The first eight months of the Taliban regime

When the Taliban took over Afghanistan last year, many feared that it would be the return of a darker time for the country; an era that was both regressive and oppressive for its people. Human rights groups also feared that women’s freedom maybe vulnerable under the regime.

However, at the time, Taliban leaders assured the people of Afghanistan and the international community that they had nothing to fear. In the group’s first news conference after the takeover, a spokesman, while vague in his statement, reassured the world and the people of Afghanistan, that women would be free to work. Zabihullah Mujahid however, also added the caveat that the Afghans must live ‘within the framework of Islam.’

Similarly, Enamullah Samgani, a member of the Taliban’s cultural commission, even urged women to join their government. “The Islamic Emirate doesn’t want women to be victims,” he had said at the time. “They should be in government structure according to Shariah law.”

However, some recent decisions from the various ministries of the current regime have further deepened the fears and concerns of rights groups about the future of the country. Over the course of eight months of their de-facto government in the country, their decisions have once again reinforced the same oppressive culture that the previous Taliban were known for and the the citizens of Afghanistan had previously lived through. A ban has been placed on women to work, girls’ right to education, the broadcasting of music on the television and radio, broadcasting of foreign programmes, airing international news channels and on women travelling alone.

The international community has expressed its concerns with the Kabul regime on women's affairs, the extra judicial killings as well as other issues. In response, the Taliban government has announced the resumption of higher education for girls in the country last month in March.

Speaking to journalists at Press conference last month in Kabul, Zabihullah Mujahid said that the education department would open classrooms for all girls and women in the Afghan New Year, which begins on March 21. “We are not against girl's education but it's a question of capacity. We need to make a safer environment for them to educate [in],” said Zabihullah Mujahid.

The hardliners among the Taliban’s ranks Haqqani group have also backed girl’s education in the country and have confirmed to scores of international delegates that they are ‘pro girl's education’, reassuring them that they have formed a committee to talk to and convince those Taliban leaders who are opposed the girl’s education.

But it is a known fact amongst the people that some top slot holders within the interior ministry and some among the Kandhari Taliban leaders are responsible for banning the girl’s education. Those opposed to the education of girls believe that they should be accompanied by the male members of their families and that their teachers other school staff should be women and that in fact, their education should be conducted in entirely separate buildings to those of the boys.

Sources within the Ministry of Education and the Interior Ministry have shared that the committee has already held scores of meetings with opponents to girl's education and hope that their education will soon resume. Meanwhile, religious scholars in Balkh and some in the Central and South Zones have held meetings for the resumption of girl’s education. The Shura-e-Ulema Afghanistan have written to the Religious Chief of the Taliban movement, Mullah Habitullah, requesting him to make a decision on the education of girls in the country.

Another issue likely to impact education in the country is that the new curriculum books for higher grades have been published in India and China, and the Taliban don't have resources to pay to bring the books to Afghanistan.

Women's affairs – A bargain chip

Many feel that those holding top positions of power within the Taliban know when to hit and when to appease in order the get Afghanistan’s frozen assets back. The leaders hope that if they appease to international demands on girl’s education as well as other women’s affairs within the country, Afghanistan’s funds will be unfrozen and placed under the control of the Afghan central bank.

The US froze country’s $7 billion following the Taliban takeover, resulting in a catastrophic economic crisis in the country. Some 10 million Afghans are at risk of poverty due to this decision to withhold the sum.

Cracks within the group

Visible cracks are also becoming visible within the Taliban as both the Haqqani and Kandhari Taliban vied for the PM slot. According to sources, huge differences also broke out amongst the Taliban's ranks on portfolios. Renowned Taliban official and former head of the Qatar office Sher Muhammad Abbass Stanikzai returned to Kabul three months after Taliban came to power. Stanikzai, who was aide to foreign minister in 1996, travelled to US and scores of others country for recognition of Taliban regime, had hoped that upon his return, he would be awarded with an important role within the new regime. However, he was designated the position of deputy foreign minister – a position he’d already held 25 years ago. As a form of protest, he spent three months in Dubai and Doha, and has since then held no international meetings or local ones in Kabul.

