Taliban not after monopoly of power: Leader

Taliban not after monopoly of power: Leader
Officials have raised concerns over the stalling negotiations and have said the Taliban has not yet submitted a written peace proposal. (AFP)
Short Url
Updated 20 June 2021

Taliban not after monopoly of power: Leader

Taliban not after monopoly of power: Leader
  • Mullah Baradar: ‘We are committed to … reach an agreement about a new political system that embodies the voices of all Afghans’
  • ‘The major concern is whether this declaration is in tune with the military wing of the Taliban,’ ex-govt adviser tells Arab News

KABUL: A top Taliban leader has said the group is not seeking to monopolize power in Afghanistan, and reiterated its commitment to peace talks with the government and ensuring women’s rights to work and learn “in a proper environment.”

Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar’s statement on Sunday follows a series of military gains by the Taliban since May 1, when US-led foreign troops began withdrawing from Afghanistan as part of a phased initiative that ends on Sept. 11.

It comes amid concerns that the Taliban has not yet devised a proposal for the resumption of talks with the Afghan government in Qatar ahead of the total departure of foreign forces.

“We understand that the world and Afghans have queries and questions about the form of the system to be established following the withdrawal of foreign troops,” Baradar, head of the Taliban’s political office in Qatar, said in an open letter released to the media.

It is “best to discuss crucial issues” related to Afghanistan’s political future during the Qatar talks, he added.

“We are committed to forging ahead (with the talks), with the other sides, in an atmosphere of mutual respect and reach an agreement about a new political system that embodies the voices of all Afghans.”

Baradar said the Taliban has committed itself “to accommodate the rights of all citizens of our country, whether they are male or female, in light of the rules of the glorious religion of Islam and the noble traditions of Afghan society.”

The letter emphasized ensuring a “proper environment and facilities ... for women’s work and education so they can carry out their activities with confidence and with a feeling of assurance.”

Since the Taliban’s ouster in the US-led invasion in 2001, Afghan women have regained the right to education, to vote, and to work outside their homes.

Still, it is not an easy place to be a woman, with forced marriages, domestic violence and maternal mortality continuing to be prevalent across the country, particularly in rural areas.

But access to public life has improved — especially in Kabul, where thousands of women work — and more than a quarter of Parliament is female.

The steady gains by the Taliban in recent weeks, however, have reignited fears among locals and foreign allies that it will try to regain power militarily and enforce harsh policies as it did in the past.

Baradar stressed the need for a robust and “genuine Islamic system” in the country, saying: “A powerful, united, and corruption-free Afghanistan is better for the world and the United States than a powerless, decentralized and corruption-rampant administration.” He did not elaborate on the mechanism devised by the Taliban to achieve these goals.

Baradar touched upon the issue of ethnic minorities, saying: “The rights of minorities and all citizens will be secure in the coming system; no one needs to worry about it.”

He also said the Taliban is keen on taking measures “in coordination with … the international community to eliminate narcotics by providing an alternative livelihood, and treat addicts who unfortunately number in the millions now.”

Baradar assured the international community that there will be no threats to foreign diplomats and NGO workers based in Afghanistan once the group assumes office.

Afghan government officials were unavailable for comment when contacted by Arab News on Sunday.

Experts, however, said there is a lot to read between the lines in Baradar’s letter. “It’s an assurance to the world that the Taliban aren’t the Taliban of the past and are committed to women’s rights to learn and work,” Wahidullah Ghazikhail, a Kabul-based analyst, told Arab News.

Torek Farhadi, an adviser to former President Hamid Karzai, agreed, saying: “Clarifications are welcome because we didn’t have such level of detail before on how they see governance. It’s time for Afghans to find peace through these clarifications, rather than use guns and bloodshed against one another.”

However, he was quick to add a caveat. “Can this declaration in nice words by Mullah Baradar be matched with deeds of all their fighters in the field as well? The major concern is whether this declaration is in tune with the military wing of the Taliban as well, or is this just a public relations piece? Time will tell,” Farhadi told Arab News.


