At UN, Pakistan pushes for unfreezing Afghanistan’s bank assets to boost economy, save lives

UN

UNITED NATIONS, Jan 27 (APP):Pakistan has strongly called for unfreezing Afghanistan’s financial reserves, estimated at $9.5 billion, that are “critically” needed to revive the country’s war-battered economy and to save lives of millions of suffering Afghans.

“There is no legal justification for depriving the Afghan people of their national assets,” Ambassador Munir Akram told the UN Security Council which met on Wednesday to discuss the situation in Afghanistan.

“This money is critically needed to sustain and stabilize and revive the Afghan economy and to save millions of lives of poor and hungry Afghan children, women and men,” the Pakistani envoy added.

“This would be the most effective and generous display of solidarity with the people of Afghanistan.”

Opening the debate, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said that Afghanistan was on the brink of collapse, amid a 30 per cent contraction of gross domestic product (GDP).

“Afghanistan is hanging by a thread,” the UN chief remarked. He urged the global community — and the Security Council — to provide resources to prevent the country from deteriorating further.

In his remarks, Ambassador Akram said Pakistan has provided $30 million in food and other assistance, established land and air bridges, opened its borders, and currently supports nearly 4 million Afghan refugees.

Citing the impact of the country’s still-frozen assets, he said that without urgent humanitarian assistance, chaos and conflict could return alongside a massive outflux of refugees, and an escalation of a terrorist threat.

“We commend the leadership of Secretary-General Guterres in mobilizing international support for the Afghan people and the critical help being provided by OCHA, WFP, UNHCR, UNICEF, WHO and other UN as well as international and non-governmental organizations, including the ICRC (International Committee of the Red Cross) to the Afghan people.”

The Pakistani envoy hoped that the international community will respond positively and generously to the UN humanitarian and refugee response appeals launched by the UN chief.

Noting that UNSC resolution 2615 (2021) reaffirms that targeted sanctions should not be used to prevent economic or development assistance, he called for the release of World Food Programme (WFP) remaining funds,

Ambassador Akram called on the international community to engage with the Taliban in order to develop appropriate modalities for cooperative counter-terrorism action, adding that the new UNAMA (UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan) mandate should enjoy support from the interim Afghan Government and respect Afghanistan’s sovereignty.

Only dialogue and consultations and mutual persuasion would lead to agreed outcomes, he said, adding that coercion is not the road to peace in Afghanistan.

“It has not been in the past 20 years and it will not be in the future”, the Pakistani envoy said.

Pakistan, he said, support the objective of an inclusive government and respect for the human rights of all Afghans especially women and girls, with the hope that the discussions that are taking place in various locations to promote such inclusivity would be successful.

“We also note the acting government’s assurances with regard to the provision of education for girls and we look forward to the reopening of the girls’ schools next month.”

Welcoming a proposal from Deborah Lyons, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and head of UNAMA, to develop a pathway to stabilize Afghanistan, Ambassador Akram said it should incorporate the expectations of the international community – for inclusivity, human and women’s rights and counter-terrorism – as well as the expectations that have been voiced by the interim Afghan Government – for economic and financial support, an end to sanctions and eventual recognition.

Reaffirming the importance of combating terrorism in Afghanistan and in ensuring that its territory is not used by any terrorist group, the Pakistani envoy said, “We are glad that sponsors of terrorism against Pakistan have been obliged to exit from Afghanistan.

“It is important that the international community engage with the Taliban in order to develop appropriate modalities for cooperative action against terrorism from Afghanistan. This is a principal priority for Pakistan.”

Pakistan, he said felt encouraged that, after 40 years, there was no internal conflict in Afghanistan.

“There are no foreign forces in Afghanistan. There is one government which controls the entire country. Internal security has improved. And corruption has been curtailed,” Ambassador Akram said.

“There is an opportunity for sustained peace in Afghanistan which can end the suffering of the Afghan people and enhance peace and stability in the entire region.

“Pakistan has a vital stake in realizing such a vision of peace and stability,” he said in conclusion.