Pakistan pledges US$ 28 m in Afghanistan humanitarian support
Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan has announced more than $28m medical, food and other humanitarian assistance for Afghanistan, while also authorising the transport of food aid from India through Pakistan to Afghanistan, his office says.
Khan met his country’s army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa and top government officials, including the foreign minister, finance minister and national security adviser, in the Pakistani capital Islamabad on Monday.
“[The PM] ordered an immediate shipment of in-kind humanitarian assistance worth 5 billion Pakistani rupees [roughly $28.4m], which will comprise food commodities including 50,000 [metric tonnes] of wheat, emergency medical supplies, winter shelters and other supplies,” a statement released following the meeting said.
The Pakistani government will also reduce tariffs and sales tax on certain Afghan exports to Pakistan, the statement said. Khan’s office said that it would allow 50,000 metric tonnes of wheat offered by India as humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan “to go through Pakistan as soon as modalities are finalised with the Indian side”.
The aid had been offered earlier this month, and on November 11, the Indian foreign ministry said it had been facing obstacles in accessing Afghanistan.
“[W]e have been looking at the possibilities, but there have been difficulties due to lack of unimpeded access,” said Indian foreign ministry spokesman Arindam Bagchi.
Pakistan says it will also facilitate the return of Afghans seeking medical treatment in India who had been stranded there since the Taliban takeover of Pakistan’s northwestern neighbour in August.
A delegation of Afghan health officials is due to visit Islamabad for talks with Pakistani counterparts on Pakistani humanitarian assistance, the statement said.
Also on Monday, a delegation of two senior US congressmen – US House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Gregory Meeks and Foreign Affairs Asia sub-committee Chairman Ami Bera – held talks in Islamabad with the Pakistani prime minister, foreign minister and other officials.
In their meeting, Khan reiterated the Pakistani position that there was a need to engage with the Taliban government in Kabul to avert a potential humanitarian disaster, his office said in a statement.
“The Prime Minister also hoped that ways and means would be found to address the liquidity issue and enable banking channels to help Afghanistan sustain its immediate economic burden and challenges,” the statement said, referring to more than $9.5bn in Afghan central bank reserves that remain frozen by the US.
A brief US House Foreign Affairs committee statement confirmed the visit and the two congressmen’s meetings.
“While in Pakistan, the delegation conveyed appreciation for Pakistan’s efforts in support of the evacuation of American citizens and lawful permanent residents from Afghanistan, and exchanged views on a wide range of issues including counter terrorism, the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan, climate change and trade,” said the US statement.