Mozambicans return to uncertain future after Islamists pushed back

Mozambicans return to uncertain future after Islamists pushed back
Updated 25 September 2021

Mozambicans return to uncertain future after Islamists pushed back

Mozambicans return to uncertain future after Islamists pushed back
  • Some local officials have encouraged civilians to return, according to media reports

PALMA, Mozambique: Rwandan forces will help secure and rebuild areas of northern Mozambique destroyed by an Islamist insurgency, Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame said on Friday, as Mozambican officials began encouraging civilians to return to the gas-rich region.
The United Nations has warned of a continuing militant threat in Cabo Delgado, where Rwandan forces are patrolling burnt-out streets once besieged by the militants.
Kagame told a joint news conference in Maputo with his Mozambican counterpart Filipe Nyusi that Rwandan troops would help secure and rebuild the areas destroyed by the insurgency.
“The mission of Rwandan troops in Mozambique continues,” he said. “The new action should be to guarantee security in the liberated areas until the reconstruction is finished.”
Kagame said the troops would stay as long as Mozambique requests.
Nyusi thanked Rwanda for helping fix what had been destroyed by “terrorists.”
Allied Rwandan-Mozambican troops moved in to recapture parts of northern Cabo Delgado — an area hosting $60 billion worth of gas projects that the militants have been attacking since 2017 — in July.
A day earlier, soldiers had laid out rifles and rocket launchers seized from the Islamist fighters, who Mozambique’s government has said are on the run.
Some local officials have encouraged civilians to return, according to media reports, and the Rwandan military’s spokesman said 25,000 people had been brought home. “It is very safe for them to go back,” Ronald Rwivanga told Reuters on Thursday.
But United Nations officials are not so sure.
A document compiled in September for UN agencies and other aid groups, seen by Reuters, said it was not clear whether militant capabilities had been much reduced. “Fighting continues in certain locations and civilian authorities have not been re-established,” it added.
Children played in the streets of the town of Palma on Thursday and vendors sold goods from kiosks, six months after the militants attacked the settlement, killing dozens and forcing tens of thousands to flee.
But 60 km south in the port of Mocimboa da Praia — a hub needed for cargo deliveries for the gas projects — the streets were largely deserted, flanked by windowless, rubble-strewn buildings and overturned military vehicles.
Graffiti, using a local name for the militant group, read: “If you want to make Al-Shabab laugh, threaten them with death.”
Aside from the Rwandans, a contingent of forces from the regional bloc, the Southern African Development Community (SADC) is also patrolling northern Cabo Delgado.
Rwivanga said the Rwandans had been moving civilians back into the area they control around a $20 billion liquefied natural gas (LNG) project run by oil major TotalEnergies , which was forced to a halt by the Palma attack.
Yet security analysts say the Mozambican military deficiencies that allowed the insurgency to take hold in the north — including soldiers that are ill equipped, undisciplined and poorly paid — will not be easily reversed.
Even with other forces there, they say, security is uncertain outside of small, heavily guarded areas.
Returnees, meanwhile, are more preoccupied with where the next meal is coming from. The World Food Programme said this week that the first shipment of aid had reached Palma since the March attack.
“Now the situation is calm, the war that remains is hunger and lack of jobs,” Ibrahimo Suleman, 60, a resident who works for a kitchen-fitting company said.
Many others remain too afraid or unwilling to return, with almost 750,000 people still displaced as of this month, according to the International Organization of Migration.


What we know about the Taliban’s political agenda

What we know about the Taliban’s political agenda
Updated 25 September 2021

What we know about the Taliban’s political agenda

What we know about the Taliban’s political agenda
  • While much remains opaque, here is what we know about their political program so far

