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Pakistan Ready to Offer Socio-Economic Assistance to Afghanistan

by Newsweek Pakistan

File Photo. Rizwan Tabassum—AFP

Meeting of senior government functionaries expresses concerns over impact on Afghans of looming food shortages, economic fluctuations

Pakistan is eager to provide socio-economic assistance to Afghanistan and is considering various options to boost bilateral economic cooperation, said the participants of a meeting convened on Tuesday to discuss economic cooperation between the neighboring states.

Chaired by Economic Affairs Minister Omar Ayub Khan, the meeting was attended by National Food Security and Research Minister Syed Fakhar Imam; National Security Adviser Moeed Yusuf; State Bank of Pakistan Governor Reza Baqir; Water and Power Development Authority Chairman Lt.-Gen. (retd.) Muzammil Hussain and other senior officials.

According to a statement issued after the meeting, Ayub highlighted the importance of bilateral economic assistance for Afghanistan at this critical juncture in the country’s history following the withdrawal of U.S. forces after 20 years and return to power of the Taliban. The participants focused on various issues of concern, and stressed that immediate technical and financial support was required on a humanitarian basis to protect the lives and livelihood of the Afghan people,

Ayub informed the meeting’s participants that Pakistan had already implemented 20 projects worth $148.35 million for Afghanistan in various sectors, including education, health, and infrastructure. Additionally, he said, nine other projects valued at $221.83 million were currently under execution. Pakistan, he stressed, was also providing 3,000 Allama Muhammad Iqbal Scholarships to Afghan students in various disciplines.

According to sources, the officials discussed options to support the new Afghan administration through capacity building and technical expertise—but admitted that these efforts would be hampered so long as the world refused to formally recognize the Taliban government. The international community has largely adopted a “wait and see” approach to recognizing the interim Taliban government, with many nations emphasizing that the Taliban needed to fulfill their pledges for an inclusive government and adherence to women’s rights before their government could be recognized.

Pakistan, meanwhile, has repeatedly urged the international community to remain engaged with the Taliban, warning of a humanitarian crisis and the potential for terrorist groups to once again secure sanctuary in Afghanistan if the country is not stabilized.

Tuesday’s meeting, said the sources, had noted that Afghanistan had suffered a major “brain drain” due to educated Afghans fleeing the country over fears of the country returning to the hardline rule of the 1990s. The participants said Islamabad could offer training for Afghans by inviting their staff to visit Pakistan and observe methodologies being employed here. They also advised the formulation of a need assessment of Afghanistan so Pakistan could focus its support on at-risk sectors.

The statement issued after the meeting cited minister Imam as describing as “alarming” reports of a looming food crisis for more than 14 million Afghans. “Expressing his concern over the situation, the minister stressed the need for support and solidarity of the international community for the people of Afghanistan,” the statement added.

The SBP governor, meanwhile, presented various options to support Afghanistan’s central bank to ensure its smooth functioning; achieve price stability; and help manage economic fluctuations. National Security Adviser Yusuf said a coordinated effort was needed to avoid overlapping of resources. He said that, on the directions of Prime Minister Imran Khan, the National Security Division had also started consultations with various stakeholders for workable policy options.

All the participants, read the statement, appreciated the efforts of the Economic Affairs Division for arranging the meeting to ensure meaningful consultation with all the relevant stakeholders.

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