Protracted conflict in Afghanistan has fractured all segments of society. Although the conflict is over now, a serious humanitarian crisis is looming large on Afghan horizon due to crippling economic conditions. To address this alarming situation in the wake of US withdrawal and punitive sanctions, Pakistan’s efforts to host the biggest conference on humanitarian situation in Afghanistan are commendable to say the least. All the regional and extra-regional stakeholders including the US, European Union, China and Russia participated in the conference and the members of Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) pledged funds to lift the country out of current economic and humanitarian crisis. The international community including the United Nations (UN) and the US have finally felt the need to acknowledged Pakistan’s facilitative role in Afghanistan indicating a departure from the biased approach towards Pakistan.
This vindicates Pakistan’s commitment to peace and stability in the region. Unhappy with Pakistan’s diplomatic victory and efforts for development of Afghanistan, India seeks to portray itself as a key player and reposition itself from a spoiler to a peacemaker. In this regard, all the stake holders including Pakistan should remain wary of India’s malicious intent to destabilize Pak-Afghan region in its quest to tarnish Pakistan image by undermining regional peace and stability.
Afghanistan has a long history of domination by foreign conquerors and has experienced never ending internal rifts on ethnic as well as theological basis. In the recent past, the landlocked door between Europe and Asia went through a deadly phase of instability and chaos due to Soviet invasion and later the US onslaught of Afghanistan. July 2021 was a turning point in this episode of American war in Afghanistan when the US left Bagram Airfield without giving a prior notice to the freshly appointed base commander. Meanwhile the US continued to maintain that Afghan National Army (ANNA) is fully equipped to counter Taliban takeover as they outnumbered the Taliban. But what the US was not aware of was the fact that already, ANA officers as well as soldiers were switching sides along with their arms.
Resultantly, the regime installed by the allies collapsed and gave away Kabul to Taliban without a fight on 15 August 2021. Three American presidents tried to tame Afghanistan but all in vain. America spent billions of dollars in Afghanistan to sustain its favourite setup without any success. The Afghan National Army was raised from the scratch and constantly injected with power boosters of latest arms but it could not deliver as expected. An important fact the Americans probably figured out was that the money invested on the Ghani regime finds its way to the Middle Eastern and European banks. The never ending list of corruption was part and parcel of the regime. Here, important to note are the ground realities of Afghanistan. The Afghans as a nation have never accepted the foreign direct or indirect rule. It is rightfully said about Afghanistan that ‘you can rent Afghanistan, but you can’t buy it’, but in today’s scenario, ‘no one can afford buying Afghanistan’ is the right phrase. However, the ill-conceived American policies before and after the withdrawal from Afghanistan are still wreaking havoc. For instance, the US has frozen the assets of Afghanistan, pushing the war-torn country towards economic collapse. The alarming situation in Afghanistan needed immediate response from the world, and Pakistan’s decision to host the biggest conference to address the humanitarian situation in Afghanistan is a great step forward.
Pakistan hosted an extraordinary session of the OIC Council of Foreign Ministers on the “Humanitarian Situation in Afghanistan” on 19th December 2021 in which OIC members and representatives from the US, China, Russia, UN and EU also participated. At the end of the session, OIC nations passed a resolution pledging funds to stave off Afghanistan ‘chaos. The resolution affirms solidarity of the OIC Member States with the Afghan people in their quest to build a new peaceful, united, stable, sovereign and prosperous Afghanistan.
It urged Afghanistan to honour and abide by the principles enshrined in the UN Charter and the Charter of the OIC and to respect its commitments under international agreements and conventions, including its obligations under international human rights covenants, especially with regards to the rights of women, children, youth, elderly and people with special needs as well as the preservation of family values, as enshrined in Islamic teachings and principles. The resolution also encouraged the United Nations system, in particular the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), World Food Programme (WFP), United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), to pursue joint operation with the OIC for the delivery of urgent humanitarian aid. In addition, the OIC called the international community in general, and the UN Security Council in particular to ensure that existing targeted sanctions do not impede the provision of humanitarian aid or economic resources to preserve the institutions, schools and hospitals in Afghanistan and to allow multilateral development institutions, United Nations Agencies, Funds and Programmes and other humanitarian organizations to channel existing assistance and assets towards humanitarian assistance.
