WITH the reality of the Taliban’s lightning takeover of Afghanistan slowly sinking in, the international community is now confronted with the more sobering job of deciding whether or not to recognise the hard-line militia’s rule, especially in the light of emerging reports of the Taliban putting down dissent.
While initially things were quiet as the Taliban marched into Kabul on Sunday, there is now agitation against the armed movement in some cities. People have taken to the streets in Asadabad, Jalalabad as well as Kabul, with several deaths reported from Asadabad as the Taliban apparently fired into a crowd. Moreover, Amnesty International has said that the Taliban “massacred” members of the Hazara community in Ghazni in July. While the ‘new’ Taliban have promised an inclusive set-up, including guarantees of women’s rights as per “Islamic norms”, the aforementioned incidents very much remind one of the actions of the ‘old’ Taliban — a group that was mostly isolated from the world community and feared by its own people due to its obscurantist interpretation of religion.
The Afghan Taliban’s honeymoon period may not last long. There are many who suspect the group’s intentions despite their reassurances. The fact is that the Taliban can talk all they want about inclusivity, but whether or not they will abide by their promises will become evident over the next few days and weeks.
Firstly, holding peaceful protests and assemblies is a fundamental right that the Taliban cannot take away from the Afghan people. Instead of crushing dissent, the Taliban must engage Afghan citizens in a democratic exercise — using tribal and other channels — to assure them that this time around things in the country will be different. Moreover, if further reports emerge of Taliban excesses against the Hazara community and other ethnic, linguistic and confessional groups, whatever goodwill the Taliban may have earned over the past few days will disappear quickly. There are also reports of the Taliban going door to door to hunt down those who worked for the erstwhile Afghan dispensation. This flies in the face of the amnesty the Taliban had declared.
The Taliban need to take along all groups in the country if they are sincere in wanting to end the bloodshed. Otherwise, Afghanistan’s never-ending war will continue, and the Taliban’s claims of wanting an inclusive country will be exposed as mere political manoeuvring. The Taliban must prove that this time around they will preside over a representative system, not a dictatorship.
Published in Dawn, August 21st, 2021