Muslim nations sought to respond to the growing economic and humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan as neighbouring Pakistan opened an extraordinary meeting on Sunday of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation.
The emergency in Afghanistan, with millions facing hunger as winter sets in, has caused mounting alarm, but the international community has struggled to come up with a coordinated response given Western reluctance to help the Taliban government, which seized power in August.
“Unless action is taken immediately, Afghanistan is heading for chaos,” Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan said in his opening remarks, adding that a refugee crisis and more Islamic State violence may follow. “Chaos suits no one,” he said.
The two-day meeting in Islamabad also includes representatives from the United Nations and international financial institutions, as well as from world powers including the United States, the European Union and Japan.
The Taliban’s acting foreign minister, Amir Khan Muttaqi said the new government had restored peace and security and done much to address demands for more inclusive government with respect for human rights, including the rights of women.
“All must acknowledge that political isolation of Afghanistan is not beneficial for anyone, therefore it is imperative that all support the prevailing stability and back it both politically and economically,” he said, according to a text of his remarks.
Taliban officials have previously asked for help to rebuild Afghanistan’s shattered economy and feed more than 20 million people threatened with hunger. Some countries and aid organisations have begun delivering aid, but a near-collapse of the country’s banking system has complicated their work.
Beyond immediate aid, Afghanistan needs help ensuring longer-term economic stability. Much will depend on whether Washington is willing to unfreeze billions of dollars in central bank reserves and lift sanctions that have caused many institutions and governments to shy away from direct dealings with the Taliban.
“They must delink the Taliban government from the 40 million Afghan citizens,” Pakistan’s Prime Minister Khan said.
Muttaqi said the Taliban would not allow Afghanistan to be used as a base for attacks on other countries and he said no reprisals would be carried out against officials of the former government.
But the Taliban have faced heavy criticism for keeping women and girls out of employment and education, excluding broad sections of Afghan society from government and have been accused of trampling on human rights as well as targeting former officials despite their promise of amnesty.