OIC, Afghanistan, Pakistan, United Nations, United States

On December 19, 2021, Pakistan is set to host the 17th “Extra Ordinary” Session of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in Islamabad. The special session of the OIC has been called at the request of the current chair of the organisation, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA).

According to Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Qureshi, the special session has been called to try and find instant, practical solutions to the impending humanitarian and economic crisis in Afghanistan. Moreover, FM Qureshi also stated that another primary purpose of this meeting is to bring members of the international community and the Taliban on the same platform to communicate directly and help resolve issues in an amicable manner.

Besides the OIC member states, Special Representatives (for Afghanistan) of China, Russia, and the United States will also be attending this OIC session. Representatives of the UN P5 and those from Germany, Canada, Australia, and Japan have also been invited to the meeting. Furthermore, international organisations such as the World Bank (WB), UN relief agencies, and other critical human rights organisations have been invited and will be represented at the moot.

The IEA (Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan) delegation participating in this special session will be headed by its interim Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi.

Ever since the unfolding of events in Afghanistan, especially after August 15, several regional countries, especially Pakistan, have been making tremendous efforts to avert any crisis in Afghanistan & help establish peace and stability in the war-torn country.

From being a part of every regional and extra-regional platform, process and initiative organised to politically resolve the Afghan conundrum and facilitate intra-Afghan dialogue to extending humanitarian & financial aid to Afghanistan, Pakistan’s efforts are well-known and well-acknowledged. Not to mention the transit provided by Pakistan to all Afghan and foreign nationals leaving Afghanistan post-August 15.

Despite accusations from different segments and allegations of abetment, Pakistan has persistently endeavoured to spread the message and communicate the concerns of the Afghan people to the international community. It’s been the Pakistani government’s long-standing stance that Pakistan’s principal concern is ordinary Afghans’ safety, security and welfare.

The hosting of this special session of the OIC, which is reported to have been requested by KSA on the insistence of Pakistan, is another manifestation of the latter’s genuine concern for the people of Afghanistan and will to help establish peace and stability in the country, which has seen nothing but warfare for the last four decades.

However, amid all the chaos, instability and uncertainty that descended Afghanistan post-August 15, the role of the Muslim Ummah (community) has largely and majorly been missing from the picture all along. OIC, as the second-largest organisation of the world (by members & population) after the UN, which claims to represent the fraternity of Muslim countries, has been conspicuously absent since the withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan.

Thinking pragmatically about the situation in Afghanistan, this meeting could not have come at a better time as the country is at the brink of a humanitarian and economic catastrophe. WFP (World Food Program) estimates reveal that half of Afghanistan’s population is facing acute levels of hunger and malnutrition.

The international community’s attitude towards the current situation in Afghanistan is sad as it is, but what is even more discouraging is the continued ignorance and restraint of the Muslim community towards making effective and substantial efforts in helping Afghanistan overcome its existential problems.

The majority of the OIC member states, despite their massive economic, strategic and political wherewithal, continue to turn a deaf ear towards the plight of Afghans. Apart from small doses of humanitarian assistance and tendering run of the mill political statements, a significant segment of the Muslim community is conveniently supplementing the international narrative towards Afghanistan that is spearheaded by the West in general and the US in particular.

OIC’s lacklustre response towards the crisis in Afghanistan is a testament to the organisation’s efficacy as a unit. It shows how much of a true representative the organisation is of the Muslim community.

The UNDP estimates that an overwhelming percentage of the Afghan population (97%) will fall below the poverty line if the worsening humanitarian and economic situation in Afghanistan is not addressed on an emergency basis.

Even though 75% of Afghanistan’s budget depends on external assistance, the international community (especially the West) have continued to avoid effective engagement with the Taliban regime and unfreeze US$ 9.5 billion of the country’s assets.

As per OIC Economic Outlook 2019, OIC members combined GDP accounted for 15.2% of the global GDP and yet the 57-nation group has been unsuccessful in substantially assisting Afghanistan to date. The OIC Charter clearly mentions that the organisation will work to ‘preserve & promote’ the values of compassion, human dignity and enhance solidarity among Muslim states.

However, in the case of Afghanistan, the organisation seems to be failing miserably at upholding the very principles of the Charter to which all members have pledged their allegiance. Nevertheless, executing this extraordinary session of the OIC on Afghanistan is still a timely initiative that can prove vital in damage control and addressing the current humanitarian & economic crisis in Afghanistan.

Collective and concerted effort by the international community, especially the Muslim world, is need of the hour to attenuate the intensifying crisis ‘force field’ that Afghanistan is in at the moment. This calls for an enhanced and proactive role of the US, EU and the Muslim community in Afghanistan.

OIC’s special session on Afghanistan provides a rare opportunity to the international community and the Taliban to bridge the existing communication gap and resolve issues amicably. The international community and the Taliban should keep in mind that the window of opportunity is extremely narrow.

It is essential for the Taliban to make the best of this opportunity to listen to and address the international community’s concerns, especially regarding human rights, girls education, inclusivity, and terrorism. Moreover, it is equally pertinent for the international community to understand the Taliban’s viewpoint and concerns to engage with them effectively and pave the way to establish durable peace & stability in Afghanistan.

As stated by the Pakistani FM, this special moot has been called to establish a communication bridge between the world and the Taliban & to find solutions to avert the humanitarian & economic crisis in Afghanistan. It is not an attempt to imply attachment to any particular group nor a step to recognise the IEA government but rather an endeavour to find peaceful and practical ways to resolve the issues of Afghanistan that have persisted for decades.

It is also a good opportunity for the OIC as an organisation to manifest itself as a powerful bloc that carries significance in the international arena. By simply acting on its principles mentioned on the first page of its Charter, the OIC can help restore the faith of its member states in the organisation. It will also aid in dispelling the notion of the OIC as an ineffective organisation that has become a political tool of a few of its member states.

As mentioned earlier, the people of Afghanistan have seen enough warfare, bloodshed and instability. They are now facing a humanitarian & economic crisis of gigantic proportions. It is about time that the international community in general and the Muslim countries put their political, economic and strategic interests aside and focus on the humanitarian aspect of this situation.

Simultaneously, the Taliban should also be more forthcoming and flexible in their dealings with the international community and make genuine efforts to address its concerns to make it easier for the latter to engage with Afghanistan in a positive manner and help the country achieve stability.

In conclusion, as the crisis in Afghanistan intensifies, the fate of the people of Afghanistan will remain hinged to the OIC’s special session’s proceedings, and one can only hope for sanity and peace to prevail and the sufferings of the Afghan people to come to an end.

Taimur Fahad Khan

Taimur Khan is working as a Research Associate at the Institute of Strategic Studies Islamabad (ISSI). His research focuses on non-traditional security issues and foreign policy analysis.

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