Pakistan calls on World powers to unfreeze Afghan assets

Sept 21, 2021: Pakistan has called on world powers to unlock billions of dollars in Afghan assets frozen since the Taliban took over, but said it did not expect the new government to be recognized so soon.

Ahead of talks on Afghanistan at the UN General Assembly, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi conveyed Pakistan’s stance and said the immediate priority was to stem the deepening economic decline of the neighboring country, which could lead to humanitarian catastrophe.

Talking to press, Qureshi said, “On one hand, you’re raising fresh funds to avert a crisis and on the other hand money that is theirs, they cannot use, I think freezing the assets is not helping the situation. I would strongly urge the powers that be that they should revisit that policy and think of an unfreeze,” he said.

He added, “It will be a confidence-building measure as well and that could also incentivize positive behaviour.”

The US froze about $9billion in Afghan central bank assets and international lenders stayed away from Afghanistan, cautious about extending assets to the Taliban.

Meanwhile, Qureshi also appeared to share the US stance that it was premature to establish formal ties. He said if the Taliban want recognition, “they have to be more sensitive and more receptive to international opinion.”

Pakistan’s foreign minister added that there was an urgent need to avert a humanitarian crisis in the war-torn country as the Taliban settled to handle the dangerous situation. The foreign minister said Afghans have faced war for the past four decades. “Now there is hope for peace in Afghanistan, and the international community should not leave Afghans alone at this critical juncture,” he said, stressing the need to engage with the “new reality.”

Qureshi hopes the Taliban will join more once a caretaker government is formed, including figures blacklisted by the United Nations on terrorism charges.

But he said he saw a “positive” response from the Taliban, including a general amnesty and a desire to include ethnic groups other than the group’s dominant Pashtuns. “These are trends that should be encouraged,” he said.

Talking about the positive steps that could engender the world’s confidence in the new regime, Qureshi said, “We would suggest to Afghans that they should have an inclusive government in which all ethnic groups are represented, and their initial statements indicate they aren’t averse to the idea,” also expressing the hope that Taliban live up to their promise that “girls and woman be allowed to go to school, college and university”.

During his five-day stay in New York, Qureshi is to brief his counterparts on various international issues, especially Pakistan’s position on the situation in Indian-occupied Jammu and Kashmir, where the human rights of oppressed people Is being violated on a large scale. The disputed territory on August 5, 2019 is in violation of UN resolutions.

After taking office, he said that Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan had offered his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi that if India took one step towards peace, Pakistan would take two steps, but New Delhi did not accept the offer.

FM Shah Mehmood Qureshi will attend a number of events during the week, including a meeting of the OIC Working Group on Jammu and Kashmir, a ministerial meeting of the United Group to agree on Security Council reforms and a meeting on energy.

During the tour, the Foreign Minister will also meet with UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, address think tanks and meet with members of the Pakistani community and businessmen in New York.

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