Taliban refuse Pakistan aid for quake victims

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ISLAMABAD: The interim Afghan government has refused to accept aid from Pakistan for the earthquake victims as tensions between the two neighbours continue to strain relations between them.

Afghanistan was struck by a 6.3 magnitude earthquake last Saturday, leaving at least 1,000 people dead and affecting many villages. There was further damage when another quake hit the region on Wednesday.

Pakistan was quick to offer support as Prime Minister Anwaarul Haq Kakar announced sending rescue and relief teams along with essential aid. However, the consignment and rescuers were not dispatched to Afghanistan after Kabul refused to give clearance. Although there was no official word from either side, the current tension between the two countries seemed to be the main reason for the Afghan rejection.

The Express Tribune was given to understand that since the earthquake hit Herat province, which was close to Iran, it was not possible for Pakistan to send its teams and goods due to logistic reasons.

Another factor was seen as the lack of capacity by the Afghan authorities to distribute the aid already reached Afghanistan by the international community.

However, it has been learnt that the main reason Pakistan did not send rescue and relief teams and the aid because of Afghan Taliban’s reluctance to accept them.

The development was seen in the context of ongoing tension between the two countries over the banned Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).

Also, further complicating the relationship was Pakistan’s recent series of moves that include deportation of all illegal Afghan immigrants, visa policy for Afghans and restrictions imposed on the Afghan imports.

At a weekly news briefing on Thursday, Foreign Office spokesperson Mumtaz Zahra Baloch said Pakistan expressed deep sympathy with its Afghan “brothers and sisters, as they face a very difficult situation following the earthquake that took place a few days ago”.

“Pakistan also stands in solidarity with its Afghan brothers and sisters and remain in contact with the Interim Afghan Government to meet any needs that they may have during the relief and recovery efforts,” she added without further sharing details as to why Pakistan did not dispatch aid to the neighbouring country yet.

Meanwhile, the spokesperson strongly condemned the “indiscriminate and disproportionate” use of force by Israeli authorities against civilian population in Gaza and called for an immediate cessation of hostilities.

“We are deeply concerned about the fast-deteriorating and dire humanitarian situation in Gaza due to the inhumane blockade and collective punishment by Israeli forces. The decision to cut off electricity, fuel and water supplies is unjust and should be reversed, as it would severely impact the lives of the Palestinians residing in the enclave,” she stressed.

The FO spokesperson further said Israel should immediately cease “indiscriminate bombing” of Gaza people. “It should fulfill its obligations as an occupying power under international law, lift the blockade and allow unhindered access to humanitarian aid to the Palestinian people.”

She noted that the current “cycle of aggression and violence” was a “sad reminder” and a direct consequence of over seven decades of “illegal foreign occupation, aggression, and disrespect for international law”, including UNSC resolutions that recognize the inalienable right to self-determination of the Palestinian people.

Pakistan had been constantly warning against serious consequences of Israel’s escalatory and provocative actions in recent months.

“The unprecedented gravity of the situation demands urgent intervention by the international community. We urge the United Nations to play a proactive role in facilitating a ceasefire to alleviate the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Gaza. The international community must work in concert for a just, comprehensive and lasting two-state solution with a viable, sovereign and contiguous State of Palestine on the basis of pre-1967 borders, with Al Quds Al-Sharif as its capital. Peace in the Middle East will remain elusive in the absence of such a solution.”

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