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Friday, January 21, 2022

What does the Taliban’s ‘amnesty’ mean for weary Afghans?


Afghans are concerned over their freedoms under Taliban rule.

The Taliban captured full control of Afghanistan on Sunday without a fight in Kabul after managing to secure provincial capitals over the span of a week, placing the country’s government on a chokehold.

Some, consumed with fear due to experiences from previous Taliban rule, rushed to Kabul’s Hamid Karzai International Airport, latched onto airplanes without flight tickets, in a desperate bid to flee.

However, since those chaotic scenes first emerged, the Taliban has re-introduced the group to the world, making various promises that provide a whole new image to violent insurgents that ruled the country from 1996 to 2001. To quell concerns, the Taliban even promised amnesty for all and asked women to join in Kabul’s governance.

“Since they took over Kabul, they are basically trying to sell themselves as a force that can govern Afghanistan. They promised amnesty although the reports coming from different parts of the country contradict claims of amnesty,” Haroun Rahimi, assistant professor of law at the American University of Afghanistan, told Doha News.

However, based on Rahimi’s observations, there have been no campaigns targeting government officials as of yet, though the militant have gone to the houses of former officials, asking them to hand over government issued guns and vehicles.

Speculations over the authenticity of the proposed amnesty emerged when the Taliban requested guns were handed over in person.

“These are the types of things that are happening systematically, it’s undercutting the promise of amnesty and fuelling an environment of fear, that maybe the claims of amnesty aren’t really true, that the Taliban are trying to consolidate power, trying to wait for the Americans to leave and then they may start targeting ex officials,” said Rahimi.

Further questions over the amnesty were raised on Wednesday when the group launched a crackdown on those they believe worked with the US and NATO forces, threatening to kill or arrest family members if they are not found, according to a confidential UN document.

The document said the insurgent group has a list of targets wanted for questioning and punishment.

Violence was also reported in several provinces as clashes erupted between Taliban members and demonstrators in areas including Nangarhar and Khost. According to TOLOnews, one protester was reportedly killed in Jalalabad city, the centre of Nangarhar province.

“I suspect that once they consolidate power, they will try to neutralise those who they see as a threat. In terms of who the Taliban see as a threat, that’s an open question,” said Rahimi.

Promises and an absence in trust

The Taliban has already held its first press conference since assuming power on Sunday, making assurances that raised eyebrows worldwide. Among these were promises to respect women’s rights and forgive those who fought against the group.

“With regards to other promises, like forming an inclusive government, that remains to be seen. There are positive signs, for example they have been treating some of the ex leaders not harshly like Karzai, Abdullah Abdullah, Hekmatyar, even Ismail Khan,” said Rahimi, saying that meetings showed signs of hope despite the clear levels of control presented by the Taliban.

After days of developments news of what Afghanistan’s future governance would like like has yet to be revealed. This is despite reported talks between government officials and the insurgent group to discuss changes in the country’s leadership.

Chairman of the High Council for National Reconciliation Abdullah Abdullah, met with Khalil Al-Rahman Haqqani and other members of the militia in Kabul on Wednesday night.

“There is some hope there that there could be a possible shared government…but the reasons the people may not believe they will share power often has to do with the fact that in the past they were a very exclusive group, they are known to be very authoritarian and very totalitarian in their governance,” said Rahimi.

Afghanistan was left under Taliban rule after former president Ashraf Ghani fled the country to Tajikstan before then moving to the UAE despite earlier vows to fight the group.

“The restraint they’ve [Taliban] shown suggests there’s a genuine desire to govern Afghanistan,” Rahimi suggested.

While many – especially girls and women – remain fearful due to the group’s track brutal record, the Taliban has attempted to actively quell those concerns in recent days.

In scenes that would have never been seen during the militant’s rule in the 90’s, women anchors have continued to appear on Afghan television, with one presenter even interviewing a Taliban member on TOLOnews just a day after they captured Kabul.

Still, the bigger question mark has been placed on how the group will use the Islamic Sharia law to govern the country and provide their basic rights for women, which in the end falls to its interpretation of text.

“People are still skeptical to what that [Islamic law] would mean, because the last time the Taliban believed they implemented an Islamic system they created a gender apartheid,” said Rahimi.

UN refugee chief thanks Qatar for global humanitarian assistance amid Afghan crisis

“They never admitted that their past system was in any way Islamic,” he added.

Rahimi also believes that there is some sort of “respite” in the country, especially as years of fighting between the Afghan government and the Taliban came to a halt for a brief time.

“I do admit that parts of the country may actually feel respite because the fighting is over, there was a war going on in the country for a very long time and rural Afghanistan was where the war was happening, so they had it the hardest. Now there’s a de facto ceasefire,” he said.

Meanwhile, scenes of yet another refugee crisis triggered by recent political developments in Afghanistan have emerged, with footage of scores of people attempting to flee the country spiking global concerns over the fate of Afghans.

Among those were images of a C-17 military plane that departed from Afghanistan and landed in Qatar carrying 640 of Afghans. The aircraft was built to carry just 134 passengers.

In light of the recent events, Qatar was the only Gulf state to call for a “safe and orderly” departure for Afghans and foreign nationals.⁠⁠ All evacuees being transported by US forces from Afghanistan, including embassy staff, diplomats and Afghans who worked with the US over the years, are currently being temporarily hosted in Qatar.

However, after years of hardship in Afghanistan, Rahimi believes not all those who left were fleeing the Taliban in particular.

“You have to realise it’s not a matter of whether they want to be killed or not…there are many more who believe that Afghanistan wouldn’t be a place they would like to live in,” said Rahimi.

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