| 23 February 2024, Friday |

Pakistan urges world to stand by Afghan people

With the presence of a rare opportunity to end the 40-year conflict in Afghanistan, the Pakistani prime minister Friday urged the international community to stand by the Afghan people.

Addressing the 20th Shanghai Cooperation Organization’s (SCO) Heads of State Summit in Dushanbe, Tajikistan, Imran Khan said this moment should not be squandered.

“The sudden change of the previous government which surprised everyone, the takeover by the Taliban, and the full withdrawal of foreign forces, have established a new reality in Afghanistan,” the Pakistani premier said in his address aired on the state-run Pakistan Television.

“That all this happened without bloodshed, without civil war, and without mass exodus of refugees should be a matter of relief.”

“Equally urgent priorities are to prevent a humanitarian crisis and an economic meltdown. We must remember that the previous government depended heavily on foreign aid and its removal could lead to economic collapse,” Khan stressed.

He urged the SCO member states and the world community to stand by the Afghan people and that it would be unwise at this critical juncture to spread negativity, or indulge in mischievous propaganda, “as some spoilers have sought to do.”

“This will only serve to undermine the prospects for peace, to the detriment of the Afghan people,” Khan warned.

He also commended the UN secretary-general and the UN agencies for their efforts for leading from the front in mobilizing international support for the urgently needed humanitarian assistance.

On Monday, donors at a UN-led conference in Geneva pledged over $1 billion for humanitarian assistance to help the Afghan people.

Khan also called on the Taliban to fulfill their pledges made for an inclusive political structure where all ethnic groups are represented.

Later the heads of SCO states also met to discuss the latest situation in Afghanistan following the Taliban’s takeover last month.

“Let’s work in tandem to assist Afghanistan on its way to peace, stability, and prosperity and pray that after 40 years the people of Afghanistan will finally see peace and stability,” Khan suggested.

There are two stark choices before the international community at the moment – to enhance engagement or abandon Afghanistan again as happened after the Soviet withdrawal, he added.

“Abandoning Afghanistan could take us back to an unstable situation resulting in civil strife, negative spill-over effect on neighboring countries, an outflow of refugees, rise in terrorist incidents, drug trafficking, and transnational organized crime.

“Engagement, therefore, in our view, is the only way forward,” he explained.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi also addressed the plenary session virtually, saying the 20th anniversary of the group “is also a suitable occasion to think about the future of the SCO.”

“I believe that the major challenges in this area are related to peace, security and trust-deficit and the root cause of these problems is increasing radicalization,” Modi said, according to a release issued by the Indian External Affairs Ministry.

He added: “Recent developments in Afghanistan have made this challenge more apparent. The SCO should take an initiative on this issue.”

Modi stated “fighting radicalization” is not only necessary for regional security and mutual trust, but “also necessary for the bright future of our younger generations”.

“To compete with the developed world, our region has to become a stakeholder in emerging technologies. For this we have to encourage our talented youth towards science and rational thinking,” he said.

Underlining that the SCO expansion shows “the growing influence of our organization,” Modi said the SCO will become “stronger and more credible with new members and dialogue partners”.

The summit, chaired by Tajikistan’s President Emomali Rahmon, was attended by Pakistan’s Khan, Kazakhstan’s President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, Kyrgyzstan’s President Sadyr Zhaparov, Uzbekistan’s President Shavkat Mirziyoyev, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, and Iranian President Ebrahim Raeisi.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, Chinese Chairman Xi Jinping, India’s Modi, and Mongolian President Ukhnaagiin Khurelsukh attended the summit virtually.