Islamabad: Pakistani officials have admitted that the killing of Al Qaeda leader Ayman al Zawahiri in Kabul was a serious setback to the Afghan Taliban’s efforts to seek legitimacy, according to sources.
The sources foresaw difficult times ahead for the interim Afghan government as the US administration was unlikely to release the frozen funds, The Express Tribune reported.
“This is a worrying development for Pakistan too,” said one official who dealt with the subject.
The official, while speaking on condition of anonymity, told The Express Tribune that the lack of access to billions of dollars of frozen assets by the Afghan government would add to the war-torn country’s economic woes.
Besides, the official added that this meant Afghans would rely heavily on Pakistan.
The official further said Pakistan’s economy was already reeling from one crisis to another and further economic disaster in the neighbouring country would not bode well for Islamabad, The Express Tribune reported.
There were reports that one of the reasons Pakistan’s currency saw a dip in recent weeks was that there was smuggling of dollars to Afghanistan.
It was because of this reason Pakistan had been pushing for the release of funds for the Afghan government, the official explained.
“This would not have helped review the Afghan economy but would have eased pressure on our exchange rate,” the official added.
However, observers believed that mere humanitarian assistance would not be enough as the Afghan government desperately needs foreign reserves to pull the country out of its current quagmire.
It was not just Zawahiri’s killing but the reluctance of the Afghan Taliban to permit girls’ education also emerged as another stumbling block that prevented the US and West to provide financial assistance.
A Pakistani official said there were differences even within the Taliban ranks.
The group that currently is part of the government understands the importance of financial assistance and hence is willing to accommodate the West’s concerns. However, the top leadership sitting in Kandahar is not willing to mend their ways just because of the international community’s expectations, the official added, Express Tribune reported.
Pakistan fears that without meeting the international community’s demands, there will not be any recognition of the Afghan Taliban’s rule.
“This scenario will only make matters worse. No recognition means no financial assistance. Afghanistan will remain volatile. This is certainly the last thing we want,” the official cautioned.
Another signal pointing to hard times ahead for the Afghan Taliban was failure of the UN Security Council to extend the travel exemption to the group’s leaders.
The UN waiver allowing 13 Afghan Taliban officials to travel abroad expired on Friday, as China and Russia called for an extension.
However, the US and Western nations have sought a reduced list of Taliban officials allowed to travel to protest against their backtracking on commitment for girls’ education and failure to form an inclusive government as it had promised.
Under a 2011 UN Security Council resolution, 135 Taliban officials were subjected to sanctions that included asset freezes and travel bans.
However, 13 of them were granted exemptions from the travel ban to allow them to meet officials from other countries abroad for peace talks, Express Tribune reported.