Taliban pardon rivals, vow to honour women

Published August 18, 2021
KABUL: Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid (centre) gestures as he addresses the first press conference on Tuesday following the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan.—AFP
KABUL: Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid (centre) gestures as he addresses the first press conference on Tuesday following the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan.—AFP

• Spokesperson tells news conference in Kabul that an all-inclusive govt will be formed soon
• Vows Afghanistan’s soil won’t be allowed to be used against anyone
• Another official makes clear India may continue to work in Afghanistan
• Baradar arrives in Kandahar from Doha

KABUL: The Afghan Taliban a day after their stunning takeover vowed to respect women’s rights, forgive those who resisted them and ensure a secure Afghanistan as their co-founder Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar chose to touch down Kandahar on return to his country on Tuesday.

The Taliban pledged not to go after their rivals in a move to portray themselves as more moderate than ever following a lightning offensive across Afghanistan though many remained sceptical.

While addressing these concerns head on in his first news conference, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid promised the Taliban would honour women’s rights within the norms of Islamic laws.

Also, the Taliban wanted private media to remain independent and criticise their shortcomings that he said would help them improve, but made it clear that the media should not work against ‘national values’.

The spokesman promised that the Taliban would not seek revenge against those who worked with the former administration or with foreign officials and forces.

“We assure you that nobody will go to their doors to ask why they helped,” he said.

The Taliban spokesman said the war in Afghanistan was over and that all their opponents would be pardoned, as they held their first news conference since seizing power from the Western-backed government in Kabul. “War has ended... (the leader) has pardoned everyone,” Mujahid said, adding: “We are committed to letting women work in accordance with the principles of Islam.”

He said the Taliban would soon be establishing a government, but gave little detail of its make-up apart from saying they would “connect with all sides”.

“All those in the opposite side are pardoned from A to Z,” he said. “We will not seek revenge.”

Asked what the difference between the movement that was ousted 20 years ago and the Taliban of today, he said: “If the question is based on ideology, and beliefs, there is no difference... but if we calculate it based on experience, maturity, and insight, no doubt there is marked difference.” “The steps today will be positively different from the past steps,” he asserted.

Mujahid said the Taliban would not allow Afghanistan to be used as a base for attacking other countries. That assurance was part of a 2020 peace deal reached between the Taliban and the Trump administration that paved the way for the American withdrawal. Also, Enamullah Samangani, a member of the Taliban’s cultural commission, made similar promises, saying the Taliban would extend a general amnesty and encouraging women to join the Taliban government.

He assured women that the Taliban were ready to “provide women with environment to work and study, and the presence of women in different (government) structures according to Islamic law and in accordance with our cultural values.”

That would be a marked departure from the past practice when the Taliban had been in power.

In another sign of the Taliban’s efforts to portray a new image, a female TV anchor on the private broadcaster Tolo on Tuesday interviewed a Taliban official on camera in a studio — an interaction that once would have been unthinkable.

Later on Tuesday evening, Taliban’s deputy leader Mullah Baradar arrived in Kandahar from Qatar where he spent months leading talks with the US and then Afghan peace negotiators.

His arrival at Afghanistan’s second biggest city Kandahar — the Taliban’s spiritual birthplace and capital during their first time in power — may signal a deal is close at hand following the group’s stunning takeover of the country.

Earlier, the Afghan Taliban announced that India could complete its unfinished infrastructure and reconstruction projects in Afghanistan but they would not allow any group or state to use their country’s soil against any other country.

The Taliban had no objection if India continues to work in Afghanistan, a spokesman for Taliban Mohammad Suhail Shaheen said late Monday evening.

He expressed these views during a private TV show, ‘Hum Meher Bokhari ke Sath’.

“We won’t allow any nation, group or country to interfere in the state affairs of Afghanistan. India can complete work that it had initiated on the infrastructure and reconstruction projects in Afghanistan, because they are for the people. However, if [India] tried to use this land to achieve military objectives or against its rivals, we won’t permit it,” said Mr Shaheen.

In response to a question, the Taliban spokesman reiterated that if India had incomplete projects, it could complete them, but the policy was clear that the Taliban would not allow Afghanistan’s soil to be used against anyone.

Published in Dawn, August 18th, 2021

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