Afghanistan: An inclusive government is the only hope now
A number of Afghan politicians have made it clear that the new government will not be acceptable if it is not inclusive
The way the Taliban have seized power in Afghanistan is more than shocking for the common Afghans. The way the provinces fell one after another to the advancing Taliban, the way the US-trained Afghan army melted away without putting up a fight and the way President Ashraf Ghani fled with hordes of cash has only added to the general dejection. Mr. Ghani, who many Afghans now see as a traitor, neither fought nor engage in serious peace talks. It seems it was a pre-planned exit, and the US played its role.
With the deadline of August 31 for the complete withdrawal of US forces just days away, the anxiety among the people is palpable. The Taliban are now in power. They are free to do what they want. Hundreds of thousands of Afghansare now staring at an uncertain future, especially vulnerable are those who worked for the Americans and the Afghanistan government, including journalists and civil society workers. They fear that Taliban could carry out revenge attacks against them.
In general, the Afghans are afraid that the Taliban once again will impose their harsh interpretation of Islamic law, the way they did when they first seized power between 1996 and 2001.
The Taliban have not yet formed a government, but talks on the formation of a new government with Afghan political leaders are underway. Taliban said a new government will be announced in the near future. Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said that their political officials are in talks with Afghan leaders in Kabul.
The Taliban leaders are currently engaged in talks with former president Hamid Karzai and Abdullah Abdullah, the head of High Council for National Reconciliation, and the discussion is focused on the political situation, including the formation of an inclusive government.
Taliban leaders, including Shahabuddin Delawar, Abdul Salam Hanafi, Mullah KhairullahKhairkhaw and Abdul RahmandFida are in Kabul, but some Afghan politicians said that the new government will not be acceptable if it is not inclusive.
The Taliban announced that the war has ended, but it has not. Amrullah Saleh, vice president in Ghani’s administration, has joined the anti-Taliban resistance. Saleh hasclaimed that as per the constitution, he is the legitimate caretaker president of Afghanistan.
Another anti-Taliban figure, the former governor of Balkh provinces, Atta Mohammad Noor said that war had not ended. “There is a long way to go.” But he said that an inclusive government that would represent all Afghans would be a way to end the war.
Ahmad Massoud, the son of Afghanistan’s national hero, Ahmad Shah Massoud, said he would resist the Taliban and would not hand over the Panjshir province to anyone. Since there is contact between him and Taliban leaders, Massoud said he hopes for negotiations to resolve the issues, but underlined that he is ready to fight if the talks fail.
Women and girls will be the worst sufferers if the Taliban resorted to their old ways.
If they bar girls from attending school or working outside the home, and force them to wear burqa and be accompanied by a male relative whenever they step outside, this would give rise to several problems. Already women and girls opposed the Taliban, and some girls took to the streets.
So far, the Taliban have tried to build a softened image of themselves. Since taking over, the Taliban promised to respect women’s rights, let the girls go to school, and also called on the female doctors and school teachers to continue their work as the society needs them.
The Taliban also stand ready to forgive those who fought against them including the Afghan security forces. But the Afghans are very much sceptical of those promises; want the Taliban to show respect for human rights in practical.
At the same time, there are reports that the Taliban fighters have beaten young Afghans for wearing western clothes. Some young Afghan men said they were beaten up and threatened for wearing jeans and other western-style clothes in Kabul, accusing them of disrespecting the Islamic values. A young boy claimed on social media said he was targeted for wearing a T-shirt. Beauty parlours are shut in Kabul and the price of burqas has doubled.
The most annoying part is that thousands of Afghans rushed to the Kabul International Airport, hoping to escape the country. To disperse the crowd the US troops used helicopters and fired warning shots in the air where over 11 people died in the stampede. The US could avert the heart-wrenching incident by chalking out a comprehensive plan on how to evacuate the vulnerable Afghans.
It is not clear what awaits the Afghan people and what kind of government would be formed in the country. Though the negotiations for an inclusive government are underway, nothing promising has come so far. There is no guarantee for a secure environment to be restored after decades of war.
The major issue is that the many Afghans don’t trust the Taliban and fear they will take revenge once they form their government. Many doubt that today’s peaceful face would turn to the violent and oppressive one tomorrow when the people try to oppose their restrictive rules and regulations.
The world powers must ensure that Afghanistan doesn’t become a safe haven for terrorist groups.
After a virtual meet on Afghanistan situation the G-7 issued a statement that said: “We will work together, and with our allies and regional countries, through the UN, G20 and more widely, to bring the international community together to address the critical questions facing Afghanistan. As we do this, we will judge the Afghan parties by their actions, not words. In particular, we reaffirm that the Taliban will be held accountable for their actions on preventing terrorism, on human rights in particular those of women, girls and minorities and on pursuing an inclusive political settlement in Afghanistan. The legitimacy of any future government depends on the approach it now takes to uphold its international obligations and commitments to ensure a stable Afghanistan.”
(The writer is a Kabul-based journalist. Views are personal)