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Afghan refugees: A threat to Pak economy

The world community shuts its doors on Afghanistan with the enforcement of UN sanctions on the Taliban government

Jan 29 - Feb 04, 2001

Besides its political, law and order problems, Pakistan's economy is in for another setback because of fresh influx of Afghan refugees due to famine like conditions in the war torn Afghanistan and unjust economic sanctions imposed by US led United Nations which became effective on Friday last for their defiance to surrender Osama bin Laden.

While Afghan government remains unmoved and adamant publically vowing that they would not hand over Osama to the United States even if they drop atom bomb on them unless US proves to the Afghan authorities that Osama is really guilty of the charges being levelled against him by the US spy agencies. The United Nations had passed the resolution to impose harsh sanctions on Kabul last month and had given one month time to Taliban government to surrender Osama which expired last Friday.

While Osama is safe and secure under the protection of defiant Talibans, over 100,000 Afghans have arrived in Pakistan during the last few weeks — some forced by famine like conditions in the country and others because of fear of US bombing attack like the year 1998,

As the world community shuts its doors on Afghanistan with the enforcement of UN sanctions on the Taliban government, Pakistan policy planners remained engaged in exhaustive discussions, weighing carefully the pros and cons of Islamabad's current Afghan policy.

A flurry of meetings in the Federal Capital took place during the last week with Chief Executive holding a number of informal consultations with his top strategic and foreign affairs aides over the serious internal and security implications on Pakistan due to the discriminatory UN sanctions on Afghanistan. Most of the time in the 3 days envoys conference was devoted to Afghanistan and Pakistan's policy towards Talibans. Envoys discussed at length the Afghan policy, its pros and cons and the choices available to Pakistan to rectify the situation. Pakistan has, however, decided to implement the sanction under its international obligation despite its clear stand that sanctions are biased, harsh and inhuman and will not serve the purpose for which the same have been imposed.

The sanctions include banning senior officials' travel abroad, except for humanitarian, religious or peace process related trips, banning international flights and closing most of the Taliban overseas offices and accounts. It also imposes unilateral arms embargo on Taliban, but leaves the Afghan opposition free to acquire arms. Meanwhile, offices of the UN in Afghanistan and the donor agencies in Peshawar have been shut down as a consequence of the sanction.

Imposition of sanctions against Afghanistan has once again exposed the UN's moral bankruptcy to stand by the smaller and weaker nations at times of their crisis. On the contrary, it has, in recent years, emerged as a vehicle of coercion in the hands of the mighty and affluent countries. The Security Council has especially proved itself to be a willing institution to promote the United States' international designs. It is unprecedented in the UN's history to resort such discriminative application of the sanctions against the Taliban, since the Northern Alliance is free to acquire any type and quantity of weapons from anywhere in the world. It is simply deplorable that the world body has failed to take into account the genuine standpoint of the Taliban on the issue of Osama bin Laden and has endorsed Washington's demand in total disregard of objective realities of the situation. The UNSC has, in fact stood by the United States to prove that might is right even in the 21st century.

Pakistan has special stakes in the issue, as she is under great social and economic stress due to the consequential rise in the influx of Afghan refugees into its territory in the wake of any adverse situation in Afghanistan. Pakistan has already endured this situation over the years and cannot sustain it indefinitely.

Sources claimed that in the envoy's conference Pakistan's envoys to China and Russia conveyed concerns of their host capitals over Pakistan's Afghan policy, saying that Islamabad was fast loosing long-term strategic friends due to its Afghan policy. The recent declaration by the Shanghai-5 moot against Taliban also invoked great concerns in the Envoy's Conference. Russia, China and Central Asian countries have taken a very strong position against Taliban over the question of cross-border terrorism.

Pakistan finds itself in a very difficult situation over this issue with friends like China, Iran and other neighbouring countries.

Pakistani envoys from Central Asian Republics also conveyed concerns of their hosts over the situation in Afghanistan. Sources claimed that in the light of discussions and the diplomatic feed-back from neighbouring capitals, the Chief Executive may decide to seriously promote intra-Afghan dialogue for a broad-based government in Afghanistan. Pakistan may also do some plain talking with Kabul on the issue of terrorism. Pakistan will also push the Taliban government to accept a fact-finding mission from Moscow. There is also an active proposal to seal Pak-Afghan borders to implement UN sanctions.

Sources also claimed that General Pervez Musharraf during his talks with the visiting US CENTCOM Chief on Afghanistan and Osama bin Laden issue urged the US authorities not to take military action against Taliban as it could trigger off a very serious conflict in the region. He is reported to have told the visiting US General to open a meaningful dialogue with Taliban over the Osama issue.