ISLAMABAD: Inclusivity in the new Taliban government is one of the key demands of all of Afghanistan’s neighbours as well as the rest of the international community and Special Envoys on Afghanistan of Pakistan Ambassador Sadiq, Russian’s Zamir Kabulov and China’s Yue Xiayong visited Kabul and held talks with Afghan Acting Prime Minister M. Hasan Akhund and other senior leaders on the issue of inclusive government.
After talks last week on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization in Tajikistan’s capital Dushanbe, foreign ministers of Russia, China, Pakistan, and Iran emphasized the “need to conclude national reconciliation in Afghanistan, resulting in an inclusive government that takes into account the interests of all ethno-political forces of the country.”
Despite their promises on inclusivity and upholding women’s rights, the Taliban Cabinet is full of loyalists with few minorities and no women.
In an interview with BBC, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan said this could lead to problems for the Taliban going forward. “If they do not include all the factions, sooner or later they will have a civil war,” he said. “That would mean an unstable, chaotic, Afghanistan and an ideal place for terrorists. That is a worry,” he said.
Envoys of Pakistan, Russia, and China pushed for an inclusive government in their meeting with the Taliban acting prime minister in Kabul on Tuesday.
“Special Envoys on Afghanistan of Pakistan Amb Sadiq, Russia Zamir Kabulov and China Yue Xiayong visited Kabul & called on Afghan Acting Prime Minister M. Hasan AKhund & senior leaders to discuss peace, stability & inclusive governance,” tweeted Pakistan’s ambassador to Kabul, Mansoor Ahmed Khan.
Defending the Taliban Cabinet, spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid has said in previous press briefings that it is an interim set up that can be changed later. Other Taliban leaders have indicated Taliban reluctance for the idea.
“We do not give the right to anyone to call for an inclusive government,” Taliban leader Mohammad Mobeen said Sunday on Afghanistan’s Ariana TV, adding that asking for inclusivity was tantamount to asking the Taliban to include spies of neighboring countries in their government.
Tajikistan, one of Afghanistan’s central Asian neighbors, has also been one of its strongest critics. Tajiks make up more than 20 percent of Afghanistan’s population including the only group that continues to resist Taliban rule in Afghanistan, the National Resistance Front of Afghanistan (NRFA) based out of Panjshir.
The Taliban claim they have crushed the resistance in Panjshir but the group claims it is hiding in the mountains and trying to reorganize itself in preparation for a long guerrilla war.
Tweeting photographs of Tuesday’s meeting with Pakistani, Russian, and Chinese envoys, Taliban official Ahmadullah Muttaqi said the Taliban acting ministers of foreign affairs and finance were also present.
During their Kabul visit, the three foreign envoys also held talks with former President Hamid Karzai and the chairman of the High Council for National Reconciliation, Abdullah Abdullah.
Pakistan’s ambassador said the meeting was part of efforts to bring “lasting peace & stability in Afghanistan.”
Meanwhile, the group, which is still not formally recognized as a government by any country, has nominated its Doha-based spokesman, Suhail Shaheen, as its new ambassador to the United Nations and requested that he be allowed to address world leaders during the ongoing General Assembly session in New York. That request must go to a U.N. credentials committee which is not expected to meet before the end of the current session.
Taliban Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi made the request in a letter to U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Monday.
The last time the Taliban held power, from 1996 to 2001, the U.N. allowed the representative of the government that the Taliban deposed to hold the seat.
Taliban appoint hardline battlefield commanders
Afghanistan’s Taliban rulers announced several senior appointments on Tuesday, naming two veteran battlefield commanders from the movement’s southern heartlands as deputies in important ministries.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said Mullah Abdul Qayyum Zakir will be deputy defence minister, while Sadr Ibrahim was named deputy minister for the interior.
Both men had been expected to take major positions in the new government but neither was named in the main list of ministers announced this month.
The two were identified in UN reports as being among battlefield commanders loyal to the former Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mansour who were pressing the leadership to step up the war against the Western-backed government.
The appointments add to the roster of hardliners in the main group of ministers, which included figures like Sirajuddin Haqqani, head of the militant Haqqani network, blamed for a string of attacks on civilian targets.
But the appointments also appear to reflect concern within the Taliban to secure unity by balancing the regional and personal differences that have surfaced as the movement transitions from a wartime guerrilla force to a peacetime administration.
According to a UN Security Council report from June, both Zakir and Sadr commanded significant forces of their own, called mahaz, that traditionally operated across several provinces.
They were considered so powerful and independent that there were concerns within the leadership that this could stoke tension over the loyalties of certain groups, particularly in the south and southwest of the country.
Zakir, a former detainee in the US military prison at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, was a close associate of late Taliban founder Mullah Omar. He was captured when US-led forces swept through in Afghanistan in 2001 and was incarcerated in Guantanamo until 2007, according to media reports.
He was released and handed over to the Afghan government and was widely tipped to become defence minister in the new government before Mullah Omar’s son, Mullah Mohammad Yaqoob, was appointed to the post.
Sadr, a former head of the Taliban military commission from the southern province of Helmand, will be deputy to Sirajuddin Haqqani, whose family comes from the eastern borderlands with Pakistan.
Suhail Shaheen appointed as Afghan envoy to UN
Spokesman for Taliban political office in Doha, Suhail Shaheen has confirmed that he has been designated as Islamic Emirates of Afghanistan’s envoy to the United Nations and asked the world body to immediately give the opportunity to the IEA to speak in the ongoing UNGA session in New York.
“It’s the right of Islamic Emirates of Afghanistan (IEA) to represent Afghanistan in the United Nations and speak there as the voice of the Afghan people,” Suhail Shaheen told The Nation in an exclusive interview over phone from Doha.
“The UN must give opportunity to IEA so that they could speak in the ongoing session”, Shaheen remarked. Diplomatic sources confirmed the UN secretary general has received a letter from the IEA government but no response has been given.
UNGA urged to allow Taliban to address ongoing session
Answering a question, Shaheen said there is no terrorism threat from Afghanistan as the IEA government has warned all terrorist groups to abandon their terrorist activities immediately and do not use afghan soil for such acts.
On the issue of inclusive government, Shaheen said the IEA would like to give more representation to other ethnic groups in the near future.
When asked, he said he had read a tweet of the Prime Minister Imran Khan regarding his initiative for a dialogue for making the Afghan government more inclusive. “We welcome PM Imran Khan’s statement, but there is no progress on it yet,” Suhail Shaheen said.