Pakistan Urges U.S. to Unfreeze Afghanistan Funds So Country Can Have 'Normalcy'

Pakistan is urging the United States to unfreeze funds for the Afghan government to allow the country to have "normalcy," the Associated Press reported.

In an interview with the AP, Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi discussed ideas for international cooperation with Afghanistan and its new rulers, the Taliban.

Qureshi urged for the U.S., the International Monetary Fund and other countries that have frozen funds meant for Afghanistan to release the money to be used "for promoting normalcy in Afghanistan."

As Afghanistan's neighbor, Pakistan is seeking to benefit from peace and stability in the region, and hopes international communications can resume to help Afghanistan recover. Qureshi pledged that his country is ready to play a "constructive, positive" role for opening communication channels with the Taliban.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Afghan Women Pakistan Protest
Pakistan is urging the U.S. and other countries to unfreeze funds for Afghanistan's government to promote "normalcy" in the country. Above, a Taliban fighter stands guard as Afghan women shout slogans during an anti-Pakistan protest rally, near the Pakistan embassy in Kabul on September 7. Hoshang Hashimi/AFP via Getty Images

Be realistic. Show patience. Engage. And above all, don't isolate. Those are the pillars of an approach emerging in Pakistan to deal with the fledgling government that is suddenly running the country next door once again—Afghanistan's resurgent, often-volatile Taliban.

Pakistan's government is proposing that the international community develop a road map that leads to diplomatic recognition of the Taliban—with incentives if they fulfill its requirements—and then sit down face to face and talk it out with the militia's leaders.

Qureshi outlined the idea Wednesday in an interview with the Associated Press on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly's meeting of world leaders.

"If they live up to those expectations, they would make it easier for themselves, they will get acceptability, which is required for recognition," Qureshi told the AP. "At the same time, the international community has to realize: What's the alternative? What are the options? This is the reality, and can they turn away from this reality?"

He said that Pakistan "is in sync with the international community" in wanting to see a peaceful, stable Afghanistan with no space for militant elements to increase their foothold, and for the Taliban to ensure "that Afghan soil is never used again against any country."

"But we are saying, be more realistic in your approach," Qureshi said. "Try an innovative way of engaging with them. The way that they were being dealt with has not worked."

Expectations from the Taliban leadership could include an inclusive government and assurances for human rights, especially for women and girls, Qureshi said. In turn, he said, the Afghan government might be motivated by receiving development, economic and reconstruction aid to help recover from decades of war.

Pakistan has a long and sometimes conflicted relationship with its neighbor that includes attempts to prevent terrorism there and, some say, also encouraging it. The Islamabad government has a fundamental vested interest in ensuring that whatever the new Afghanistan offers, it is not a threat to Pakistan.

That, Qureshi says, requires a steady and calibrated approach.

"It has to be a realistic assessment, a pragmatic view on both sides, and that will set the tone for recognition eventually," the Pakistani minister said. The good news, he said: The Taliban are listening, "and they are not insensitive to what is being said by neighbors and the international community."

How does he know they're listening? He says the interim government, drawn mostly from Afghanistan's dominant Pashtun ethnic group, made some additions on Tuesday. It added representatives from the country's ethnic minorities—Tajiks, Uzbeks and Hazaras, who are Shiite Muslims in the majority Sunni Muslim country.

"Yes, there are no women yet," Qureshi said. "But let us let the situation evolve."

He stressed that the Taliban must make decisions in coming days and weeks that will enhance their acceptability.

"What the international community can do, in my view, is sit together and work out a roadmap," Qureshi said. "And if they fulfill those expectations, this is what the international community can do to help them stabilize their economy. This is the humanitarian assistance that can be provided. This is how they can help rebuild Afghanistan, reconstruction and so on and so forth."

He added: "With this roadmap ahead, I think an international engagement can be more productive."

On Wednesday night, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said after a meeting of the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council that all five nations—the United States, China, Britain, Russia and France—want "an Afghanistan at peace, stable, where humanitarian aid can be distributed without problems or discrimination."

He also described a hoped-for "Afghanistan where the rights of women and girls are respected, an Afghanistan that won't be a sanctuary for terrorism, an Afghanistan where we have an inclusive government representing the different sectors of the population."

Qureshi said there are different forums where the international community can work out the best way to approach the situation. In the meantime, he asserted, things seem to be stabilizing. Less than six weeks after the Taliban seized power on August 15, he said, Pakistan has received information that the law-and-order situation has improved, fighting has stopped and many internally displaced Afghans are going home.

"That's a positive sign," Qureshi said.

Pakistan Foreign Minister
Pakistan is urging the U.S. and other countries to unfreeze Afghan government funding to promote "normalcy" in the country. Above, Pakistan's Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi speaks during an interview with the Associated Press, September 22, in New York. Mary Altaffer/AP Photo