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Pakistan’s top diplomat urges world to delink women’s rights from Afghanistan’s humanitarian, economic situation

Pakistan's top diplomat urged the international community to delink the situation of women's rights in Afghanistan from its humanitarian and economic situation while dealing with the Taliban – the country’s de facto authority.

“No one believes that by starving the people of Afghanistan we can achieve our aim of women's empowerment or any other aim.” Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari told Anadolu Agency in New York.

The Taliban's August 2021, return to power, followed by the disruption of international financial assistance, has left Afghanistan facing an economic, humanitarian, and human rights crisis, with women and girls deprived of many rights, including education.

The US and Western nations suspended financial assistance after the Taliban’s seizure of power. The Biden administration froze $7 billion in Afghan central bank foreign reserves as part of sanctions against the hard-line group.

Many nations have put forward several conditions for recognition of the Taliban, including the protection of the rights of women, the formation of an "inclusive" government, and Afghanistan not becoming a haven for terrorism.

“If their banking channels are going to be shut, their funds are going to be shut off – you're not just punishing the government in Afghanistan, you're punishing the people of Afghanistan,” said Zardari.

Six million people in Afghanistan face food insecurity at an emergency level amid a shortage of sufficient humanitarian assistance due to a lack of funding, according to the UN.

Pakistan has repeatedly demanded engagement with the Taliban and the unfreezing of Afghan assets.

“The world needs to learn lessons from the last time when the war ended and when the world disengaged and washed their hands of Afghanistan and forgot about Afghanistan. It left us in a very difficult situation,” he said. “All the world's forces had to go in all over again. So, engagement is important.”

But Zardari also urged the Taliban to live up to the pledges they made to the international community and their people.

“We can't expect the new government in Afghanistan to do in a year with the old government in Afghanistan couldn't do in 20 years,” he said. “To do so in one year's time is a little bit difficult. Even here, in the United States, perhaps when a new government comes to power, they don't manage to fulfill all their promises in the first year.”

Kashmir dispute

Zardari also encouraged the UN to fulfill commitments under international law to resolve the Kashmir issue, a territorial dispute between India and Pakistan that has dragged on for more than seven decades.

“It is up to the United Nations to fulfill their responsibility and their commitment, restore the faith in multilateralism. And in this institution, that they won't be bullied by the Indian government,” he said.

Relations between the two nuclear neighbors deteriorated further in 2019, when India revoked an article of its Constitution that gave the Kashmir valley special status. That prompted Islamabad to downgrade its diplomatic mission in New Delhi and asked India to follow suit.

India claims the Kashmir dispute is an internal matter. But Islamabad reiterates that the normalization of ties with New Delhi is linked to a review of the 2019 decision and ultimate resolution of the dispute.

Pakistan-Türkiye relations

Asked about Pakistani Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif's proposal when he visited Türkiye this November that it should join the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, he called it a significant example of economic cooperation in the region which provides an incredible opportunity.

“Not only do we have special economic zones and the opportunities for other countries and industries to invest. But given Pakistan's location, this would logistically be good for countries like Turkey, Central Asian countries, to be able to access the warm waters through Pakistan and then onwards and upwards for us to access to Turkey,” said Zardari.

“It is an opportunity. We all are facing difficult economic times – whether it's Pakistan, whether it's Turkey, following COVID-19, following (the start of the war in) Ukraine – we're looking for various ways to diversify our economies. So, this is one option,” he added.

Source: Anadolu Agency