KABUL: A month after seizing power following a lightning offensive in Afghanistan, the Taliban this week completed their interim government — but their political agenda is still unclear.
The lack of clarity is fueling concern among Afghans and the international community that the hard-line Islamists are heading toward imposing the same brutal policies against women and opponents seen in their previous rule between 1996 and 2001.
While much remains opaque, here is what we know about their political program so far.
This is one of the most eagerly awaited areas of Taliban policy.
How the all-male leadership treat women is expected to be critical to any resumption of suspended Western economic aid on which the country depends.
Since their return to power on August 15, the group have said they will respect women’s rights in accordance with Islamic sharia law, without elaborating. During their last rule, women were forced to wear all-covering burqas, and barred from work or study except in rare circumstances.
Most have been told not to return to work until the Taliban have ironed out “new systems,” while some are staying home out of fear of future reprisal attacks for being a working woman.
Girls are allowed to go to primary school but have been excluded from secondary school.
The Taliban says the measures are temporary, but many are distrustful of the group.
Afghan women studying at private universities can return to single-sex classrooms with strict conservative rules imposed on attire.
Upon taking power, the Taliban said journalists — including women — can continue to work.
“We will respect freedom of the press because media reporting will be useful to society and will be able to help correct the leaders’ errors,” a Taliban spokesman told Reporters Without Borders.
A month later, the tone has changed. According to RSF, the group have imposed 11 rules on Afghan journalists that they must now obey.
One of them is a ban on broadcasting “material contrary to Islam” or considered “insulting to public figures.”
The rules could be used for the persecution of journalists and open the door to censorship, RSF said.
Even before the announcement of these new guidelines in mid-September, many journalists had fled the country.
Those who were unable to leave remain in hiding at home for fear of reprisals.
Some Afghan journalists were briefly arrested or beaten on the sidelines of recent anti-Taliban protests.
During their first stint in power, the Taliban were infamous for their strict interpretation of sharia law, banning music, photography, television, and even children’s games such as kite-flying.
The group dynamited giant Buddha statues at Bamiyan months before they were ousted from power.
This time, the Taliban have yet to issue official decrees regarding entertainment and culture.
“Music is forbidden in Islam,” spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told the New York Times last month.
Music schools have closed and some players have smashed their instruments.
Libraries, museums and galleries are also shuttered, with heritage experts deeply concerned about whether ancient artifacts will be protected and access to literature allowed.
This is one of the most pressing challenges the new regime will have to tackle.
Afghanistan is facing a financial crisis following the takeover, with much of the international aid that had propped up the economy frozen.
The Taliban’s economic program is still extremely vague.
“We are going to be working on our natural resources and our resources in order to revitalize our economy,” Mujahid said.
But it remains to be seen how the Taliban will find the funds to pay civil servants’ salaries — or to support critical infrastructure to keep the lights on, water running and telecommunications working.
In the midst of a liquidity crisis and at a time when the population was already struggling to make ends meet, the movement said it had turned the page on corruption, which tainted the previous government.
Many Afghans have reported an increased sense of security since the Taliban took over and fighting ended.
But it has moved to crush dissent, breaking up protests led mainly by women by firing shots into the air and later effectively banning all demonstrations.
The Taliban have also warned that “anyone who tries to start an insurgency will be hit hard,” a message to resistance forces in Panjshir, who were defeated earlier this month.
They have also said they would eradicate the local branch of jihadist group Daesh, which has claimed a number of bomb attacks over the past few weeks.
As for drugs, Taliban spokesperson Mujahid promised that the new government would not turn Afghanistan, the world’s leading producer of opium, into a real narco-state.
Certain sports were allowed under the Taliban’s first government, but they were strictly controlled and only men could play or attend matches.
The new sports chief of the Taliban government, Bashir Ahmad Rustamzai, said they would allow around 400 sports “permitted by the laws of Islam” — but declined to clarify if women could participate in any of them.
The statements of other Taliban members sowed confusion, leaving sportswomen and the country’s athletes fearing a step backwards.
Some of them have already fled and found refuge abroad.


Imran Khan paints Pakistan as victim of US ungratefulness

Imran Khan paints Pakistan as victim of US ungratefulness
Updated 25 September 2021