Furthermore, the OIC has decided to establish a Humanitarian Trust Fund, under the aegis of the Islamic Development Bank, to ensure and channelize humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan, in partnership with other international actors. It has been stated that the OIC General Secretariat, together with the Islamic Development Bank and Humanitarian Trust Fund, shall commence discussions with the UN system organizations to device a road map for mobilizing actions in relevant fora to unlock the financial and banking channels to resume liquidity and flow of financial and humanitarian assistance, and to devise a mechanism for the disbursement of urgent and sustained humanitarian assistance to the people of Afghanistan; therefore the OIC states have requested the Islamic Development Bank to expeditiously operationalize the Humanitarian Trust Fund by the first quarter of 2022. In addition, the decision has been taken to launch an Afghanistan Food Security Programme, and requests the Islamic Organization for Food Security (IOFS) to undertake necessary work in this regard using the capacity of the Organization’s Food Security Reserves, when necessary.
The OIC nations have recognized that terrorism has devastating consequences on human rights and fundamental freedoms of victims and their families, in particular women and girls, deploring the suffering of the people of Afghanistan, and reaffirming its profound solidarity with them while stressing the importance of providing them with proper support and assistance. They have also stressed that the Afghan territory must not be used as a base or safe haven for any terrorist group, and strongly condemning terrorist attacks claimed by the so-called Islamic State in Khorasan Province (ISKP), an entity affiliated with Daesh, resulting in the loss of numerous precious lives and injuries to many others.
Moreover, the OIC members have acknowledged the efforts of the international community, neighbouring countries, donor agencies and other international organizations in urgent provision of humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan, and that institutions and capacity building developed during decades of international assistance and support to Afghanistan are at the verge of being lost. Rebuilding state institutions and necessary capacity will take decades if urgent actions are not taken to stem the negative trajectory. Adding more to it, Pakistan’s pivotal role, in the evacuation of over 83,000 people comprising 47 nationalities from Afghanistan, has also been in the OIC resolution.
The COVID-19 has badly impacted the economic situation across the global, Afghanistan is no exception. In this context, the OIC nations have decided that OIC General Secretariat shall engage with the World Health Organization and other relevant stakeholders for securing vaccines as well as other medical supplies, technical and related assistance for the people of Afghanistan in context of Covid-19 pandemic and other persistent and emerging health concerns.
It is important to mention here that the resolution has called upon Afghanistan to take concrete steps against all terrorist organizations in particular Al-Qaeda, Deash and its affiliates, ETIM, and TTP, and also urged the international community to remain cautious against the possibility of incitement and the role of spoilers, both inside and outside the country, to derail efforts aimed at peace and stability in Afghanistan.
There is no denying the fact that the road to peace in Afghanistan is a challenging and demanding task that needs the strong will of all the stakeholders. The leaders of Afghanistan, whether they are in the government or part of opposition forces, and the regional states whose stakes are at risk due to worsening instability in Afghanistan need to work together aggressively for the success of the peace process to bring perpetual peace in Afghanistan which would eventually result into peace and stability in the entire region. The spoilers of the peace particularly India cannot be overlooked, therefore, all the domestic and regional stakeholders should be cautious.
Since the U.S. military withdrawal from Afghanistan, India is striving to find its role in emerging political landscape. The invitation extended by Indian National Security Advisor (NSA) Ajit Doval to the regional powers including Pakistan for an NSA-level meeting on Afghanistan was another failed try to make itself relevant player in the case of Afghanistan. Regional powers’ response to India’s NSA-level Afghanistan meeting proved that the premier spoiler in Afghan Peace Process cannot act as a peacemaker until it fixes the mess it has created from the last two decades.
