Prolonged Afghanistan sanctions will only hamper relief efforts: Yusuf

ISLAMABAD: National Security Adviser (NSA) Moeed Yusuf said the world has to focus its efforts to ensure relief and assistance to over 35 million people of Afghanistan at the brink of a humanitarian catastrophe as sanctions were hampering aid endeavours of international donors in the war-torn country.

In an interview with CNN aired early Wednesday, the NSA told host Becky Anderson: “It’s necessary for the audience and the anchorperson to understand what kind of human disaster we are going to face in Afghanistan.”

A combination of a suspension of foreign aid, the freezing of the Afghan government’s assets, and international sanctions on the Taliban, have plunged a country already suffering from high poverty levels into a full-blown economic crisis.

According to the United Nations Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA), 22.8 million people (of a population of approximately 39-40 million) are facing acute food insecurity and hunger, while the World Food Programme (WFP) estimates that at least a million children are already suffering from acute malnutrition.

According to the UN, more than $200 million of humanitarian aid a month is needed to avert disaster.

Yusuf recalled the United Nations’ WFP in its report said that 23 million Afghans would acutely go short of food in the winter season which was now starting.

“70 percent are already apportioning food, 60 percent are borrowing from others and on top of that more than 30 percent are reporting shortage of medicines.”

The NSA said the Western publications were also reporting that women were selling their children to buy household commodities. “Imagine what reaction we would get when it was happening somewhere closer to the shores where you are sitting now,” he pointed out to the anchor.

“This has to be beyond politics and any question of Taliban […] right now the world has to focus on getting assistance for the sake of 35-40 million afghans who are going to suffer. It’s really about them at this point, so Pakistan is doing what it can,” the NSA mentioned.

He said Pakistan was not a rich economy but donated $30 million and there were also private donations that are being sent to Afghanistan. “The real issue is that why international humanitarian organisations aren’t being allowed to send money into Afghanistan to provide assistance to pay salaries to health staff?” he questioned.

“Humanitarian assistance has been pledged, a lot of it, by the western countries and others in the world,” he said and added that the reason that the money was not getting across was the banking channels.

“It’s just one thing that are some sanctions that have made the banks very cautious and so that we are not allowing even the UN, WFP, ICRC to run their own bank accounts to get their money into Afghanistan, purchase things and give it to Afghans who are going to potentially die this winter,” he warned.

He underlined that it should be made clear that humanitarian assistance was already exempted from any sanctions or the government of the Taliban. “It has nothing to do with them. This money is going to go to international organizations who are directly going to feed and support the average Afghan woman and man who we all profess wanting to protect,” he said.

To a question, Yusuf said Pakistan has offered to become the air and land bridge, adding: “You (Anderson’s) were here recently and [you] know what Pakistan did to support evacuations of vulnerable Afghans and we have got 53,000 people transferred and transited through Pakistan of over 42 nationalities, including many Americans.”

Pakistan, he said, was now offering its territory to become a land and air bridge where international organizations come as there were no banking restrictions. “They could transact, buy things from Pakistani market, import goods into Pakistan and sent across via truck or route.”

Yusuf queried why there was yet no movement or a response despite enough monies available. “I am speaking to you as Pakistan’s NSA very selfishly. My neighbour’s house is on fire. I have the right to call 911 and tell them this is going to reach me,” he alluded to Pakistan’s repeated flagging of the Afghan humanitarian crisis.

Pakistan had four decades of history of experience militancy as the Afghanistan war’s spillover came to us because it had 1,600 miles of border with its Western neighbour, he added.

To another query, he responded: “Some 25,000-35,000 Afghans cross over into Pakistan every day and then go back. What will happen, if there is a refugee crisis, Pakistan will be hit the next day.”

He said Pakistan already had four million Afghan refugees for the past four decades, adding: “[…] think about what is happening in Belarus, what happened during Syria conflict and how stingy much of the world was with the refugees.” Yusuf said.

“We are as generous as it gets but we have got to prevent more human suffering and should not be talking about what happens when more refugees come to Pakistan.”

Responding to queries pertaining to the interim Afghan government, he said: “We have formal relations with Afghanistan and there is no recognition obviously. Pakistan has constantly led regional diplomacy and said we need to have regional and international consensus for a way forward.”

But in terms of the recent visits of delegations between Pakistan and Afghanistan, he said: “We have three issues, one is humanitarian assistance and result is in front of you and Pakistan is shipping what it can. Second, we have 1,600 miles of border with Afghanistan and border management is crucial for us.”

“We cannot afford international terrorists still in Afghanistan and IS escapees of the world and then the TTP who martyred and massacred thousands of Pakistanis to again create trouble for us. In the past two decades, India and Afghan intelligence was supporting TTP and we are having negotiations with the Afghan interim government on that issue,” he said.

He added the third issue was that Pakistan was urging the Afghan government to do exactly what the world was asking on human rights, inclusivity and ensuring no terrorism from their soil. When Afghan came to Pakistan, he said it was the first time in troika plus including Pakistan, China, Russia and US meeting also took place and the US and others met this delegation. “Because we want to make sure that there is a direct conservation.

Everybody comes to Pakistan but our role is merely to facilitate and remove any misgivings and all of us are working towards this goal but this is all irrelevant at the moment and will urge the world to think about the 35 million Afghans facing a humanitarian crisis,” he said.

Pakistan, he said was hosting four million Afghan refugees and many of them were undocumented, where it was Pakistan that asked for documenting all and make dignified repatriation for the past 20 years. But the Afghan governments of that times refused that they were not interested to take back their people, he added.

He refuted the claim of the anchorperson for questioning the laws and regulations of Pakistan and said, “It is not right to say we have no laws we are the country that has not restricted the refuges to camps rather 70 percent of them live out of these camps, benefit from the Pakistani economy,” he told.

Yusuf added that the majority of Afghan refugees were living in Karachi that was Pakistan’s economic hub. “[…] that’s how open we are and the question of Pakistan not treating them well is that someone is misinformed as we have done beyond international norms,” he remarked.

The post Prolonged Afghanistan sanctions will only hamper relief efforts: Yusuf appeared first on Pakistan Today.

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