With the international community delaying recognizing the Taliban regime, there seems to be no relief in sight for the people of Afghanistan – some 39 million of them. Over half of the population is living below the poverty line and 75% of the national budget is dependent on foreign aid.
Keeping their interest in mind, Prime Minister Imran Khan reiterated the need for the West – primarily America – to recognize the Taliban’s interim setup to avoid a humanitarian crisis from erupting. During an exclusive interview with the Middle East Eye on Monday, PM Imran said, “If they leave Afghanistan like this, my worry is that Afghanistan could easily revert back to 1989 when the Soviets and the US left and over 200,000 Afghans died in the chaos.” The premier also said that he was worried that a negative spillover of the chaos in Afghanistan would directly affect Pakistan.
Pakistan has undoubtedly been worse affected by the conflict in Afghanistan. As a US ally in the war on terror, we have lost over 80,000 lives and suffered an economic turmoil. The premier is right when he said that it was once referred to as “the most dangerous place on earth”. But it is this tag that the premier and his government need to work towards avoiding, while it goes on with the drum-beating of recognizing the Taliban regime. The leadership in Islamabad must recognize that after coming into power, the Taliban have not kept up with many of the promises it had made in its first presser following the fall of Kabul. Human rights violations are being reported; women are barred from going back to work, while some cities have suspended girls’ education. The threat of the Afghan soil being used by terrorists still looms with recent ISIS-K led attacks in the country.
What is more worrying is PM Imran’s admission that if abandoned by the West, the Taliban may revert back to their old ways – the hardline regime of the 90s that carried out some of the worse human rights violations in history. For the West, such a statement by the premier can come as a validation to their fears. It also gives a confusing image of our narrative as on one end we are after all pushing the West to soften their stance for the Taliban and ‘give them a chance’. While sanctions on Afghanistan are no solution, any softening of heart for the Taliban by Islamabad can prove to be costly. We are part of the global community and it is in our interest to push the Taliban to come true on their promises.