National Security Adviser (NSA) Dr Moeed Yusuf has reiterated the call for the world’s attention to the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan, terming it imperative to offer relief and assistance to 35 million Afghan nationals.
In an interview with CNN anchorperson Becky Anderson’s programme Connect the World, the NSA said financial sanctions are hampering international donor agencies’ aid endeavours in the war-hit country.
“It is necessary for the audience and the anchorperson to understand what kind of human disaster we are going to face in Afghanistan.”
He highlighted the report of the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) that 23 million Afghans would acutely go short of food this winter which was now starting
Yusuf added: “70 per cent are already apportioning food, 60 per cent are borrowing from others and, on top of that, more than 30 per cent are reporting a shortage of medicines.”
Western outlets, he said, are also reporting that Afghan women are 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.”
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“This has to be beyond politics and any question of the 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,” he said.
Yusuf further said that Pakistan is not a rich country [but it] donated some $30 million and there are also private donations being given to Afghanistan. “The real issue is why the international humanitarian organisations are not being allowed to get money into Afghanistan to pay salaries to the health staff.”
“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 is not getting across is the banking channels.
“It’s just one thing that are some sanctions that have made the banks very cautious and so 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.
“This money is going to go to international organisations who are directly going to feed and support the average Afghan woman and man who we all profess wanting to protect,” he maintained.
To a question, he said Pakistan has offered to provide air and land bridge, adding, “You [anchorperson] were here recently and 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.”
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Pakistan is now offering its territory to provide land and air bridge where international organisations can arrive, as there are no banking restrictions, to transact, buy things from the Pakistani market, import goods into Pakistan and send across via truck or route, the NSA said.
He queried as to why there is yet no movement and a cold response despite enough money. “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 Islamabad’s repeated flagging of the Afghan humanitarian crisis in the making.
“Pakistan has four decades of history when Afghanistan got unstable and the spillover came to us as we have 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.”
The NSA said Pakistan hosts 4 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. 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 the 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 the 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 Islamic State escapees of the world and the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan [TTP], who martyred and massacred thousands of Pakistanis, to create trouble for us again. In the past two decades, Indian and Afghan intelligence supported the TTP and we are having negotiations with the Afghan interim government on the issue,” Yusuf said.
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He added that Pakistan is urging the Afghan government to do exactly what the world is asking them to do regarding human rights, inclusivity and ensuring no terrorism from their soil. When Afghans came to Pakistan, it was when the Troika Plus including Pakistan, China, Russia and US met the delegation. “It is 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,” the NSA explained.
Pakistan, he added, is hosting four million Afghan refugees and many of them are undocumented, and it is us who has been asking for the past 20 years to document all and ensure their dignified repatriation. But the Afghan governments of that time refused, saying they were not interested to take back their people.
He refuted the claim of the anchorperson on 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 refugees to camps, rather 70 per cent of them live out of these camps and benefit from the Pakistani economy.”
Yusuf highlighted that the majority of Afghan refugees is living in Karachi, 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 gone beyond international norms in serving them.”