An All-male Taliban Government In Afghanistan

The Taliban have announced the formation of Afghanistan’s “caretaker” temporary government, with Mullah Hassan Akhund as the acting prime minister. The government should start functioning soon and end the political vacuum.

It is an all-male government drawn exclusively from the group’s inner echelons and has been formed just after three weeks of the Taliban’s military conquest of Afghanistan. The Taliban’s spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid has promised that women will be brought into the Afghanistan government by stating that “we will have positions for women”.

Acting prime minister Hassan Akhund served as foreign minister, and then he was the deputy prime minister when the Taliban ruled from 1996 to 2001. He is under UN sanctions for his acts and position during that government. Speaking to Al Jazeera on Wednesday 8, Akhund said former Afghan officials should return to the country because their safety would be guaranteed.

He is more influential on the religious side of the movement, rather than the military side. He is seen as “a compromise candidate after reported rivalries among leading military and political figures who will serve under him,” analyses Chief International Correspondent Lyse Doucet from  BBC.

Another incoming minister, Sirajuddin Haqqani, is head of the notorious Haqqani network. The Haqqani network has been designated a Foreign Terrorist Organisation by the US and “maintains close ties to Al-Qaeda.” The news report adds that the FBI believes Haqqani was behind the truck bomb explosion in Kabul in 2017 that killed more than 150 people and that he is wanted by the FBI over a 2008 attack on a hotel that killed an American.

The government will uphold Sharia law, but the Taliban has advocated for “strong and healthy” relations with other countries. They will respect international laws and treaties as long as they do not contravene the “Islamic law and the country’s national values”, as it was said on a Tuesday statement attributed to Taliban Supreme Leader Mawlawi Hibatullah Akhundzada.

Out of the 33 roles announced, 14 are former Taliban officials during its previous 1996-2001 rule, 5 are former Guantanamo detainees, and 12 are officials from the second generation of the movement, according to the news reports.

Dozens of women in Kabul and the north-eastern Afghan province of Badakhshan have protested the setting up of this interim Taliban government. After the announcement of a new government formation, demonstrators took the streets saying that they would not accept a government with no women ministers, according to BBC.

Some women were reportedly beaten before the protests were dispersed, and the Taliban have warned that such protests are illegal and require a permit to march. Also, journalists of local news organization Etilaatroz were beaten. The Taliban have not responded to these accusations.

The recent events and government emergence seem to completely go against the promises made by the Taliban of being “inclusive and representative”. While the majority of the countries have reacted negatively to the announcement or have adopted a wait-and-see position, specific countries such as China have welcomed the end of “three weeks of anarchy” in Afghanistan and pledged $31m in immediate aid.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the Taliban’s government “certainly does not meet the test of inclusivity, and it includes people who have very challenging track records.” The US is not the only country concerned by the affiliations of some of the people in the new government, the European Union stated that the “caretaker” government unveiled by the Taliban in Afghanistan failed to honor vows to include different ethnic and religious groups.

The anti-Taliban National Resistance Front of Afghanistan (NRF) has urged the international community not to recognize the new government, calling the cabinet “illegal” and “a clear sign of the group’s enmity with the Afghan people”.

In the same line, UN Women’s officer-in-charge Pramila Patten voiced that the Taliban’s exclusion of women in the government questions its commitment “to protect and respect the rights” of women and girls. Gender equality and genuine democracy seem far away from becoming true under this structure.

This government formation has come at a time where women are seeing their rights in danger. Afghan women, including the country’s women’s cricket team, could be banned from playing sport under the new Taliban government, according to the deputy head of the Taliban’s cultural commission, Ahmadullah Wasiq. They consider women’s sport inappropriate and unnecessary.

The formation of the Taliban’s Afghan government is setting a challenging precedent for a future political structure and sends alarming signals by not including women and ethnic representation despite their promises of an “inclusive” government. The formation is also ethnocentric, with Pashtuns making up more than 90% of the cabinet and the Hazara minority, Afghanistan’s third-largest ethnic group, without any role.

This “new government” resembles quite a bit the first one (1996-2001), and will most likely hinder the militants’ prospects of international recognition. Nevertheless, they seem indifferent to the possible international isolation if they continue down this path.

The inclusion of the Hazara community and women in the government could have represented a step forward in making amends. They would have received significant praise if at least they had announced a woman as the head of the Ministry of Women’s Affairs. This decision would have calmed down a bit the ongoing women’s rights demonstrations that are currently getting bigger, as they see their lives at risk.

If the Taliban have created this government to fill in the political vacuum and because of the need for a transitional regime, what makes us think that the leadership to whom these positions have been offered will cede them in the near future? What kind of life could women live in a country where they are not even allowed to play sports?

With some restrictions already taking place under a temporary government, the only thing to do is pray for our Afghan women and expect the international community to not engage with the Taliban government.

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