Afghanistan’s tragedy

Editorial Board
Thursday, Jun 23, 2022

An earthquake of magnitude 6.1 in the Khost and Paktika provinces of Afghanistan has claimed nearly 1,000 lives and caused extensive destruction in the early hours of June 22. Hundreds of people have been injured and the death toll is likely to increase as Afghanistan lacks a functioning rescue and response system in case of natural calamities. Paktika is located in the country’s eastern region where there are hundreds of mountain villages remote from highways. This remoteness is compounding the problems of rescue efforts that a ramshackle government of the Taliban is trying to make. As more details trickle in, there may be harrowing stories of deaths and devastation. Though the Taliban government has launched a rescue operation with helicopters to reach the injured and take in medical supplies and food, the country is in need of immediate international help. In a country such as Afghanistan where modern machinery to remove the rubble is in short supply, it may take days or even weeks before the rescue workers can recover all the bodies.

Afghanistan is already suffering from internal strife. It has become one of the most isolated countries in the world and the refusal of the Taliban to mend their ways has caused a severe economic crisis. Despite the stubbornness of the Taliban, this is no time to settle scores or indulge in a morbid game of watching the miseries of the Afghan people. It has been 10 months since the US-led international forces withdrew after two decades of war. In this period, no substantial support has come to the Afghan citizens who have endured over four decades of war and destruction. In this time of tragedy, they need immediate help and the governments that have imposed sanctions on Afghanistan must lift them or at least announce some relaxation so that other countries may channel aid to Afghanistan. Afghanistan’s banking sector is in a state of paralysis due to these sanctions and the billions of dollars’ worth of development aid that sustained the Afghan economy has dried up. Now is the time for sidestepping those sanctions and resuming humanitarian aid through international agencies.

The UN must take the lead in the aid and rescue efforts in Afghanistan and neighbours should relax border controls so that the injured can get medical treatment. Right now, Afghan people need much more than condolences and sympathies from neighbouring countries and from the world community. The world must extend all possible assistance to Afghanistan without any prejudice to the Taliban’s ideology and practices. The world must show its solidarity with the people in need, irrespective of who is running the government in Afghanistan. Natural calamities can hit anywhere in the world and such times call for concerted efforts to help the affected people.