Fahad Ali looks at a still uneasy situation of Uneven Afghanistan
The Uneven Afghanistan focus nowadays is on the Russian invasion and little is mentioned about Afghanistan though the situation there is far from normal. It is clear to the Taliban regime that the Western allies will not budge from their hard stance taken with respect to implementing the conditions they have laid down before the Taliban for normalisation of relations and recognition of their regime. Quite naturally the Taliban are getting desperate and now they have disallowed any more evacuations of Afghans. More than 120,000 Afghans and dual nationals were evacuated up to 31 August when the last US-led troops withdrew, two weeks after the hardline group seized Kabul.
Hundreds more were allowed to leave on flights after that but the last official evacuation by air was on 1 December, 2021. Besides occasional evacuations have taken place by road via Pakistan until recently but a large number are still waiting to leave the country. Intriguingly the Taliban have taken an ironically self-righteous stance in this respect by stating that they have received reports of thousands of Afghans living in very bad conditions in Qatar and Turkey. This is quite a convoluted argument that may further add to the current complicated situation in the country and probably this is what the Taliban are pushing for.
The Taliban are still not able to convince people about their intentions and this impression was confirmed when the Afghanistan’s main universities reopened six months after they took over as only a trickle of women returned to now-segregated classes. Most secondary schools for girls and all public universities were shuttered following the Taliban’s takeover, sparking fears women would be barred from education as had happened during the first rule of the hardline Islamists from 1996-2001. However, the Taliban insisted that they will allow girls and women to be educated this time around but only in segregated classes and according to an Islamic curriculum. Accordingly, Kabul University, the country’s oldest and biggest with a student body of around 25,000 last year, re-opened without fanfare with few students in attendance.
On the university premises Uneven Afghanistan Taliban guards refused journalists access to the sprawling campus and chased away media teams lingering near the entrance. Few students who were approached expressed mixed feelings after their first day back. They appeared happy while mentioning some difficulties including students being scolded by Taliban guards for bringing their mobile phones to class. The female students said that the Taliban functionaries behaved badly indicating disapproval of their attending the university. It was also reported that out of 56 students only seven females attended. It was reported that there was a shortage of lecturers as some have left the country.
A similar picture emerged from campuses across the country, although no students returned to class at Panjshir University, in the heartland of a nascent resistance to the Taliban’s rule. Panjshir was the last province to fall to the Taliban and several classrooms of educational facilities were destroyed in that fighting that had still not been repaired. In Herat, a city near the Iranian border and once one of the Islamic world’s most important intellectual centres, students also complained about a lack of tutors. No country has yet recognised the new regime that has imposed several restrictions on women including banning them from many government jobs. Many have reported that campus life for women was now become very different to before as they are not allowed to go out of their classes and there is no cafeteria anymore.
The hardline and irrational attitude of the Taliban is also witnessed in their relations with their neighbours particularly Pakistan. Hundreds of people were stranded at a key border crossing between Pakistan and Afghanistan, days after fighting between security forces left at least three dead. Border tensions have risen since the Taliban’s return to power with Pakistan alleging militant groups are planning attacks from Afghan soil. The Taliban deny harbouring Pakistani militants but are also infuriated by a fence Islamabad is erecting along their 2,700-kilometre border, drawn up in colonial times and known as the Durand Line. Each side blamed the other for the recent fighting at the Chaman-Spin Boldak crossing and the border remains closed for passengers as well as trade.
It was reported that saw hundreds of people were waiting at Chaman on the Pakistan side for the border to reopen. Thousands usually cross every day, including traders, Afghans seeking medical treatment in Pakistan and people visiting relatives. A delegation of tribal notables and religious leaders has been formed to hold talks with the Taliban but an Afghan official said talks so far had been fruitless. It was reported that they have resolved to talk again but the Afghan side mentioned that if nothing happens then the issue will be discussed on a higher level. TW
Fahad Ali is associated with maritime trade