LONDON: Pakistan’s foreign minister has urged the UK to “accept the new reality” in Afghanistan and deliver immediate aid to the war-torn country, warning that isolation of the Taliban would lead to economic collapse, “anarchy” and “chaos.”
Shah Mahmood Qureshi told The Independent that the UK and other Western nations are not doing enough to avert a humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan, and that they should provide aid to the country with “no political conditions attached.”
According to the World Food Programme, food supplies in Afghanistan could run dry by the end of September, pushing 14 million people in the country to the brink of starvation.
Addressing the West, Qureshi said: “Isolation will not help. It will lead to a humanitarian crisis, it will lead to an economic collapse, and it will create space for elements who have not been helpful for you, me or anyone.
“Anarchy, chaos will facilitate their presence there. Don’t do that. Engagement, we feel, is a better option. If (the Taliban) are saying positive things, nudge them in that direction. Do not push them into a corner.”
The Taliban have pledged to form an inclusive government, and have made agreements with the US to ensure that Afghanistan is not used as a safe haven for global terrorist organizations.
Since the Taliban captured Kabul, however, there have been numerous unconfirmed reports of atrocities committed across the country by the group’s fighters, including summary executions and ethnic cleansing of certain minorities.
The UN high commissioner for human rights has accused the Taliban of abuses against women, and of breaking promises regarding the continued participation of women in education and public life.
Last week, British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said London will not recognize the Taliban’s new Cabinet but the UK should “adjust” to the new reality. He said he “did see the need to be able to have direct engagement.”
Raab added that Britain will work to ensure safe passage for Afghans and foreigners who did not manage to escape the country during the final days of the US-led NATO presence there.
Hundreds of Britons and thousands of Afghans eligible for evacuation through their work with coalition forces were left stranded in the country, and many fear they could be in danger of retributive violence from the Taliban.
Qureshi said Pakistan will facilitate the departure of those with valid documents but will not allow an influx of refugees. He also rejected the notion of building refugee camps or resettlement facilities in Pakistan.
“We have our limitations. (Pakistan has) been hosting now over 3 million, almost close to 4 million refugees for so many decades without any international help or assistance. We do not have the capacity to absorb more, honestly,” he said, adding that neighboring Afghanistan is currently peaceful and stable, and that he sees “no reason” why Afghans cannot stay.
Qureshi dismissed accusations that Pakistan is covertly supporting the Taliban as “absurd”, “lies” and “propaganda.”
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Monday said his country is reassessing its relationship with Pakistan, but added that Islamabad has cooperated with Washington on counterterrorism.
Islamabad has not formally recognized the new Taliban government, but the Pakistani Embassy in Kabul remains open and officials have visited the country.