Gains for Pakistan at the OIC summit

Article first published in The Nation on 22-Dec-2022. Article being published on with the consent of writer.

The two-day 17th extraordinary summit of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), the second largest multilateral forum in the world, was held in Islamabad. The summit concluded on Sunday, demanding the US to unfreeze the $9.5 billion in foreign assets to Afghanistan. Participants of the conference urged the world community for urgent help to the Afghan people and also announced the setting up of a humanitarian trust fund and a food security programme for Afghanistan. There were no immediate pledges for the fund except from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) and Pakistan. Saudi Arabia promised $265 million and Pakistan $30 million. The Islamic Development Bank would lead the effort to free up assistance by March next year.

Though the summit was based on the single-point agenda of support for the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan, organising the 17th extraordinary summit in Islamabad is a big foreign policy win for Pakistan. It is a moral and political victory of Pakistan in a highly nationalised global environment. Envoys from 57 Islamic nations as well as observer delegations participated in the session. The conference was attended by 20 foreign ministers, 10 deputy foreign ministers and 70 delegates.

The summit, hosted by Pakistan, also provides new impetus to the second largest multilateral forum in the world. OIC, which is gradually losing its impact in the Ummah, has gained some momentum. Regional disputes among Muslim states have widened the gap among them. The region disputed in the Middle East has not only weakened the organisation but has provided an opportunity for outer forces to meddle in their issues.

Pakistan’s foreign policy has always been shaped by external influences, particularly the situation on its eastern and western borders. The long drawn Russia-Afghan war and the disintegration of the USSR had a lasting impact on the internal and external security situation of Pakistan. When the Russian war against Afghanistan ended, resulting in the disintegration of the USSR, the security dynamics had changed for Pakistan. Three million Afghan refugees and the Kalashnikov and drug culture were the reward for Pakistan in lieu of the support Pakistan extended to the US’ fight against Russia.

The biggest success of this extraordinary summit is Pakistan’s effort to present to the world that the 23 million Afghans who are facing a human-made crisis are not an extension of the Taliban. They are normal citizens of Afghanistan and also victims of the long drawn war which the US waged twenty years ago. The Afghan people must be helped in kind and the Taliban government must be engaged politically to pull Afghanistan out of crisis. The world must look at the Afghans and the Taliban with a different lens.

Hosting member countries of the OIC gathering for the single agenda of the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan is itself a success for Pakistan. It may not be a political summit, yet it signifies everything. The message was loud and clear to the US and the world community that US policies of punishing nations at will are no more acceptable.

The summit on the Afghanistan issue speaks volume of KSA’s changing outlook and its broadened policies towards other Muslim countries. The summit also signifies the importance of the region and the priority the world attaches to Afghanistan and Pakistan. It also exhibits Pakistan’s desire that the world must come forward to share the burden of the Afghan crisis. It also reflects that KSA, which is the leader of the OIC, is also looking for out-of-the-box solutions in terms of its relations with the world. The summit testifies that the US will not be allowed to play with the lives of millions of Afghans. Global affairs demand equal attention from the superpower and global institutions.

Pakistan and Afghanistan have been the most affected countries due to US adventures in the 1980s and 2001. On both occasions, the US abandoned Pakistan and Afghanistan. Pakistan had to face the consequences of the Russia-Afghanistan war. A spillover of 3 million refugees resulted into social and economic disorder. Trained militia was abandoned on the Pak-Afghan border which ultimately tuned into organised terror outfits supported by India and many other stakeholders to carry out terrorism across the globe. It gave rise to the gun culture and extremism in Pakistan. This is the second time that the exit of the US from Afghanistan has created extreme security issues for Pakistan. Before pointing fingers towards Pakistan, the world must know the efforts of Pakistan for peace talks between the US and the Taliban for a stable Afghanistan. The support Pakistan rendered during the exit of the US from Afghanistan and now post-withdrawal efforts to stabilise Afghanistan and help 23 million Afghans suffering due to an acute food shortage and health issues has been recognised by the world. Pakistan has emerged as the most credible and responsible country to pull Afghanistan out of the crisis.

Morgenthau, a famous political scientist states that, “there can be no political morality without prudence; that is, without consideration of the political consequences of seemingly moral action. Thus global politics considers prudence—the weighing of the consequences of alternative political actions—to be the supreme virtue in politics. Political ethics judges action by its political consequences. Classical and medieval philosophy knew this, and so did Lincoln when he said: I do the very best I know how, the very best I can, and I mean to keep doing so until the end. If the end brings me out all right, what is said against me won’t amount to anything. If the end brings me out wrong, ten angels swearing I was right would make no difference”. The end result in Afghanistan is the faulty policies of the US during the last twenty years.

During the conference, the Pakistani leadership pointed out that Afghanistan is heading for chaos. Any government, when it cannot pay salaries to public servants, doctors and nurses, will ultimately collapse and plunge into chaos and chaos suits no one. Owing to a dearth of resources, if the Afghan government remained unable to counter terrorism, other countries may also face its spillover effects. The presence of IS-Khorasan in Afghanistan is threatening for regional security and the only way to handle the terror outfit is a stable Afghanistan. IS-K is capable of carrying out international attacks. The Taliban must also realign their policies with international norms and understand the needs for the formulation of an inclusive government and respect for human rights, particularly women. The Taliban must not allow Afghan soil to be used for terrorism in other countries.

The OIC summit is a positive step towards resolving the regional security issue and a leap forward to help the millions of Afghans facing a severe food, medicine and water shortage and harsh weather conditions. The summit also manifests Pakistan’s open foreign policy options in the existing environment.

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