DOHA: UN chief Antonio Guterres made a new attack on the Taliban government’s “unprecedented” curbs on Afghan women’s rights on Tuesday as he highlighted international fears over stability in the crisis-stricken state.
Meanwhile, Afghan Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi will visit Islamabad at the end of the week for talks with Pakistani and Chinese officials, his ministry said.
The United Nations is reviewing its Afghan operations after the Taliban authorities banned women working for aid agencies, but Guterres said leading powers at a two-day meeting in Doha wanted new efforts to try to change its policies.
The review will only be completed on Friday and the UN has said it faces an “appalling choice” over whether to stay in Afghanistan.
Afghan FM to visit Islamabad at end of week for talks with Pakistani, Chinese officials, ministry says
But Guterres told a press conference: “Throughout the past decades, we stayed, and we delivered. And we are determined to seek the necessary conditions to keep delivering. To achieve our objectives we cannot disengage and many (in the meeting) called for engagement to be more effective.”
The UN secretary general called the talks to seek new ways to pressure the Taliban government after it banned Afghan women from working for UN agencies and NGOs.
That added to international outrage after they were also barred from almost all secondary and university education and most government jobs.
The talks involved envoys from the United States, Russia, China and 20 other countries and organisations, including major European donors and neighbours such as Pakistan. Taliban authorities were not invited however and Guterres said he was not ready to meet them “today”, though he did not discount a future meeting.
The head of the Taliban representative office in Doha, Suhail Shaheen, said that excluding a representative at the meeting could prove “counter-productive”.
“Putting pressure doesn’t help in solution of issues,” Shaheen told AFP in a written statement.
“The world should listen to us. By denying our legitimate rights and not inviting us to meetings about Afghanistan or not listening to us, they neither can change the reality which is IEA (the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan) nor can find a palatable solution which is a need.”
The UN secretary general said countries at the talks had raised fears over rights, “the persistent presence of terrorist organisations” and drug trafficking. “The participants are worried about the stability of Afghanistan and expressed those serious concerns.”
Guterres said the “unacceptable” ban on women taking part in aid agency work “puts lives in jeopardy” because of their vital role.
“We will never be silent in the face of unprecedented and systemic attacks on women and girls’ rights,” said Guterres.
Afghan FM to visit Pakistan
Mr Muttaqi is scheduled to visit Islamabad by the end of the current week, an Afghan foreign ministry statement said on Tuesday, without specifying a date.
However, according to a letter of Pakistan’s UN mission said Mr Muttaqi would travel between May 6-9, the state-run APP news agency reported.
It said the minister would lead a comprehensive political and business delegation.
Afghan Foreign Ministry deputy spokesman Hafiz Zia Takkal posted the statement in Pashto on his official Twitter account, Dawn.com reported.
“The Afghan government wants to hold comprehensive bilateral talks on political, Pakistan-Afghanistan economic relations, regional stability and transit,” the statement said.
The minister will represent Afghanistan in a trilateral meeting with the foreign ministers of Pakistan and China. It will be the sixth such trilateral meeting.
Mr Muttaqi is subject to a UN travel ban but has previously been given exemptions for official visits to Pakistan.
A UNSC committee earlier accepted a Pakistani request to allow the acting Mr Muttaqi to travel to Pakistan, according to Ambassador Munir Akram.
Published in Dawn, May 3rd, 2023