Fahad Ali describes the Taliban rule
Taliban rule – The Taliban have been in power in Kabul for two years and this time has not been free of controversies. The Kabul regime celebrated the anniversary and the flags of the country fluttered at security checkpoints across the capital. Dreary Kabul streets began to give way to convoys of Taliban members and a gathering at Massoud Square near the abandoned US embassy building. Some of the men carried their weapons while others snapped smiling selfies as anthems blared and young boys sold the movement’s white flag inscribed with the Islamic declaration of faith. In Herat, a crowd of Taliban supporters chanted death to the Europeans, death to the Westerners, long live the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan and death to the Americans. As events kicked off in various cities, a military parade was cancelled in Kandahar as the reclusive Supreme Leader Hibatullah Akhundzada called off the parade himself so as not to disturb the public. The parade was expected to include scores of military vehicles and weapons left behind by international forces after a weeks-long chaotic withdraw two years before. In Kabul, the education ministry hosted a celebration at a school in a part of the city once stacked with diplomats who are now thin on the ground, mostly there as observers as the Taliban government is still not formally recognised by any other country.
Since taking over power, Taliban authorities have imposed their strict interpretation of Islam, with women bearing the brunt of laws the United Nations has termed gender apartheid. It is true that the relentless violence Afghanistan has been witnessing since the Soviet invasion and later the American invasion has come down considerably but their failure to act against all terrorist groups on their soil has caused widespread international consternation. It is pointed out that the hard-line leadership in Kandahar appears to have a dominating veto on all matters overriding the views held by politicians and pragmatists in Kabul. The clerics in Kandahar seem intent on dragging Afghanistan back to the Middle Ages and their intransigence knows no bounds causing serious problems for the population. The condition of Afghanis is pathetic as is borne out by report of the Red Cross mentioning that 28.8 million Afghans are in urgent need of humanitarian assistance while the UN has observed that 15.3 million people in the country face acute food insecurity. It is not only imperative for the Taliban regime to reorient their perspective but also to keep in view that their hard-line stance is keeping them in a continuous state of international isolation that has already harmed the cause of Afghanistan.
Afghanistan is facing myriad challenges and the most serious of them is the lack of recognition of their administration by the whole world. It is also beset by the intense criticism about denying education to women not only from inside the country but also from international community. Despite the pressure applied in this respect is consistently ignored and the Taliban leadership is adamant not to concede the right of education to women. Though there is a minority within the Taliban leadership favouring reopening of educational institutions for girls but their supreme leader has not budged on the demand as he blindly follows the rigid creed his group follows. There is hardly any doubt that this issue seems to be a divisive one for the leadership of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan where some leaders believe contemporary education is not obligatory for women while others have a different view. The Taliban’s rejection of the global community’s repeated calls for an inclusive set-up is seen as one of the major hurdles in the regime’s quest for recognition.
Taliban chief Hibatullah Akhundzada, who is based in Kandahar known as the birthplace of the Taliban is said to have consolidated his control over nearly all affairs of the state and only consults close aides on key issues. There has been no meeting of the leadership council known as Rehbari Shura since the last one that was held in Kandahar in the final week of August 2021, days after the Taliban took control of the country – with the exception of Panjshir, which fell in the first week of September 2021. As the Taliban government enters its third year the deposed government of Ashraf Ghani still holds the Afghan seat in the United Nations. Akhundzada had ruled out any space from those who had been associated with the previous regimes of Hamid Karzai and Ashraf Ghani. There has been no change in this policy but former president Karzai, who is among the handful of Afghan leaders to remain in Kabul after the Taliban takeover, is said to be pressing the current leaders to first get recognition at home before asking the world for the same.
It is well-known that though no country has accorded recognition to the Taliban regime, the international community continues to engage with Taliban leaders. Significantly, America is engaged in negotiations with the Taliban on two tracks comprising politicalintelligence-based. The Taliban intelligence GDI’s chief frequently visits Doha where the Taliban still have political headquarters and on political front Taliban Deputy Prime Minister Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar keeps on visiting different countries. Russia has also invited the Taliban government to the upcoming Moscow Format consultations in September and interestingly Pakistan is also an active member of this process that started in 2017. Taliban regime is also trying to ensure inclusive and had representation of all ethnicities and tribes. In this context it is mentioned that a gathering of over 5,000 religious scholars and influential personalities from across Afghanistan in July last year pledged allegiance to the Taliban chief and the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. The Taliban regime claims this gathering as an example of inclusivity. It is important to note that the Taliban regime has at its disposal a 150,000-strong military force composed mostly of Taliban fighters.
One of the more problematic aspects of Afghan Taliban rule in Kabul pertains to its relationship with Pakistan. The warmth exuded by Pakistani officialdom when Taliban took over control of Kabul has simply dissipated and the bonhomie seems to have subsided in the wake of recriminations over militants using Afghan soil to stage attacks in Pakistan. Despite Pakistan’s concerns at what officials call safe havens of the banned Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) in Afghanistan, Taliban officials reject Pakistan’s stance by stating that the TTP problem is Pakistan’s internal issue and that Pakistan should try to find a solution to their problem. Pakistani officials view the matter differently and have stressed the importance of abiding by the Doha agreement under which the Afghan Taliban agreed to not let their territory be used against any other country. But even as the accusations and counter-accusations fly the overwhelming message from Taliban officials is of no animosity towards Pakistan though this assertion appears hollow. The Afghan regime insists that it wanted to help end violence in Pakistan and admits that it had hosted talks between TTP and the state of Pakistan though they collapsed last year after reaching a stalemate. Pakistan has been consistently calling upon the world community to impress upon the Taliban rulers as its concerns about the TTP remain unaddressed. The Weekender