ISLAMABAD: Pakistan has begun dispatching thousands of metric tons of wheat to Afghanistan as relief assistance, saying the humanitarian and economic situation in the neighboring country requires the urgent attention of the international community.
Islamabad has pledged about $28 million worth of humanitarian aid to Kabul, including 50,000 metric tons of wheat, winter shelter and emergency medical supplies.
While scores of trucks have transported food and medical supplies to Afghanistan in recent weeks, a Pakistani Foreign Ministry statement said Thursday the first consignment of 1,800 metric tons of wheat was handed over to Afghan authorities at the northwestern Torkham border crossing between the countries.
“It is critical that the world community upscale its efforts to reach out to the Afghan people on an urgent basis to help address the humanitarian crisis and stabilize the economic situation,” the statement emphasized.
Pakistani leaders maintain that worsening humanitarian and economic conditions could force Afghans to take shelter in neighboring countries and the world at large unless urgent aid arrives in Afghanistan.
Pakistan already hosts about 3 million Afghan refugees, as well as economic migrants, and it has refused to accept a new influx of refugees citing its own economic difficulties.
The United Nations estimates nearly 23 million people, about 55% of the population in Afghanistan, face extreme levels of hunger, and nearly 9 million of them are at risk of famine in the wake of years of war and international sanctions.
The humanitarian situation has deteriorated following the Taliban military takeover of the country and the withdrawal of the U.S.-led coalition in August. The development prompted Washington to immediately suspend its cash flow to the Afghan economy, which mostly depended on foreign financial assistance over the past 20 years.
The Biden administration also has seized Afghanistan’s roughly $9.5 billion worth of assets and imposed financial sanctions on the Taliban, plunging the economy into unprecedented upheaval and making it difficult for people to get enough to eat. The Taliban have been seeking global legitimacy for their interim government in Kabul and release of the frozen funds. Pakistan, which is known for its close contacts with the Islamist group, has been urging the United States and other nations to engage with the new rulers in Afghanistan to prevent the looming humanitarian and economic disaster there.
The U.S. Treasury Department acted last week to ease sanctions against Kabul, saying it would issue licenses to ensure some international aid could flow to Afghanistan, as long as it did not reach Taliban leaders sanctioned by Washington. The licenses also would allow Afghans living abroad to send money to their families.