OIC Summit Islamabad: A pledge for peaceful and prosperous Afghanistan

Forty-one years ago, Foreign Ministers of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) gathered in Islamabad for an extraordinary session on Afghanistan. The agenda was different from the recently held OIC moot in Islamabad. Previously the extraordinary summit held from January 27 to 29 in 1980 was summoned after the Soviet Union annexed Afghanistan. The concluding announcement approved the suspension of Afghanistan’s OIC membership, in addition to cutting its economic and humanitarian assistance, since the 57-member bloc desired to reprimand the Soviet-backed government in Kabul. The final statement decided to deny acknowledging the illegal regime until the whole extraction of Soviet troops from the country.

It also called upon all member states to halt financial assistance and all forms of assistance given to the Afghan administration. Now, 41 years later, the foreign ministers of OIC member-states gathered in Islamabad for another extraordinary meeting. However, this time, the agenda sought humanitarian aid and monetary aid for Afghanistan. The host of the conference, Pakistan, desired to gather the international community’s support to avert a humanitarian calamity and financial collapse of Afghanistan.

Established in 1969, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) is an intergovernmental organization with a palpable aim to strengthen solidarity among Muslims. It is the 2nd leading inter-governmental organization after the United Nations, with 57 states belonging to four continents. IOC was founded after a judgment taken during the historic summit held in Morocco in 1969.

Now moving ahead with a discussion about the current summit, we need to look at the situation in Afghanistan. Since the Taliban takeover, Afghanistan has faced a monetary and humanitarian catastrophe that has paralyzed banks and businesses. The crisis further has sent poverty and inflation rates rise steeply. Foreign assistance, which formerly made up about three-quarters of the government budget, has all but vanished. The Taliban government is seeking international recognition, and without this, it cannot accomplish access to $10 billion assets held overseas by the Afghan central bank. The local currency has fallen in value. The country is still required to import billions of dollars’ worth of goods, but it has even less options to make money from exports than earlier. It has a tough time substantially getting remittances from overseas Afghans. According to United Nations Development Program, almost every Afghan could be at risk of falling underneath the poverty line in the coming year. Services and agriculture subjugate the economy of Afghanistan. Many small businesses in Afghanistan have been folded, the banking sector is paralyzed, and increasing inflation and trouble acquiring cash are also among the issues faced by the citizens. Agriculture, the chief source of employment, is also uncertain. Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid once stated that the incumbent government is working day and night to address the country’s financial challenges. In this regard, several appointments were made to fill positions in finance, economic affairs, and commerce and industry.

Participant of the OIC summit agreed that the Afghan crisis is deep, and it is because there is no way of interpreting their apprehension into palpable, monetary help at the moment. Credit goes to Pakistan for mobilizing the 57-member bloc so that the international community will now be forced to take notice of the situation.

On the other hand, to save the country, $1.2 billion in humanitarian aid has been promised to Afghanistan; the funds would hardly recover the country’s economy.  The local currency lost more than 11 per cent of its value against the United States dollar in the space of a day recently before recovering somewhat. However, the market remains unstable, and the deflation is already distressing Afghans. After analyzing the whole situation, Pakistan being a facilitator of the peace process in Afghanistan has taken a step forward with the support of the Muslim world. The recently held OIC moot in Islamabad was a great success. Apart from what Pakistan has proposed to deal with the current crisis in Afghanistan, the single utmost significant takeaway from the OIC summit is the comprehension of the crisis and its urgent solution. Saudi Arabia (KSA) pledged $265 million, whereas Pakistan has pledged $30 million.

Participant of the OIC summit agreed that the Afghan crisis is deep, and it is because there is no way of interpreting their apprehension into palpable, monetary help at the moment. Credit goes to Pakistan for mobilizing the 57-member bloc so that the international community will now be forced to take notice of the situation. It can also put pressure on Washington to fulfil its responsibility after withdrawing from a country while leaving it to face the consequences by itself. The most crucial factor is the release of around $10 billion of the Afghan central bank’s money frozen in foreign banks. Prime Minister Imran Khan rightly called it a manufactured disaster because, in addition to instigating it, the world’s most affluent and most influential countries are now making it much worse.  Pakistan has shared a six-point policy to address Afghanistan’s humanitarian crisis, food security, and economic stimulation besides its institutional capacity building to counter the menace of terrorism.

Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi proposed following plan in his opening address at the summit:

  • Forming a mechanism within the OIC countries for sustainable humanitarian and financial support to the Afghanistan government.
  • Called for augmented investment in Afghanistan’s education and vocational sectors, either jointly or through the OIC platform.
  • Formation of an expert group of the OIC and UN officials to revive the banking sector in Afghanistan that distorted after the Taliban took over Kabul.
  • Called for improved engagement with Afghanistan for political and social inclusivity besides guaranteeing respect for fundamental rights, mainly women’s rights.

The other Muslim world leaders attending the session called for an instant and amalgamated action to prevent the impending humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan that otherwise could affect world peace.

OIC also decided to set up a humanitarian fund to be functioned by the Islamic Development Bank (IDB) to deal with the financial implications of the crisis. The humanitarian fund would network economic support to be provided by member states to Afghanistan. Setting up the trust fund is to create a platform or channel through which support could be delivered to the people of Afghanistan. Furthermore, the appointment of a special envoy in Afghanistan by the secretary general of OIC is another step forward to put things on the right track.

More than 20 foreign ministers, including Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Iran, Jordon, Kuwait and Bangladesh, attended the day-long meeting at the Parliament House. The foreign delegates were seated in the National Assembly hall, which otherwise is reserved for elected representatives. The permanent members of the UN Security Council, European Union and international financial institutions also attended the moot, making it the major worldwide gathering on Afghanistan since the Taliban takeover in the war-torn country. The Afghan acting foreign minister was also in attendance but was not given the podium during the open session. Though, he spoke during the closed-door gathering of the OIC conference. Apart from the already mentioned crisis, Afghanistan healthcare is currently on the edge of failure amid the Omicron variant.

On the other hand, The United Nations has warned about the hunger crisis, with 22 per cent of Afghanistan’s 38 million people near-famine and another 36 per cent facing severe food insecurity. One has to wait and see the consequences in the recently held OIC summit backdrop. While discussing the consequences, the most important thing is the timing as there is a need to solve the current crisis urgently.

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About Saima Zaman 40 Articles
Writer is the Assistant Editor ‘Mélange int’l Magazine’, ‘The Asian Telegraph’ & Project Coordinator (COPAIR); a degree holder in communication & media sciences.