Fahad Ali is concerned about discriminatory policies of the Afghan regime
It is widely resented that the Kabul regime continues to follow discriminatory policies against Afghan worldview and women in Afghanistan. The most worrying aspect is that the regime is unwilling to alter its policies in this respect raising serious reservations about its worldview that is largely condemned to be anachronistic and absolutely not in line with rational policy perception pursued by countries. The resentment about the Afghan regime’s policies is almost universal and its recent reflection is the boycott by Australian cricket team of international matches against Afghanistan in response to the Afghan Taliban’s unacceptable treatment of women and girls. Standing by Cricket Australia, the Australian government welcomed its decision to withdraw from the upcoming men’s One Day International series against Afghanistan. Many Australians associated with official sector of the country reiterated that the erosion of women’s rights in Afghanistan is appalling and worthy of every condemnation or peaceful act of protest. In this connection it is pointed out that international boycott of South African cricket during the apartheid era is a powerful reminder of the impact that refusing to play can have in the fight for justice.
The extremely discriminatory policies followed by the Afghan regime have resulted in increasing violence against women. Just recently, gunmen shot dead an Afghan former lawmaker and one of her bodyguards in a night-time attack at her home. Mursal Nabizada had been a member of parliament in the US-backed government. Police also informed that a brother of the former lawmaker was also wounded in the attack earlier. Nabizada, 32, hailed from the eastern province of Nangarhar and had been elected as a member of parliament from Kabul in 2018. Nabizada was known as a strong, outspoken woman who stood for what she believed in even in the face of danger. Women had worked in prominent positions across Afghan society in the two decades since the US-led invasion of Afghanistan, with many becoming judges, journalists and politicians. Many women in such professions have fled the country, however, since the Taliban returned to power. Taliban authorities have rapidly squeezed women out of almost all areas of public life, banning them from secondary and higher education, public sector work and even from visiting public parks and baths. They have also ordered women to cover their bodies in public, ideally in an all-encompassing burqa.
Such events have kept the concerns valid that the worldview of the Afghan regime is unalterable and they would keep on pursuing their cruel and discriminatory policies. It is not only the wider world that is showing visible concerns about the obscurantism in policies carried out by the Afghan regime but many Islamic countries are exceedingly worried about the Afghan Taliban’s view of Islam because it is getting obvious by the day that it poses more of a political challenge than an ideological one. Configuring with the globalisation phenomenon many Islamic polities have been quite successful in developing a functional compatibility with the prevailing nuances of human rights and freedom. These countries view the extremist policies pursued by the Afghan regime particularly the recent ban on higher education for them as very damaging to the global perception about Islam and its tenets that are not as non-inclusive as portrayed by the Afghan regime. Though the Islamic world still encourages engagement with the Taliban regime but it is finding it difficult to justify its actions. The Islamic world is however trying to impress upon the Taliban to alter their perceptions but to no avail.
The extremist policies pursued by the Afghan regime have impacted the extremist Pakistani factions that try to influence their respective audiences to challenge the mainstream religious patterns practiced in the country. It is quite obvious that the religiously motivated violence and hatred unleashed by Afghan regime has the potential to undermine the foundation of Pakistani society and this is precisely the reason that has compelled the Pakistani establishment to revisit its ideologically oriented strategic thinking. This risk is also comprehended by the religious segment of the country that has started to a review of the contextual analysis of the ideological and political situation. The religious scholars of the country have come up with a declaration categorically condemning terrorism, sectarian hatred, armed sectarian conflict and imposition of a particular ideology on others by force. Interestingly, a few heads of banned sectarian and militant organisations have also signed the declaration, including ulema supporting jihad in Afghanistan and India-occupied Kashmir.
The practical implications of the discriminatory policies followed by the Afghan regime have started to rattle Afghani females and are moving out of the country particularly Pakistan. In many cases, the Afghan women are trading one unstable situation for another as those who flee to Pakistan face an uncertain future because Pakistan is itself experiencing uncertain economic situation. Pakistan is already under duress as it is estimated that it would cost $2.2 billion to care for an expected 700,000 Afghan refugees. As Pakistan grapples with soaring living costs, news reports last year said Afghans were being blamed for rising apartment rents. But the movement of Afghani women is heavily pushed by the systematic exclusion of women and girls from public life. Even before the Taliban banning women from higher education that sparked an international outcry, the regime had reneged on a promise to open high schools for girls while imposing a strict dress code on women and making many professions off-limits, including those in the media and entertainment.
It is quite clear that for women the draconian restrictions have created the situation whereby the Afghan women are left with no option but to migrate to Pakistan as it is one of the feasible escape routes. The UN office for refugees has given the figures of migrants to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa as 670,524 out of which 47% were female. These, of course, are only the registered ones as many more remain unregistered. Both educated and uneducated Afghan women encounter problems after coming to Pakistan. When it comes to the illiterate, the majority of them lack both education and skills, which makes their lives terrible, especially for those who have no other sources of help. As far as the educated females are concerned they do not have adequate employment options.
Not a few are still looking over their shoulders in fear — especially those who worked in the media, activism or other fields related to social development. Some still carry death threats from extremist family members or the Taliban. Some female migrated Afghan activists are organizing handicraft projects for immigrant women who cannot read and lack skills with the aim to at least give them some tools to live independently. Many Afghan women in Pakistan can barely patch together a living even with such help. The issue is that more the Taliban take options away from women and drive them away, the more crucial it will be for Pakistan and other countries to find sustainable paths for them. However, once these women arrive in Pakistan they face difficulties finding living accommodation as such activity requires documentation that they do not possess. They also face issues with reference to obtain medical care as many hospitals are unwilling to treat them. TW