Imran Khan paints Pakistan as victim of US ungratefulness

Imran Khan paints Pakistan as victim of US ungratefulness

NEW YORK: Prime Minister Imran Khan sought to cast Pakistan as the victim of American ungratefulness and an international double standard in his address to the United Nations General Assembly on Friday.
In a prerecorded speech aired during the evening, the Pakistani prime minister touched on a range of topics that included climate change, global Islamophobia and “the plunder of the developing world by their corrupt elites” — the latter of which he likened to what the East India Company did to India.
It was for India’s government that Khan reserved his harshest words, once again labeling Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist government “fascist.” But the cricketer turned posh international celebrity turned politician was in turn indignant and plaintive as he painted the United States as an abandoner of both Pakistan and neighboring Afghanistan.
“For the current situation in Afghanistan, for some reason, Pakistan has been blamed for the turn of events, by politicians in the United States and some politicians in Europe,” Khan said. “From this platform, I want them all to know, the country that suffered the most, apart from Afghanistan, was Pakistan when we joined the US war on terror after 9/11.”
He launched into a narrative that began with the United States and Pakistan training mujahedeen — regarded as heroes by the likes of then-President Ronald Reagan, he said — during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. But Pakistan was left to pick up the pieces — millions of refugees and new sectarian militant groups — when the Soviets and the Americans left in 1989.
Khan said the US sanctioned its former partner a year later, but then came calling again after the 9/11 attacks. Khan said Pakistan’s aid to the US cost 80,000 Pakistani lives and caused internal strife and dissent directed at the state, all while the US conducted drone attacks.
“So, when we hear this at the end. There is a lot of worry in the US about taking care of the interpreters and everyone who helped the US,” he said, referring to Afghanistan. “What about us?”
Instead of a mere “word of appreciation,” Pakistan has received blame, Khan said.
Despite Khan’s rhetoric espousing a desire for peace, many Afghans have blamed Pakistan for the Taliban’s resurgence in Afghanistan because of close links. The United Nations in August also rejected Pakistan’s request to give its side at a special meeting on Afghanistan, indicating the international community’s shared skepticism.
In his speech, Khan echoed what his foreign minister, Shah Mehmood Qureshi, told The Associated Press earlier this week on the sidelines at the UN: the international community should not isolate the Taliban, but instead strengthen the current Afghan government for the sake of the people.
He struck an optimistic tone about Taliban rule, saying their leaders had committed to human rights, an inclusive government and not allowing terrorists on Afghan soil. But messages from the Taliban have been mixed.
A Taliban founder told the AP earlier this week that the hard-liners would once again carry out executions and amputated hands — though this time after adjudication by judges, including women, and potentially not in public.
“If the world community incentivizes them, and encourages them to walk this talk, it will be a win-win situation for everyone,” he said.
Khan also turned his ire on that same community for what he perceives as a free pass given to India.
“It is unfortunate, very unfortunate, that the world’s approach to violations of human rights lacks even-handedness, and even is selective. Geopolitical considerations, or corporate interests, commercial interests often compel major powers to overlook the transgressions of their affiliated countries,” Khan said.
He went through a litany of actions that have “unleashed a reign of fear and violence against India’s 200 million strong Muslim community,” he said, including lynchings, pogroms and discriminatory citizenship laws.
As in years past, Khan — who favors delivering his speeches in his British-inflected English, in contrast to Modi’s Hindi addresses — devoted substantial time to Kashmir.
“New Delhi has also embarked on what it ominously calls the ‘final solution’ for the Jammu and Kashmir dispute,” Khan said, rattling off a list of what he termed “gross and systematic violations of human rights” committed by Indian forces. He specifically decried the “forcible snatching of the mortal remains of the great Kashmiri leader, ” Syed Ali Geelani , who died earlier this month at 91.
Geelani’s family has said authorities took his body and buried him discreetly and without their consent, denying the separatist leader revered in Kashmir a proper Islamic burial. Khan called upon the General Assembly to demand Geelani’s proper burial and rites.
Kashmir is divided between India and Pakistan and has been claimed by both since they won independence from the British empire and began fighting over their rival claims.
He said Pakistan desires peace, but it is India’s responsibility to meaningfully engage.
Modi is set to address the UN General Assembly in person on Saturday, a day after a bilateral meeting with US President Joe Biden.

Related


Huawei CFO leaves Canada after agreement with US over fraud charges, detained Canadians head home

Huawei CFO leaves Canada after agreement with US over fraud charges, detained Canadians head home
Updated 25 September 2021

Huawei CFO leaves Canada after agreement with US over fraud charges, detained Canadians head home

Huawei CFO leaves Canada after agreement with US over fraud charges, detained Canadians head home
  • Meng Wanzhou indicted on bank and wire fraud charges for allegedly misleading HSBC in 2013 about the telecommunications equipment giant’s business dealings in Iran.

