KABUL: Afghanistan’s former education minister, who fled as the Taliban took over the country last year, returned to Kabul on Wednesday, following the return of other high-ranking officials this week, after security assurances from the new administration.
Tens of thousands of Afghans and most former government officials left the country after its Western-backed administration collapsed when the Taliban seized control in mid-August.
Ghulam Farooq Wardak is the latest returning official.
Others are Daulat Waziri, the former spokesperson for the Defense Ministry, and Amanullah Ghalib, the former head of Afghanistan’s national power company, who arrived in Afghanistan during the past few days.
Bilal Karimi, the deputy spokesman for the Taliban administration, told Arab News after Wardak’s arrival that a commission set up to negotiate the return of high-profile Afghans abroad was in touch with former officials and that authorities “hope all Afghans come back to their country.”
“The situation has improved now, and Afghans can return to their country without any issue,” he said. “Influential, clean, and committed personalities can live in the country and will enjoy all rights under the new government.”
Wardak, who spoke to the media after landing at Kabul airport, said that a “large percentage” of those who left Afghanistan would like to come back and serve their country.
“I feel proud, dignified, and happy in my own country. I live here, and I will die here. I will be with the people of this country,” he said. “A tiny percentage of Afghans who left the country may not wish to come back.”
Waziri, who returned on Sunday, told reporters he expected the Taliban to “open their arms” to all Afghans as he thanked the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan — the Taliban government — for inviting him to return.
“I thank the IEA leaders for contacting me as I wished to come back to Afghanistan. I am against war. I worked in all regimes,” he said. “I hope for peace, unity, and working together to build the country.”
Officials are returning to the country as Taliban authorities, unrecognized by foreign governments, have been under pressure to form an inclusive government to win international recognition.
In April, the chief Taliban spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, announced plans to convene a loya jirga — a large assembly of Afghan leaders that has traditionally been a forum to discuss and reach a consensus on important political issues.
The commission to negotiate the return of former government officials was set up in March with nine members, including acting Foreign Minister Amir Khan Mutaqi, intelligence chief Abdulhaq Wasiq, and the chief of army staff Qari Fasihuddin Fetrat.