Afghan people should decide about frozen assets: FM Qureshi

“It is our collective responsibility to tackle this crisis”: FM

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Islamabad: Minister for Foreign Affairs Shah Mehmood Qureshi Saturday said frozen financial assets belonged to the people of Afghanistan and they should decide how the funds would be utilized.

In a statement regarding the frozen assets of Afghanistan, he said Pakistan was saying from day one that the frozen funds for Afghanistan should be unfrozen.

He said the situation in Afghanistan was deteriorating and a crisis had emerged in the country.

“It is our collective responsibility to tackle this crisis.”

During the extraordinary meeting of the Council of Foreign Ministers of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation in Islamabad on December 19, a resolution was adopted which called for the release of frozen funds for assistance to Afghanistan, he recalled.

He said according to the decision of the United States $ 3.5 billion would be given for humanitarian assistance in Afghanistan and $ 3.5 billion would be given to victims of the 9/11 incident.

The people of Afghanistan had reservations about it and they were saying that it was their money and it should be their discretion as to how they would use that money, he noted.

He said the people of Afghanistan were demanding that they needed humanitarian assistance and their resources should be given to them.

The minister said the world was saying that if Afghanistan was not given timely humanitarian assistance, then most of the population in 2022 would go below the poverty line because of the present crisis.

“Our opinion is that the frozen assets are owned by people of Afghanistan and it is imperative that this money should reach the people of Afghanistan even if its distribution is done through the organizations of the United Nations.”

Qureshi said due to scarcity of food in Afghanistan people particularly women and children would be affected.

“We want that girl schools and hospitals are functional in Afghanistan.” He said money was needed to pay salaries of school teachers in Afghanistan.

Economic collapse in Afghanistan was not in the interest of anybody and any economic collapse would result in huge influx of Afghan refugees, he observed.

He said law and order situation in Afghanistan had improved and at present, issue of people in the country was the dire economic situation. Adding to this, Pakistan has called for returning Afghanistan’s national assets, held in the United States, to the Afghan people, saying that money was “critically needed” to revive the country’s war-battered economy. Asked to comment on the U.S. move to free up $7 billion in assets from the Afghan central bank, half of which could go to humanitarian assistance in Afghanistan and the other half for compensation to the families of 9/11 victims,” Ambassador Munir Akram remarked, “Half a loaf is better than none.”

At the same time, the Pakistani envoy emphasized that “there is something wrong with a financial system where one State can unilaterally block the National assets of another to pay off questionable claims by its own citizens.”

The funds were deposited by Afghanistan’s central bank in the United States before the Taliban took over last year and have since been made unavailable to the Taliban. Much of the money comes from U.S. and other international donations over the past 20 years.

“We have consistently joined the calls of the international community as well as the senior UN officials and the international humanitarian actors to unfreeze Afghanistan’s reserves,” Ambassador Akram said

“This money is critically needed to revive and sustain the Afghan economy, inject much needed liquidity, and to save millions of lives in the middle of a harsh winter,” he said

“In addition, this money is also needed to provide basic amenities to the people including health and education as well as to build critical infrastructure.”

“The most effective and generous display of solidarity with the people of Afghanistan at this critical juncture would be the return of the national assets of Afghanistan to its people to whom they belong and to whom they must return,” Ambassador Akram added. Earlier to this, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is “encouraged” by Friday’s US decision to free up half of $7 billion in frozen Afghan assets to help the suffering people, while holding the rest to satisfy lawsuits against the Taliban from victims of terrorism, a UN spokesman said.

“I think we have said on several occasions and we’ve called for many times the release of Afghanistan’s frozen assets, and I think we’re encouraged by the step taken today in this regard,” Spokesman Stephane Dujarric said in response to a question at the regular noon briefing in New York.

However, “it’s also important to reiterate that humanitarian assistance alone will be insufficient to meet the tremendous needs of Afghan women, men and children over the long term,” he said.

“It is critical that the Afghani economy is able to restart in order for these needs of the Afghan people to be met with a sustainable and meaningful manner,” the spokesman added.

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