Huawei Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou flew home to China on Friday after reaching an agreement with US prosecutors to end the bank fraud case against her, relieving a point of tension between China and the United States.
Within hours of the news of the deal, two Canadians who were arrested shortly after Meng was taken into custody in December 2018 were released from Chinese jails and were on their way back to Canada. Beijing had denied that their arrests were linked.
The years-long extradition drama has been a central source of discord in increasingly rocky ties between Beijing and Washington, with Chinese officials signaling that the case needed to be dropped to help end a diplomatic stalemate between the world’s top two powers.
The deal also opens US President Joe Biden up to criticism from China hawks in Washington who argue his administration is capitulating to China and one of its top companies at the center of a global technology rivalry between the two countries.
Meng was arrested at Vancouver International Airport on a US warrant, and indicted on bank and wire fraud charges for allegedly misleading HSBC in 2013 about the telecommunications equipment giant’s business dealings in Iran.
In an exclusive on Friday, Reuters reported that the United States had reached a deferred prosecution agreement with Meng. Nicole Boeckmann, the acting US Attorney in Brooklyn, said that in entering into the agreement, “Meng has taken responsibility for her principal role in perpetrating a scheme to defraud a global financial institution.”
The agreement pertains only to Meng, and the US Justice Department said it is preparing for trial against Huawei and looks forward to proving its case in court.
A spokeswoman for Huawei declined to comment.
A person familiar with the matter said Meng — the daughter of Huawei founder, Ren Zhengfei — had left Canada on a flight to Shenzhen.
The two Canadians, businessman Michael Spavor and former diplomat Michael Kovrig, had been held in China for more than 1,000 days. In August, a Chinese court sentenced Spavor to 11 years in prison for espionage.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told reporters in brief remarks late on Friday the two men had left Chinese airspace just minutes before. He was not asked whether the two countries had struck a bilateral deal.
“I want to thank our allies and partners around the world in the international community who have stood steadfast in solidarity with Canada and with these two Canadians,” he said.
At a hearing in Brooklyn federal court on Friday, which Meng attended virtually from Canada, Assistant US Attorney David Kessler said the government would move to dismiss the charges against her if she complies with all of her obligations under the agreement, which ends in December 2022. He added that Meng will be released on a personal recognizance bond, and that the United States plans to withdraw its request to Canada for her extradition.
Meng pleaded not guilty to the charges in the hearing. When US District Court Judge Ann Donnelly later accepted the deferred prosecution agreement, Meng sighed audibly.
A Canadian judge later signed Meng’s order of discharge, vacating her bail conditions and allowing her to go free after nearly three years of house arrest.
She was emotional after the judge’s order, hugging and thanking her lawyers.
Speaking to supporters and reporters on the steps of the court afterward, Meng thanked the judge for her “fairness” and talked of how the case had turned her life “upside down.”
Meng was confined to her expensive Vancouver home at night and monitored 24/7 by private security that she paid for as part of her bail agreement. Referred to by Chinese state media as the “Princess of Huawei,” she was required to wear an electronic ankle bracelet to monitor her movements, which became fodder for the tabloids when it hung above her designer shoes.
Articles published by Reuters in 2012 and 2013 about Huawei, Hong Kong-registered company Skycom and Meng figured prominently in the US criminal case against her. Reuters reported that Skycom had offered to sell at least 1.3 million euros worth of embargoed Hewlett-Packard computer equipment to Iran’s largest mobile-phone operator in 2010.
Reuters also reported numerous financial and personnel links between Huawei and Skycom, including that Meng had served on Skycom’s board of directors between February 2008 and April 2009. The stories prompted HSBC to question Meng about Reuters findings.
Huawei was placed on a US trade blacklist in 2019 that restricts sales to the company for activities contrary to US national security and foreign policy interests. The restrictions have hobbled the company, which suffered its biggest revenue drop in the first half of 2021, after the US supply restrictions drove it to sell a chunk of its once-dominant handset business before new growth areas have matured.
The criminal case against Meng and Huawei is cited in the blacklisting. Huawei is charged with operating as a criminal enterprise, stealing trade secrets and defrauding financial institutions. It has pleaded not guilty.
A Canadian government official said Ottawa would not comment until the US court proceedings were over.
Huawei has become a dirty word in Washington, with China hawks in Congress quick to react to any news that could be construed as the United States being soft, despite Huawei’s struggles under the trade restrictions.
Then-President Donald Trump politicized the case when he told Reuters soon after Meng’s arrest that he would intervene if it would serve national security or help secure a trade deal. Meng’s lawyers have said she was a pawn in the political battle between the two super powers.
Republican China hard-liners in Congress called Friday’s deal a “capitulation.”
“Instead of standing firm against China’s hostage-taking and blackmail, President Biden folded,” Republican Senator Tom Cotton said in a statement.
Senior US officials have said that Meng’s case was being handled solely by the Justice Department and the case had no bearing on the US approach to strained ties with China.
During US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman’s July trip to China, Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Xie Feng insisted that the United States drop its extradition case against Meng.
US officials have acknowledged that Beijing had linked Meng’s case to the case of the two detained Canadians, but insisted that Washington would not be drawn into viewing them as bargaining chips.