Similarly, the acting first deputy prime minister Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar’s name was being floated in the local and international media as the likely candidate for the role of premier. Baradar is a co-founder of the Taliban and fourth in Taliban’s command. As names poured out after the Shura meeting in Qandahar, he was named deputy Prime Minister alongside Abdul Salam Hanafi and Abdul Kabir of Afghanistan.

The Deputy PM has always insisted that there are no differences within the Taliban ranks but that they are all in fact like family members. However, the Haqqani Network also tried to capture a key position with the government such as the role of the prime minister or the chief of the movement. Failing to grasp it, sources say that the Haqqani group and Baradar are not sitting together inside meetings.

Sources close to current Prime Minister of Afghanistan Mullah Hassan Akhund reveal that the leader is reluctant to attend major meetings with international delegates and oftentimes Baradar attends them on his behalf. Thus, creating some speculation that Baradar may be likely to replace Akhund as the premier of the country.

In administration units, the Pashtun Taliban also trying to take away the authority of those commanders who conquered the North region of the country. In recent moves, they have arrested a powerful Northern commander Mahdoom Alam, and have instead appointed two others commanders Atta Ullah Omari and Salauddin Ayub for important administrative roles in Kabul. Similarly, in the Takhar province, the Pashtun Taliban has been trying to recapture the power from Uzbek field commanders.

Ban on Drugs

On the directions of the Taliban supreme leader, the Taliban have placed a complete ban on opium cultivation, rendering all sorts of trade on drug-related material a punishable crime. Due to the demands of the international community, specifically Russian, Iran and China, the Supreme Leader of the Taliban after consulting with his cabinet, announced the ban.

Similarly, the usage of drugs including wine, heroin, sheesha, pills, hashish, and other prohibited items as well as its trading, processing and smuggling within the country or its exports has also been completely banned. The ‘decree’ was issued on April 1st, by the Supreme Leader of IEA on the prohibition of poppy cultivation and other narcotics. According to this, if anyone If anyone violates the decree, the crop will be destroyed immediately and the were to violate the decree, ‘the violator will be treated according to the Sharia law.’

It is important to mention here that after the first phase of the Taliban regime in 2000, opium cultivation was completely banned. “There has been zero cultivation in a year, which is something the US and its allied forces couldn't accomplish during their occupation of Afghanistan,” a senior Taliban official shared.

Recognition of Taliban

Recent visits from Russia envoy for Afghanistan, Zamir Kabulov, and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi have helped lend legitimacy to the new regime and renewed its hope for removal of sanctions against the country. The Taliban, along with Russia, China and some of other neighbouring countries have also formed a special committee in order to work towards paving the way for the recognition of Taliban government.

According to a source, “China has shared their commitment through its willingness to investment in scores of areas including mines and the health sector. Russia has also offered similar commitments to the government.” Sources also claim that the Chinese government has demanded the Taliban government in Kabul demonstrate its efforts towards dismantling the East Turkistan Islamic movement ETIM, while Russia has demanded elimination of drug plantations as well as exporting of militancy to Afghanistan’s neighbouring Islamic states – demands which the Taliban have accepted.

Specifically, under the Chinese initiative to stabilise war-torn Afghanistan, it has involved Russia, Iran, Qatar and Pakistan to support the country on all frontiers. Talks were held in this regard in Beijing and a session was also held with top slots of the Taliban's government in Kabul. After talks with Kabul, the Chinese government is now using all its resources to convince the world that the current regime will cooperate on all fronts if they are supported. Inside sources also reveal that two Islamic countries, Qatar and Egypt have also secretly resumed diplomatic ties with the new regime and are close to recommencing them openly in the coming weeks.

ISKP threats looms

Despite claims to the media that the Islamic State Khorasan Province is not a threat and denying claims of any existing roots in Afghanistan, the Taliban have launched one of its largest search operations in the Eastern districts of the country, where the ISKP presence has been proving to be hugely problematic for the regime. The regime launched its operation in Nangarhar province alongside Central, Kuner and Nuristan provinces. The Taliban have also employed women as intelligence agents to search houses for gathering information.



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