WITH the Afghan Taliban now firmly in charge of the country, voices are being raised within and outside Afghanistan questioning when the much-hyped inclusivity the armed group had talked about will materialise. Up till now, it appears that the group is sticking to its narrow vision.

Recently, the Taliban cabinet was further expanded, and now includes a member of the Shia Hazara community as deputy minister, and apparently some members from the Tajik and Uzbek communities though matters are still unclear on this front. What has been of concern is the fact that even in the cabinet expansion, women have been kept out of decision-making circles. This, coupled with the fact that the Taliban have not allowed girls to return to secondary schools (the group says they will be allowed back ‘soon’) very much harks back to the Taliban of old, when women were practically excluded from public life.

As Prime Minister Imran Khan rightly pointed out while speaking to the BBC, the Afghan group’s decision of disallowing girls from attending secondary school would be “un-Islamic”, while adding that unless the Taliban forged a genuinely inclusive government, the risks of civil war would be very real.

Read: Return of the Taliban

Ideally, the Taliban should learn from history, especially the past few decades which have seen Afghanistan torn apart both by external meddling, and internal power struggles. Warlords, representing different tribes or ethnic groups, had carved out their own fiefdoms and even during Ashraf Ghani’s rule, backed by the firepower of Nato as it was, the central government’s hold over the country was tenuous at best. Moreover, going back even further, after the mujahideen had ousted the Soviets and the Najibullah government with Western, Arab and this country’s help, their internecine squabbles led to more civil war and lawlessness.

If the Taliban want to prevent repeating these mistakes, they need to take all ethnic groups, tribes and sects on board. Instead of tokenism, they need to form a broad-based set-up that can pave the way for representative rule. Moreover, unless women are allowed to fully participate in national life, Afghanistan will not be able to progress. There is no justification for stopping girls from getting an education whatsoever. Even Saudi Arabia and Iran — which are religious states — place no bars on female education. Moreover, these states and other Muslim countries also allow women in the workforce. Therefore, if the Taliban are serious about inclusivity, they need to walk the walk.

Published in Dawn, September 25th, 2021

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