Taliban vow to ‘suppress’ Daesh presence in Afghanistan

Taliban vow to ‘suppress’ Daesh presence in Afghanistan
Updated 24 September 2021

Taliban vow to ‘suppress’ Daesh presence in Afghanistan

Taliban vow to ‘suppress’ Daesh presence in Afghanistan
  • Daesh will become major threat if world shuns Taliban rule, say experts

KABUL: A senior Taliban official has said the group will “suppress” Daesh fighters operating in Afghanistan, as experts warned the militants were likely to increase their activity and attacks.
After toppling the Western-backed government in Kabul mid-August, Afghanistan’s Taliban rulers have faced a deadly attack on the capital’s airport and bomb blasts in the eastern city of Jalalabad, all claimed by Daesh-Khorasan, or Daesh-K, the local affiliate of the group that originated in Syria.
Daesh emerged in Afghanistan in late 2014 but its strength has declined from its 2018 peak after a series of heavy losses inflicted by both the Taliban and US forces. The group denounced the Taliban’s takeover of the country, criticizing their version of Islamic rule as insufficiently hardline.
As Daesh-K’s strength is now estimated by the UN to be fewer than 2,000 militants, compared with at least 100,000 Taliban fighters, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid downplayed the threat earlier this week by saying the group had no “effective presence” in Afghanistan.
“Soon they would be suppressed,” another spokesman Bilal Karimi, who is a member of the Taliban cultural commission, told Arab News on Thursday. “We assure the people that any group which wants to confront us would be grounded.”
But experts forecast that Daesh would soon become a major threat to the stability of Taliban rule, especially if the new government remained shunned by the rest of the world.
“The Taliban will see a sharp (increase in) activity of ISIS-K (Daesh-K) shortly,” Ahmad Saeedi, a political expert based in Kabul, said. “The Taliban regime has not been recognized by the world so far, and this is a potential threat.”
The Taliban were facing a “series of movements by anti-Taliban forces that had a special place in the previous regime, such as the remnants of the former army,” Saeedi added. “With this situation, it is likely that the Taliban will not be able to continue their rule for more than a year.”
Other anti-Taliban groups, including the National Resistance Front of Afghanistan supported by some members of the previous administration, may join forces with Daesh, he said, and the combined challenges could lead to a “premature collapse” of the Taliban government.
Col. Hekmatullah Hakimi, a former officer of the Afghan army, also listed opposition groups as the possible future ranks of Daesh.
“It is possible that several resistance affiliates will join the ranks of ISIS-K and line up against the Taliban,” he said.
The threat may increase further if the Taliban continued sowing fear among those rejecting them.
“Their enemies would increase daily,” Kabul-based international relations expert Wais Naseri told Arab News. “Military confrontation against the Taliban is 100 percent possible, and that military resistance will form in the not-too-distant future.”