The troublemaker, India has always used the instability of Afghanistan against Pakistan. Before the Taliban’s take over, the Indian premier agency Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) was using Indian consulates alongside the Pak-Afghan border as centers for launching terrorist attacks in Pakistan. The Indian state-sponsored terrorism badly impacted Pakistan’s socio-economic and security situation. The state that is hell-bent on destroying the peace and thinks that instability suits, it will never work for peace. And such a state does not care about the ground realities as India did. India chose a deadly path to accomplish its nefarious objectives. India’s use of terrorism as a tool and miscalculations led to its complete failure in Afghanistan.
During the puppet regime of Ashraf Ghani in Afghanistan, several consulates along the Pak-Afghan border were being used as operation centers by Indian premier agency RAW to achieve their nefarious objectives. Although, after the takeover of the Taliban in Kabul, Indian sanctuaries of terrorists do not enjoy support from the newly established regime in Kabul, the instability in the country is still being used by Indian agencies to further destabilize Afghanistan, and Pakistan as well.
India has always played the role of spoiler in the case of Afghanistan. It does not only use instability in Afghanistan during the 1970s, 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s to spread terrorism in Pakistan, it has also been trying to sabotage the Afghan Peace Process. This is quite understandable that why India is always playing havoc in Afghanistan as it wants to engage Pakistan on two fronts. Therefore, the instability in Afghanistan suits India’s hegemonic designs, and it does not want peace in Afghanistan. This is the reason why India is still backing the terrorists’ groups’ i.e. Islamic State – Khorasan (IS-K), Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA), and Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).
In addition, the Indian behaviour in the region can easily be understood through historical lenses. India has dreams of becoming a hegemon in the South Asian Region since it came into existence. Therefore, it often shows aggression while dealing with its neighbors. India knows that it cannot change its geography and with Pakistan’s presence it cannot be the hegemon in the region as Pakistan always resists Indian aggression in the region. Therefore, it has been formulating several strategies to destabilize Pakistan but failed miserably. India was not only defeated in Afghanistan but also remained irrelevant in Afghan Peace Process. Now, when India is striving hard to find some role, then it needs to clean the mess first, that it has created in the last two decades. India must stop sponsoring terrorism in the region and write a formal apology to the government and people of Pakistan for this madness. Not only that, the people of Indian illegally occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK) have been facing Indian atrocities for over seven decades. Indian policies towards the IIOJK are threatening the peace of the entire region. India must respect the rights of the Kashmiri people and end the siege of IIOJK. The minorities in India are also witnessing extreme violence especially Muslims and Sikhs. They have been largely marginalized in India. This is what India is doing at home, and in the region. With this attitude, it can only be a troublemaker as it is.
When the major regional stakeholders are contributing to the peace in Afghanistan, India should give up on the destructive path it has been following. Peace is the need of all. If India does not understand and does not give up on its duplicity, then it will continue to play its role as a spoiler of peace. A spoiler cannot have any place in peace-making. India’s say about Afghanistan should not be given weightage until and unless it recognizes the Taliban government in Afghanistan. And for India, rather than jumping to conclusions, India must talk about the mess it has created. It must give up on the path that is endangering the peace of the entire region.
In conclusion, the evolving humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan is knocking the consciousness of the world’s community. The government of Pakistan and its people have been assisting the Afghan people since this alarming situation began to evolve. But, it is not possible for Pakistan to resolve the issues of Afghan people, and it is also shared responsibility of all. Pakistan has made tremendous efforts for peace in Afghanistan and now hosting OIC session on Afghanistan is a great step in the right direction. There is also need to keep a close eye Indian activities as India has been “spoiler” in case of Afghanistan. As the humanitarian situation is getting worse by each passing day, it is high time for the world to take practical steps to avert the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan.