HashimKamali

Taliban's Grand Assembly a disappointment

Thursday, 07 July 2022 16:52
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The meeting of some 3,000 religious leaders from across Afghanistan in Kabul on July 1-3 ended with an 11-item resolution that received a mixed reception by the Afghan people, and was seen as falling short of addressing public expectations.

Mullah Hibatullah Akhundzada, who was formally declared as Head of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA), attended the meeting that was touted as a Loya Jirga, a grand assembly, but became, at a short notice, a large get-together of clerics.

This meeting was expected to consider and approve a plan of action and policy outline of the IEA that is still unknown even after 11 months of the Taliban takeover of power on August 15, 2021.

It failed to address issues such as allowing girls access to secondary education, with schools closed under the Taliban for almost a year. The 11-point resolution was also silent on a new constitution.

Commentators were critical of the fact that women were not included in the meeting.

It was widely publicised that in the discussion, only two participants from Balkh province raised the issue of the girls' schooling.

Mullah Hibatullah was quoted only to have said that "oppressors and despots should no longer be entrusted with public office", evidently reaffirming the much-criticised Taliban monopoly of political power in Kabul.

Soon after the resolutions were publicised on July 3, a large meeting was held by the women representatives in Kabul in protest against the Taliban preclusion of women in the meeting and silence over the much-expected reopening of the secondary schools for girls.

A separate meeting of teachers was also held in Kabul to protest that the meeting remained aloof to people's demands.

The resolutions spoke on issues of concern to the Kabul government and demanded the international community recognise the IEA and and resume normal relations with it.

The 11-item resolution also declared full support for Mullah Hibatullah's leadership and lauded the ulama for becoming effective political leaders of Afghanistan.

Yet, the Taliban themselves have remained non-responsive to what the world expected of them regarding women's rights to education, and the formation also of an inclusive government.

The meeting was occupied by non-issues, the so-called shop talk about the new era of Taliban leadership, and changes spearheaded by Mullah Hibatullah.

The Taliban are introducing changes that people can hardly be expected to accept. The traditional Loya Jirga historically consisted of people's representatives, but was changed to an ulama-only platform.

The religious leaders are thus arrogating to themselves powers that amount to overruling the constitution and customary convention.

They seem to be creating the Iranian Supreme Leader in the person of Mullah Hibatullah and beginning to arrogate to him extra-constitutional powers without mentioning a constitution or the rule of law.

In one or two interviews that were given immediately after the meeting by the Taliban spokesmen, themselves mullahs, there was much talk that ulama were the true spokesmen of the people and that the people of Afghanistan look up to them and will never go against their wishes.

This is in line with the Taliban actual behaviour in office over the longer stretch of time, the fact that they are keeping to themselves and do not seek popular engagement. This is just a repeat of Taliban dictatorship in a new garb.

There is no talk of elections, a constitution, or good governance, not just in the last few days, but ever since the Taliban rule.

The modern history of Afghanistan is one of persistent struggle for these purposes and now the people's trust is being played with by a group of dogmatic rulers who have little regard for democracy, good governance and the rule of law.

The people of Afghanistan have known that the purpose of a constitution is to mark a transition from the rule of persons to the rule of law and commitment to serve the people and not a group of self-willed dictators by any name.

 

Mohammad Hashim Kamali is founding chief executive officer of the International Institute of Advanced Islamic Studies Malaysia.

Published in: The New Straits Times (online), Wednesday 06 July 2022

Source: https://www.nst.com.my/opinion/columnists/2022/07/811246/talibans-grand-assembly-disappointment

The Taliban have not changed

Friday, 01 April 2022 16:59
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The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan's ban on secondary education for girls announced on March 23 backtracked their earlier statement on reopening of schools for all students (boys and girls).

The ban was met with a chorus of denunciation and disdain by the Afghan population, seven months after schooling was suspended.

The ban on girls' secondary education is basically dogmatic, emanating from, in my view, a deep-seated prejudice against women.

Who can in their right mind and in the name of Islam and Afghan culture take such a retrogressive step in the face of the ubiquitous emphasis in the Quran and hadith on learning and the Afghan traditional appreciation for knowledge!

The Education Ministry spokesman also mentioned that the ban came from the top (i.e, Mulla Hibatullah Akhundzada), referred to as Commander of the Faithful (Amir al-Mu'minin), indicating perhaps that the ministry had not proposed it.

Civil society, especially women leaders, parents and the girls themselves, are calling this as the "darkest day" and an intellectual blow for Afghanistan.

Parents spoke with emotion that their daughters were eagerly preparing to return to school. Many were seen crying at their school gates and elsewhere wiping their tears.

Former deputy education minister Thurayya Paikan, prominent women rights advocates Mahbuba Siraj and Monesa Mubariz, Afghanistan's former ambassador to Norway Shukria Barakzai, Strategic Studies Centre of Afghanistan director Atif Mokhtar, and leader of the Party for Intellectual Advancement of Afghanistan Saleem Paygir, among others, spoke forcefully in denunciation of the ban, coming also on the heels of similar restrictions on women's right to work.

The Taliban have no right to make such a momentous decision, especially when they lack popular mandate and came to power through coercive methods.

Seven months after their takeover, no country has yet to officially recognise the Taliban government.

Spokesmen and women leaders were askanced as to what kind of a society does the Taliban want. What do they try to make of Afghanistan — and what is their endgame? They have not explained their plans and programmes.

Former president Hamid Karzai had suggested earlier that the Islamic emirate should convene the traditional Loya Jirga (grand national assembly) and seek approval for their actions.

All are asking for immediate reversal of the ban, adding that the emirate is responsible in respecting and upholding people's rights, not to violate them.

Siraj and Paikan noted that people had remained patient and appreciative of the peace they enjoyed after some 40 years of turmoil, but that may be running out.

Civil protests on the streets of Kabul and provinces, especially by schoolgirls, has already started and likely to grow wider.

Paikan further noted that the Islamic emirate was breaking the promise made earlier that all schools will be opened after months of closure; the Taliban should know that breaking a promise is unacceptable in Islam.

Barakzai added that the Taliban were moving Afghanistan further away from progress and civilisation, wasting the hard-earned gains of the past decades.

The Afghan people and the international community seem to be seeing more of the fanatic side of the Taliban that has not changed since the 1990s when they ruled Afghanistan for five years (1996‒-2001).

The UN Security Council issued a resolution asking the emirate for immediate removal of the ban and opening of all schools.

The United States, European Union and virtually all leading countries of Europe have denounced the decision as a violation of basic rights and unacceptable. The US scheduled meeting in Doha on March 26 with a view to normalise relations was also cancelled.

I had quoted one of the Taliban spokesmen, Suhail Shaheen, who said the Taliban had changed from 20 years ago as they realised some of the mistakes they made and changed their views, especially with regard to female education that they now approve of.

It seems that this is not so. The fanatic side of Taliban has not changed.

On a more symbolic note perhaps, the Afghan people generally felt it was unnecessary and verged on self-styled dogmatism when months earlier, the Taliban replaced the traditional tri-coloured national flag of Afghanistan with their own white flag.

Both exhibited the same testimonial of the faith (the shahada) and there was no need to change the flag.


Mohammad Hashim Kamali is founding chief executive officer of the International Institute of Advanced Islamic Studies Malaysia.

Published in: The New Straits Times, Friday 01 April 2022

Source: https://www.nst.com.my/opinion/columnists/2022/04/784993/taliban-have-not-changed

Lack of recognition haunts Taliban

Monday, 10 January 2022 13:58
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EVENTS are still unfolding but expectations are already dampened by the Taliban's performance in government after four months in power. Up to late December last year, only Malaysia has officially recognised it.

This is perhaps not highly significant given the fact that Malaysia has no diplomatic mission in Kabul and deals with Afghanistan through its embassy in Qatar.

Pakistan is generally seen to have actively supported the Taliban takeover of power in August last year but it has yet to officially recognise it.

The United States has not recognised the Taliban and according to its Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, it is not likely to do so unless the Taliban changes its stance on inclusivity and human rights, especially of women's rights to work and education.

Due to legitimacy issues, Washington is refusing to release US$10 billion of Afghanistan's reserves in the US despite public outcry in Afghanistan that those funds are sorely needed.

 
This was also followed in recent days by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov's statement that in practice Afghanistan's official recognition is taking place. But, official recognition has not been forthcoming even from the Russians.

Other countries tend to follow the US and have refused recognition for similar reasons, saying that the Taliban should act on its promises first.

The Taliban considers the prevailing non-recognition as less than acceptable and unfair.

The Taliban maintains — and confirmed in a Jan 4 interview with First Deputy Prime Minister Mullah Baradar — that it fulfils all the requirements of recognition, take credit that security prevails under it, and that its policies are people-friendly and responsive to actual developments.

Earlier comments by some of the Taliban spokesmen claimed that the Taliban is not the same group as the one of 20 years ago (when it was in power from 1996 to 2001) and has changed in many ways.

Yet, it has not budged on its negative stance on women's rights despite the frequent comments by international commentators that the Taliban should change this.

Public expectations that the Taliban will be a people's government are also dampened due to a series of restrictions it is imposing on public activities. Media representatives are complaining of many restrictions.

An earlier announcement by the Taliban Ministry for the Promotion of Good and Prevention of Evil said the media should expose people to that which is good and beneficial and avoid coverage of futile activities.

There is talk that the Taliban is clamping down on music. People are expected to wear beards and the traditional shalwar-kameez outfit. Internally displaced and unemployed people are growing in numbers and further swelling the existing problems of poverty and deprivation.

The fears of drastic food shortages and increasing economic problems add to the gloomy outlook. About 90 per cent of Afghans currently live below the poverty line.

Banks were closed for weeks before it reopened but are still far from returning to their normal pace of activities. Government employees and workers are complaining of not receiving their salaries for months amid widespread unemployment.

There are fears of an impending humanitarian disaster due to worsening food shortages and rising prices. Recent announcements that the import trade volumes are declining is indication of an economic slowdown.

This is despite an earlier announcement by Pakistan that it is allowing India's export of food and medicine to Afghanistan though its territory.

Time is not on the Taliban's side. Problems are piling up and the people's view of it is also turning negative.

It bought time earlier by saying publicly that it needed to consult internally among themselves and formulate new policies, that it was new in office and had inherited a corrupt regime and so forth.

Instead, the Taliban has gradually come up with more restrictions and issued few reassuring statements to respond to public concerns.

What policies the leadership was consulting about and formulating should perhaps be discussed in the open and deliberated for better results.

People expect more effective measures to curb food supply shortages, declining market situations and financial activities.

The value of the Afghan currency, Afghani, versus the US dollar is in a free fall. It was 80 Afghani some months ago but it is now 104. Trading volumes in the Kabul Market and other major cities have also declined.

All this give fodder to the rumour that the Taliban is likely to collapse due to lack of funds, ineffective governance and lack of international support.


Mohammad Hashim Kamali is founding chief executive officer of the International Institute of Advanced Islamic Studies Malaysia.

Published in: The New Straits Times, Sunday 09 January 2022

Source: https://www.nst.com.my/opinion/columnists/2022/01/761426/lack-recognition-haunts-taliban

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