan through constructive actions. Re-emphasising the imperatives of addressing the urgent humanitarian needs and ensuring the economic stability of Afghanistan, he highlighted Pakistan’s continued efforts and reaffirmed the commitment to facilitate international efforts in this regard.

Discussing bilateral relations, Foreign Minister Qureshi reaffirmed Pakistan’s fraternal ties with Qatar, based on shared faith, values, and mutual respect. He expressed the desire to further strengthen bilateral cooperation in diverse fields. The foreign minister appreciated the close collaboration between the two countries in the multilateral fora, including the OIC and the UN.

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