ISLAMABAD: Pakistan has called for "urgent and unconditional" humanitarian assistance in Afghanistan during Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi's meeting with UN Secretary General Antonio, the Pakistani foreign office said on Saturday.
UN agencies warned earlier this month that a major humanitarian crisis is looming in Afghanistan, but Western powers have been in a difficult balancing act in the aftermath of the Taliban seizure of the country in August — reluctant to recognize the group while accepting the reality that they will have to engage with it to prevent it from an economic collapse.
Qureshi met Guterres on the sidelines of the 76th session of the UN General Assembly in New York on Friday.
"Foreign Minister Qureshi urged positive engagement and requisite action by the international community to provide humanitarian assistance and financial support to Afghan people," the foreign office said in a statement, adding that Guterres had agreed with Qureshi that "urgent and unconditional humanitarian assistance as well as financial support should be provided to the Afghan people to prevent a humanitarian disaster or an economic collapse."
He also highlighted Pakistan’s efforts to address the situation by establishing a humanitarian corridor in support of the UN's efforts for the delivery of relief aid to Afghanistan by land and air.
In a pre-recorded address to the UN General Assembly’s annual high-level debate, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan said it was a "critical time for Afghanistan."
"Help is needed there. Humanitarian assistance has to be given there immediately,” he said, citing UN's own estimates that half of Afghanistan's population is already vulnerable, and by next year almost 90 percent of them will fall below the poverty line.
Noting “bold steps” taken by the UN Secretary-General, Khan urged the global leaders to “mobilize the international community and move in this direction.”
Since last month, UN agencies have been warning that Afghanistan is facing an economic collapse, with people struggling to feed their families amid severe drought. According to Human Rights Watch estimates, more than 30 percent of the country was facing acute food insecurity before the Taliban takeover. Now over 40 percent as the country has been isolated.