Jack Of All Trades
Bangladesh wants peace and business in Afghanistan
Published : Wednesday, 1 September, 2021 at 12:00 AM Count : 1611
Bangladesh wants to see peace in Afghanistan, security for its people and quick evacuation of stranded foreigners, following Taliban's takeover on August 15, in the wake of hasty US troop withdrawal. Bangladesh Ambassador to Saudi Arabia and Permanent Representative to the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) Javed Patwary, said this at an emergency meeting of OIC on August 22.
As a responsible member of the international community, Bangladesh believes in peaceful coexistence with neighbouring countries and does not interfere in any country's internal affairs, Patwary said in the light of the foreign policy guidelines of his country, drawn by the Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman in 1972. Under the guidelines Bangladesh works with its neighbours for common development and prosperity of South Asia, he said.
Patwary said Bangladesh wants sustainable peace and stability in Afghanistan, and as a bridge between South and Central Asia, Afghanistan should utilise its natural resources and geostrategic position properly. At the OIC meeting Bangladesh wished that the land of Afghanistan would not be allowed for operating terrorist activities against other countries. OIC ended the meeting with a call for steps on establishing peace and stability in Afghanistan in coordination with all OIC members.
However, the two suicide blasts and gun attacks outside Kabul international airport in the evening of August 26, that killed some 170 people including 13 US soldiers and several Taliban militants, indicate that the peace would remain elusive in Afghanistan in the days to come. Islamic State-Khorasan (IS-K), an offshoot of the Islamic State (IS) formerly Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) or the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is the arch rival of Taliban. It is feared that IS-K will launch more attacks in Afghanistan to loosen the Taliban hold in the country.
Following the Kabul blasts on August 26, US President Joe Biden promised that Washington would hunt down the perpetrators of the most lethal incident for US troops in Afghanistan in a decade. Accordingly an overnight US drone attack killed two IS planners and wounded another in Nangarhar province, Khorasan an eastern area that borders Pakistan.
Taliban in its first spell in power in Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001, sheltered Al Qaeda and draw the wrath of the US, which in a series of attacks ousted the Taliban and occupied the country. Since then US with the cooperation of local lackeys ruled the country until its hasty withdrawal as Taliban recaptured almost whole of Afghanistan and the capital Kabul on August 15.
Despite the situation is still fluid in Afghanistan, reports coming out of the country through different sources suggested that though tense, the situation was normal except the incident of Thursday deadly suicide bomb attack. Taliban has not carried out any large scale persecution of adversaries as it had announced general amnesty for all including the collaborators of the US occupational forces.
When Afghanistan's political situation will be normalized, with the formation of a new government, Bangladesh may try to extend its cooperation to the Afghan administration for stabilising order across the country. Bangladesh is likely to share its experiences of eradication of poverty through economic empowerment of its poorer sections of the community by engaging them in different socio-welfare and agricultural projects. Bangladesh is likely to seek to open services in the Information and Communications Technology, garments, agricultural and education sectors initially.
Bangladesh-based world's largest non-governmental organisation BRAC (Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee) has been engaged in developing socio-economic activities since 2002 in Afghanistan which has a population of 35 million, with per capita GDP of $565 and some 39 per cent people living below poverty line. Until the US withdrawal and evacuation of foreigners, BRAC used to provide essential services and support in 95 districts under 14 provinces across the landlocked rugged country.
With support from the UK, the education project of BRAC ensured secondary, higher secondary, technical and vocational education for over 49,000 girls. It worked on systematic reform to improve access and performance of students, primarily through community based schools and hub schools after graduation, in cooperation of the Afghan Ministry of Public Health in reducing the prevalence of malaria. BRAC worked with female community health workers to assist the government in improving access to quality health care, especially for new mothers and children.
BRAC supported social development projects in partnership with the Afghan Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Development through the Citizen's Charter programme and worked with communities, as well as provincial and national level officials of the Ministry, to build their rural infrastructure. BRAC also built people's capacity through its BRAC Training and Resource Centre in Kabul, that trained its own staff, as well staff from other organisations in the public and private sector. BRAC officials have either returned to Bangladesh or left Afghanistan to other countries following the takeover of Kabul by the Taliban. But they will return to Afghanistan when the dusts are settled and Taliban starts formal administration.
Bangladesh's thriving ICT industry with increasing export of local products, now is effectively pondering to enter Afghanistan through government to government initiative and also through BRAC which has already achieved local confidence and widen network among the people. Meanwhile Bangladesh has identified ICT as a thrust sector as it represents potential for successful reforms, job creation, industry growth and high spill over effects to other sectors as well as improving governance and facilitating inclusion. The current World Bank's Country Assistance Strategy for Bangladesh also recognises the key role of ICT in supporting Bangladesh's growth, competitiveness and governance agenda. The Information Technology (IT) Services, and IT-Enabled Services industry presents an attractive segment worth $475 billion that countries are competing for.
Leading Bangladesh ready-made garment (RMG) manufacturers may also ponder to open up units in Afghanistan where people are laborious and under the changed circumstances Taliban might agree to allow women to work under secluded arrangement in industries, as practiced in some conservative Muslim countries. RMG industry is a mainstay of this economic success story of Bangladesh and now it is one of the world's largest garment exporters, with the RMG sector accounting for 84 percent of Bangladesh's exports. This comes on the back of the sector's rapid growth and modernisation over the past decade--as well as the strides it has made in improving conditions for the country's approximately four million garment workers.
Bangladesh has also ample scope to engage its farmers in agricultural sectors in Afghanistan, though which has limited arable lands. Afghanistan with a total area of 652,860 sqkm has 7.5 million hectares of arable land but only a small portion of the land is cultivated due to lack of water and insecurity. Wheat is the most important crop in Afghanistan, followed by rice, barley, and cotton. Most cereal crops are utilized for self-consumption.
Wheat is prominent in all of the major farming systems prevailing in the country and cultivated in every province. National wheat production in 2015 was 5 million tonnes. Afghanistan is nearing self-sufficiency in grain production. It requires an additional 1 million tonnes of wheat to become self-sufficient, which is predicted to be accomplished soon, but the resent change over may delay it further.
Bangladesh produced 37.4 million tonnes of rice in 2020 as per an official figure. However, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) said Bangladesh produced 35.8 million tonnes of rice in 2020. Bangladesh also produces 2.0 million tonnes of wheat a year. Agriculture makes nearly 15 percent of Bangladesh's GDP and employing about 43 percent of the workforce.
Taliban with the help of their Asian neighbours and well wishers can start a fresh march towards modernisation and prosperity if they shun religious extremism and pursue moderate policies with inclusion of all communities for political stability and economic prosperity.
The writer is business editor,
The Daily Observer