Since the US-led coalition forces withdrew from Afghanistan in Aug 2021, the country has endured a deepening and increasingly deadly humanitarian crisis. Afghan masses have once again been left destitute and are facing worsening humanitarian, economic, health and governance crises. According to the Center for Disaster Philanthropy report, 24.4 million Afghans are in need of humanitarian aid which constitutes more than half of the country’s population. Globally, Afghanistan has the highest number of people in emergency food insecurity; 92% of the population faces insufficient food consumption, including around 9.6 million children who are unable to get food daily. Moreover, the recent destruction from the earthquake has further worsened the humanitarian situation that can potentially take the country towards economic collapse. The Taliban administration does not have sufficient money in the banks, joblessness is rampant, and food and medicine supplies are urgently needed. In such circumstances, the Taliban government alone cannot bring out the country out of these dire circumstances.
Pakistan, being an immediate neighbor has remained at the forefront to sensitize the world about the worsening humanitarian situation in Afghanistan and seeking help for them, in addition to initiating measures at the government, semi-government and philanthropic platforms to address the issue on its own. Pakistan has been hosting about three million Afghan refugees for the last four decades despite its economic difficulties and is not in a position to accept a new influx of refugees and economic migrants. Pakistan’s efforts to mitigate the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan include the announcement of a humanitarian assistance package of five billion rupees for the Afghan people, which contains 50,000 metric tonnes of wheat, medicines / medical treatment, and shelters. Assistance is ongoing under the Pak-Afghan Cooperation Forum (PACF) and till 21st June 2022, about 15,000 tons of humanitarian assistance via 694 trucks and four C-130 flights have been provided. Establishing a Free Eye Camp in Kabul from 30th May to 5th June 2022 as a joint endeavor with and the support of the Al-Khidmat Foundation and PACF. The camp treated more than four thousand patients and operated on more than one thousand. A similar camp was established in Khost.
Besides this, a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed between the University of Lahore and Muhammad Ali Jinnah Hospital in Kabul on 14th June 2022, for upgrading the health facilities at the hospital to bring them up to global standards. The hospital has currently been transformed into a teaching hospital. Pakistan, in recent years, had also funded two more hospitals, namely Najib Aminullah Khan Logari Hospital in Logar and Nishtar Kidney Centre Hospital in Jalalabad. Moreover, Pakistan dispatched relief goods for the earthquake affectees of Afghanistan on 23rd June 2022. The consignment arranged by the National Disaster Management Authority consists of family tents, tarpaulins, blankets, and emergency medicines. The Taliban have also requested international assistance as the country deals with the aftermath of a devastating 6.1 magnitude earthquake. Over 1,000 people have been killed, and at least 1,500 have been injured. Unknown numbers of people are buried beneath the rubble of ruined, often mud-brick homes.
In addition to the above, Pakistan also allowed India to send wheat to Afghanistan through the Pakistani border and proffered air and land routes to international donors for transporting humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan. Pakistan has hosted the 17th extraordinary session of the Council of Foreign Ministers (CFM) of OIC in Islamabad to draw the world’s community’s attention to the looming situation and attract humanitarian assistance. The effort was achieved by setting up a humanitarian trust fund with the Islamic Development Bank. Afghanistan’s exports to Pakistan have surged and plans are in the offing to establish two new ports with Afghanistan for trade. Very recently, approval was issued by the Government of Pakistan for a new policy of transit visa on arrival for Afghan immigrant citizens.
In brief, Pakistan has provided the world with a global public good by supporting the Afghan brothers to help them address looming humanitarian crises, and it is time for the international community to assume its responsibilities as well while keeping aside their differences with the Taliban regime. The international humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan must go beyond recognizing the Taliban government based on humanity and peace of the world, because to leave Afghanistan unsupported and isolated would lead it into chaos and disorder.