Can OIC and Taliban deliver?

The mindset that Islamic and western values clash with one another needs to be revisited

Durdana Najam December 30, 2021

the writer is a public policy analyst based in lahore she tweets durdananajam

The writer is a public policy analyst based in Lahore. She tweets @durdananajam

Foreign ministers of the member states of the Organization of Islamic Corporation (OIC) got together in Islamabad last week to work out a plan of action to avert the ensuing humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan. Not a single Islamic country had thus far recognised Afghanistan, and it was expected that this moot might get the ball rolling in that direction. But it was not to be. The 57-member organisation pledged to establish a fund to assist Afghanistan in what is being called one of the worst humanitarian crises to hit any country in decades. The organisation has also decided to work with the United Nations for release of Afghanistan’s assets worth about $10 billion from international banks, which had been frozen on the advice of the US. The 31-point OIC resolution, however, was short on specifics and gave no figure for financial assistance to Afghanistan.

OIC is the second-largest organisation after the United Nations, with a membership of 57 states spread over four continents. The organisation has been instrumental in many ways, like in alleviating hunger and raising the bar of equality for Muslims in its member states as well as countries that had joined it as observers. However, the organisation’s inability to intervene effectively in solving the issue of Palestine, Kashmir and Afghanistan has rendered it perceptually a non-effective organisation. When India revoked the autonomous status of Kashmir in August 2019, there was complete silence in the Arab world.

Other than Turkey, the Islamic world preferred to remain isolated from India’s decision. Pakistan goaded OIC into convening an extraordinary session to condemn India’s unilateral decision to annex Kashmir, a disputed land between India and Pakistan. Nothing happened, however. Condemnation did follow, but it had lost teeth because Saudi Arabia, the architect of the OIC, had given a red carpet welcome to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on his arrival in the Kingdom shortly after the annexation. The United Arab Emirates followed suit in honouring India as its leading partner in business. To date, Pakistan is practically the lone voice highlighting India’s atrocities on the Muslims of occupied Kashmir. In his keynote address at the OIC meeting in Islamabad, Imran Khan, the Prime Minister of Pakistan, tried to stir the conscience of the Muslim countries by talking about Kashmir. Did it register with the participating countries is a million-dollar question and the one that may never be answered.

Palestine is another issue that could never find an audience in the OIC. Not that it remained silent whenever Israel threw missiles on the unarmed and innocent people and children of Gaza, but the organisation’s effort could not go beyond criticism.

Similarly, despite being a platform of the world’s wealthiest countries, the OIC had to take up the cause of Myanmar’s Rohingya Muslims to the United Nations General Assembly.

Unity among the Muslim countries is the most desirous thing today, but most of these countries are pitted against each other for one reason or another. If not directly involved in the conflict, some countries intervene through proxies in others’ affairs. This is what happened persistently in Afghanistan, this is what happened in Syria, and this happened when a no-fly zone was imposed over Libya in connivance with the western countries.

It is a good omen that the OIC has taken the lead in lending assistance to Afghanistan, and so far, the US has also agreed to relax sanctions to allow the release of funds.

The OIC member states have urged the Taliban to abide by “obligations under international human rights covenants, especially with regards to the rights of women, children, youth, elderly and people with special needs”. A team of religious scholars under the OIC banner would travel to Afghanistan to engage the Taliban on issues “such as, but not limited to, tolerance and moderation in Islam, equal access to education and women’s rights in Islam”. Though the Taliban have promised to give women rights equal to their male counterparts and build a governance structure that does not interfere with the internationally acceptable standards, there has been little effort to keep the commitment.

The mandate of the meeting to create a convergence among the member countries to build an internationally acceptable governance model will be unsustainable if efforts are not extended to address the mindset that is keeping the Taliban from becoming a normal state in the comity of the nations. Their mindset that Islamic and western values clash with one another needs to be revisited. The West has done its part; it is now for the Islamic world to unlearn the theories that have brought Muslims in the cross hairs of imperial powers.

Published in The Express Tribune, December 30th, 2021.

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