Statement by Ambassador Munir Akram, Permanent Representative of Pakistan to the United Nations, during the Security Council Briefing on United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) (17 November 2021)

Mr. President,

The Pakistan delegation is grateful for the opportunity to participate in this Council's review of the situation in Afghanistan.

We appreciate the briefing provided by the Special Representative of the Secretary-General, Ambassador Deborah Lyons. It was a very comprehensive briefing and I would like to compliment you on that and the role which UNAMA is playing in stabilizing the situation in Afghanistan.

We have also heard from two Afghans citizens, Ms. Karimi whose emotional message obviously resonates with us and Ambassador Isaczai who represents a country but not a government. We believe that this meeting of the Council and similar congregations would benefit from perhaps hearing those who are actually ruling in Kabul and getting a comprehensive picture of the situation there rather than an ex-parte discussion of this nature.

Mr. President,

The nightmare scenarios that were feared after 15 August have not come to pass. There has been no widespread violence or violation of human rights in Afghanistan. According to UN agencies and humanitarian organizations the security situation is vastly improved. The interim government has allowed and facilitated the provision of direct assistance to the Afghan people including through women, aid workers and I would like Madam Lyons to confirm that. It is responding positively to engagement with the international community, including the neighboring countries.

The glass may yet be half full; yet engagement has yielded progress on several concerns of the international community. This unfortunately has not been fully reflected in our debate today. Girl schools up to the level of grade six are open all across Afghanistan. I think Ambassador Lyons will confirm that too. Universities are open with women attending those universities in segregated classes. We are told by the Taliban that secondary schools are not open because they lack teachers and the ability to pay the teachers in order to open those schools.

The immediate challenge, of course, is the dire humanitarian and economic crisis in Afghanistan. Half the population - 28 million people - face acute food insecurity. Winter will exacerbate hunger and deprivation especially in the inaccessible parts of Afghanistan. We commend the efforts of the Secretary-General and the UN and international organizations - WFP, OCHA, UNDP, UNICEF, WHO, FAO and others - in responding to the food and other humanitarian needs of the Afghan people. They report that they are receiving "excellent cooperation" from the government in Kabul. We are grateful that the Secretary-General's flash Appeal for 2021 has been fully funded. But, more help is needed: to avoid a humanitarian disaster and an economic collapse. Humanitarian organizations are also facing practical challenges due to the existence of bilateral and Security Council sanctions. As the Secretary-General has said, humanitarian assistance must be unconditional and I am therefore shocked at the demands here to leverage humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan in order to extract political concessions. This is contrary to international law. We hope that appropriate decisions will be made to enable the UN and other organizations to overcome their practical problems that are impeding the critically needed assistance to the Afghan people.

The larger crisis that is looming is the danger of a complete economic collapse. Cash is needed to revive the economy - to pay salaries, restore small businesses, revive the banking system. We welcome the establishment of the UN's Special Trust Fund. We trust that this and similar mechanisms will be set up quickly to scale up the flow of money and stabilize the Afghan economy. And, that the unjustified freeze on Afghanistan's assets will be lifted soon.

The consequences of a major humanitarian crisis and economic collapse in Afghanistan will be horrendous; massive human suffering, the outflow of millions of additional Afghan refugees, the likelihood of chaos and further conflict and reinforcement of Daesh and other terrorist groups. When the millions of Afghan refugees start flowing across our borders, Mr. President, we who are hosting 4 million Afghan refugees already will not be able to take more, they will have to go elsewhere. These are consequences which the international community must avoid.

Pakistan is doing all it can. We have committed $30 million in assistance to Afghanistan. Wheat, rice, emergency medical supplies and other essential items are being sent to Afghanistan. We have lifted duties on imports of Afghan commodities. We are facilitating transit trade; providing essential medicines, refurbishing Afghan hospitals. Pakistan is also facilitating the WFP's delivery of 10,000 tons of wheat flour, and a humanitarian air service has been set up - an air bridge - between Islamabad and Kabul.

During the recent visit of the acting Foreign Minister of the Kabul authorities, accompanied by the acting Finance, Trade and Aviation Ministers to Islamabad, Pakistan agreed to provide training for doctors, nurses and paramedics, in ATC, aviation safety and other fields, and other steps to help stabilize Afghanistan's economic governance.

Pakistan has also taken concrete steps towards Afghan stability. We initiated the platform of the six neighbouring countries plus Russia which has met twice and will meet again early next year in China.The aim is to promote a regional consensus on steps to normalize the situation in Afghanistan, especially through economic integration and connectivity.

The Extended Troika grouping of China, Pakistan, Russia and the US, is a key format to promote the political decisions required to stabilize Afghanistan and the region. The Extended Troika met last week in Islamabad and also interacted with the visiting acting Afghan Foreign Minister. The meeting conveyed the expectations of the members of the Extended Troika on: inclusivity; human rights; girls education and women's participation; prevention of vengeful acts against former government officials; elimination of the presence of terrorist organizations within Afghanistan and controlling drug trafficking.

For his part, the acting Foreign Minister of Afghanistan conveyed that the authorities in Kabul have disavowed revenge and announced an amnesty for its former opponents and functionaries who are now incorporated in the governance structures and Ministries in Kabul. The evacuations of people wishing to leave Afghanistan are allowed in the normal manner. There has been progress towards opening of girl's schools and universities. Women are working in the health and education sectors; and their right to work in other sectors is recognized. The interim government has also reaffirmed assurances in all formats that Afghanistan's soil will not be used against any country; that it will take effective action against Daesh/IS-K. It has sought assistance in countering the menace of drug trafficking. It has also called for unfreezing of Afghanistan's assets. This would be the best affirmation of solidarity with the people of Afghanistan.

Mr. President,

The process of engagement with the interim government in Kabul has produced progress towards the objectives and expectations of the international community. It should be continued and intensified. It is through such further engagement and dialogue - rather than coercion - that the international community will be able to advance its desire for an inclusive government, respect for human rights, especially the rights of women, and effective counter-terrorism. While pressing its concerns, the international community must also remain realistic and responsive to Afghanistan's humanitarian and economic needs, its cultural, and historical circumstances. I endorse the SRSG Lyon's suggestion for a roadmap towards t normalization in Afghanistan - a roadmap which would lead eventually to international acceptance and eventual recognition and representation of the new government at the United Nations.

Pakistan believes that UNAMA will continue to have an important and vital role in this process of normalization in Afghanistan. We hope that UNAMA's renewed mandate will be responsive to the role it should play in such a process of normalization.

Unfortunately, there are some in our region which, for narrow national reasons, continue to play the role of a "spoiler" in Afghanistan. They are still involved in schemes to destabilize Afghanistan. They must be isolated and exposed.

Mr. President,

After 40 years, there is an opportunity for peace throughout Afghanistan and opportunity to root out terrorism from there. This opportunity must not be lost at the altar of ego, revenge or disappointment, much less allowed to be sabotaged by those who see personal or strategic gain in continued conflict and chaos in Afghanistan.

I thank you.