OIC session on Afghanistan: Let’s not squander the opportunity

OIC session on Afghanistan: Let’s not squander the opportunity

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The extraordinary session of the Organization of the Islamic Corporation (OIC) on the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan took place last week in Islamabad. The Assistant Secretary-General of the OIC, Tariq Ali Bakheet, had reiterated his resolve to adopt a comprehensive resolution that would bind member countries to work out a strategy to halt Afghanistan from reaching tipping point. With $10 billion assets frozen in international banks on the advice of the US, in truth there is little hope that Afghanistan can climb out of its financial mores. Even the 31-point OIC resolution was short on specifics and gave no figure for financial assistance to Afghanistan.
The OIC meeting also did not give the Taliban government the recognition it so desperately craves. The fact is, that though the Taliban have been promising to treat women at par with their male counterparts and adopt a governance structure that does not conflict with internationally acceptable standards, there has been little effort to keep the commitment, which has been the major stumbling block in the acceptance of the Taliban as a legitimate government. The world is changing, and so have many Muslim countries. The Taliban have to understand that their governance model failed twenty years ago, and that it shall fail again. Their party owes its citizens a social contract for a respectable and economically sustained livelihood. Finally, the Taliban must understand that it was not the influence of the West or any other region, that made Afghanistan a telltale. In fact, the unaccommodating, inflexible, and self-oriented behavior of the Afghan leadership has repeatedly pushed Afghanistan into a dark alley.

The OIC meeting has happened in a new world order where Muslims are in charge of their fate and direction. Let us not squander this opportunity in the days to follow. 

Durdana Najam

Pakistan did a wise thing to invite the Taliban to the OIC meeting. Obviously, the overriding mandate of the meeting was to create a convergence among the member countries to avert the humanitarian crisis ensuing in Afghanistan, but it will be a short-lived and unsustainable intervention if efforts are not extended to address the mindset that is keeping the Taliban from becoming a normal state in the comity of the world nations. Their mindset is that Islamic and western values clash with one another. This false narrative floated at the beginning of the new century, needs to be revisited. The west has done its part; it is now for the Islamic world to unlearn the theories and policies that have made most Muslim countries a target of imperial powers. 
Saudi Arabia is an example of a state bridging gaps between west and east and sharing a leadership role with the west in international affairs. Convening the OIC meeting on Afghanistan was another step in the direction of taking ownership of the issues of the Muslim world. For too long, Muslim countries have been relying on emotionally driven religious doctrines in the quest to regain the lost glory of Islam, which pushed us backward in science and technology. It is ravishing to see a shift in narrative from theology to climate change, spacecraft, entertainment, and modern work ethics. This is the way to reclaim glory. This is the inspiration that the Taliban should be seeking now. This is the leadership that they should follow and listen to. 
The Taliban have very few choices to pick from. Afghanistan is starving. According to the Disaster Emergency Committee, the umbrella group of 15 aid agencies, 8 million people are at risk of dying because of hunger. More alarming figures were released by the International Rescue Committee, which predicted that next year 97 percent of Afghanistan’s population would be living below the poverty line. Vicki Aken, country director of the IRC in Afghanistan, said that the termination of foreign funding had caused the health care system to collapse. It is also one of the main reasons, according to her, why schools are finding it difficult to reopen.
The OIC meeting has happened in a new world order where Muslims are in charge of their fate and direction. Let us not squander this opportunity in the days to follow. The progress made will be undone if governments refuse to stay engaged with Afghanistan. 

- Durdana Najam is an oped writer based in Lahore. She writes on security and policy issues. 

Twitter: @durdananajam

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