After the withdrawal of the United States forces from Afghanistan, the unsustainable Afghan economy has been hit the most due to the changed ground realities of Afghanistan. The US-backed governments in Afghanistan did little to make the Afghan economy stable and unfortunately, they primarily focused on corruption and personal benefits during the last two decades. Due to international disengagement and freezing assets of Afghanistan, Afghan people are facing poverty, hunger, no access to health services, and a poor economy. Moreover, four decades of war, cold weather, Covid-19, and mass exodus of health care workers associated with international players and previous regimes are factors of the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan. This country now needs international aid urgently due to these factors and the response from the western countries has been disappointing so far. 

During this time, Pakistan has not only urged the international community to provide humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan but has also been at the forefront in providing food and medicine supplies to the war-torn country. Other countries need to follow in Pakistan’s footsteps and help the Afghan government to protect the economic and social status and dignity of Afghan people who have been paying the price for instability in Afghanistan. Unfortunately, the previous governments in Afghanistan relied on grant funding for more than 75 per cent of public spending and they could not establish a sustainable environment for the economy to grow. In the latest tweet, PM Imran Khan again requested the international community for urgent aid to the Afghan people. “There is an urgency for the international community, as well as their obligation under the unanimously adopted UN principle of Responsibility to Protect (R2P), to provide immediate humanitarian relief to millions of Afghans on the brink of starvation,” PM said.

Approximately half of the 40 million Afghans are estimated to need humanitarian assistance. As many as 8.7 million people would need long-term and consistent assistance to survive. The Afghan health system has also suffered. The state-run health care system heavily relied on foreign funds and is now unable to pay salaries to the doctors and staff or even purchase medicines. The poverty rate in Afghanistan was already high during the Karzai and Ghani regimes and it has likely increased further due to the changed reality. The United Nations has warned that about 97 per cent of Afghanistan’s population may sink below the poverty line if the country’s political and economic crises are not addressed. The ordinary Afghans have suffered from the perpetual wars in Afghanistan during the last four decades. Different Afghan warlords, as well as international powers, have fought for the rule in Afghanistan leading to the current fragile Afghan economy. 

The time has come that the common man in Afghanistan gets the right to live in a stable and peaceful environment for which the sustainable Afghan government and fulfilment of necessities are essential. The international community needs to take practical steps to bring out Afghans from humanitarian disasters.

Pakistan has engaged with the Afghan government to avoid the potential collapse of the Afghan economy which will have negative consequences for the whole region. Due to this Pakistan has been sending humanitarian aid to Afghanistan and also calling on the world community to be more responsible and empathetic towards the Afghan situation. Pakistan has formed the Afghanistan Inter-Ministerial Coordination Committee (AICC) to coordinate and facilitate Afghan people. AICC is working to improve border movements, trade facilitation & capacity building of Afghans in various sectors. Prime Minister Imran Khan has approved Rs.5 billion humanitarian aid for Afghanistan. According to a special waiver, the Prime Minister has also allowed transportation of Indian announced wheat assistance for the war-torn country through Pakistan. 

To prevent the human catastrophe and assist Afghan people who have suffered the most, the Pak Afghan Cooperation Forum (PACF) has been established by Pakistan which is active in facilitating and providing aid to Afghanistan. Pakistan has provided Four C-130s and 315 truckloads carrying humanitarian aid for Afghan people from September, 19 to January 16, 2022. Pakistan is also facilitating the channelling of aid to Afghanistan. The total aid provided so far is 5605 tons which includes food, medicines, and other essential items. Pakistan has opened 5 border trade stations along the Pak-Afghan border to ease the flow of goods across the border. They include Torkham, Chaman, Kharlachi, Ghulam Khan, and Angoor Adda.

Pakistan has been providing medical facilities to Afghans for a long time and allowed those in need of immediate health assistance to enter the country to seek medical assistance at hospitals in Quetta, Peshawar, and other cities of the country. Pak-Afghan Cooperation Forum organized a free Eye Camp at Muhammad Ali Jinnah Hospital Kabul from 22-24 November. Eye specialists from Pakistan have examined and treated Afghan patients. Earlier they successfully conducted a similar camp in Khost from 18-20 Nov 2021. Total 2670 patients were examined and 324 surgeries were performed in the Khost camp while 5450 patients were examined and 206 surgeries were performed in the Kabul camp. Pakistan has initiated free vaccination of the Afghans since November 13. The Prime Minister ordered that the facility of free Covid-19 vaccination for the Afghans entering Pakistan from land borders be continued.

Medical Visa Facility has been provided to Afghan patients and Pakistan authorities have removed the requirement of getting gate pass for crossing the border from the Pakistani Interior Ministry and the border would be opened for pedestrian movement for 12 hours instead of eight. Pakistan has proved to be a true friend of the Afghan people after the unending struggle for them. We all should create awareness to make an impact on the Afghan people.

      - The writer is a freelance journalist.