HashimKamali

Let Afghans lead the way out of their own political impasse

Thursday, 08 December 2022 08:55
Published in Articles

On Oct 15, 2022 the Afghan Taliban ruler, Mulla Hibatullah Akhundzada, sent another message from his headquarters in Kandahar to call for the nullification of all existing laws in the country and enforcement only of the Sharia, adding that the existing laws be repealed and replaced and that Afghanistan's relations with other countries should also be based on the Sharia.

This is not the first time he has said this and the reason for repeated emphasis is probably the difficulty of implementing a sweeping order of this nature.

Rumour also has it that some internal dissension in the Taliban ranks in Kabul is developing due to Hibatullah's unruly decrees. This order to enforce only the Sharia throws the country, its government and justice system into an unprecedented legal vacuum.

Afghanistan's government and court practice are entrenched in its previous constitutions, its Civil Code 1976 (over 2,300 articles) and its Criminal Code 1977 (over 523 articles and a large number of other statutes). Setting all these aside at a moment's notice is irresponsible especially for a government that lacks professional background and experience.

The order is also oblivious of history in that past governments normally enforced the Sharia side-by-side with government decrees and policy decisions. These had existed in various names such as Nizamnama, Firman, Qanun, etc. Hibatullah's decree insisting that only the Sharia and nothing else should apply in Afghanistan is, therefore, ill-informed and unrealistic.

Except for some banking laws that are also changing due to the progressive introduction of Islamic banking, all the laws of Afghanistan are either Sharia based or Sharia compliant. Besides, most of Afghanistan's constitutions contain the so-called Repugnancy Clause, providing that no law in Afghanistan may be contrary to the Sharia and basic principles of Islam.

At a time when Afghanistan is grappling with poverty and economic problems, the Taliban are focused on religious and gender issues that are oblivious to the people's needs. Many of Mulla Hibatullah's previous decrees have similarly been problematic.

The Taliban decision over a year ago to close secondary schools for girls blatantly violated their fundamental right of education. The girls' schools remain closed to this day despite persistent public demand to reopen them.

The general public, including religious leaders, parents, women and girls, have emphasised education as a basic right and an Islamic requirement - all of which have fallen on deaf ears.

The UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, the European Union, Afghanistan's neighbours and numerous other countries have urged the Taliban to reopen the girls' schools immediately – all to no avail.

Earlier on July 29, 2022 (7 Thawr 1401 of the Afghan calendar), the Afghan people celebrated the National Flag Day of Afghanistan with the traditional tricoloured (black, red and green) flags, but contrary to expectations, the Taliban government ceremonially raised their own white coloured flag and the matter became a media issue.

Commentators noted that the Taliban government should have also celebrated the public event together with the people. But they followed their own agenda regardless. It was publicly emphasised that the tricolour flag was not changed by any other government ever since its adoption under Amir Habibullah in 1899 CE.

The Taliban's latest addition to the rising number of restrictions they have been imposing on women was the ban on women's entry to parks and recreation centres announced on Nov 12, 2022.

The retrogressive trail of Taliban decrees began on day one of their takeover of the Kabul government on Aug 15, 2021 when they banned secondary schooling for girls who were forced to stay at home ever since.

The public plea within Afghanistan and internationally to reopen the schools has fallen on deaf ears. Instead, the Taliban Supreme Leader Mulla Hibatullah Akhundzada added further restrictions that limit women employment opportunities and exclude them from taking leadership positions in government.

Women who appeared on tv screens and the media were compelled to wear black attire and cover their bodies except for their face and hands. On Nov 14, Hibatullah issued another decree on the implementation of hudud and qisas (prescribed penalties and retaliation), adding that his new decree applied to all existing incomplete cases that qualify for these punishments.

He further declared that obeying him was an obligation of all citizens. The Afghan women have resisted all this and continued their protest demonstrations on the streets of Kabul and other cities, notwithstanding the Taliban authorities persistent intimidation and risk of arrest.

All this in the midst of over 90 per cent unemployment, crushing poverty, food shortages and the impending winter. The Taliban are ill at ease with governance due to lack of experience and a skilled workforce. Banking and finance have nose-dived under them. Major banks were closed for weeks.
Domestic trade and international finance collapsed for extended periods. Following the Taliban's recent decrees, the leader of the Islamic Party, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, commented in a Friday sermon that most professionals and skilled workers had left the country and those still remaining were now leaving in droves.

He added that many also leave for fear of their safety as media workers and news correspondents were being killed and tortured, including for instance, Ilyas Daa'i who was blown up in his car.

Afghanistan's short-lived freedom of expression is under attack. Publication licences of 24 periodicals have hitherto been cancelled or not renewed.

United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan's (UNAMA) special representative in Kabul, Roza Otunbayeva, said in an interview with a ranking Taliban official, Shihabuddin Dilawar, that Afghans who were returning to Afghanistan in response to the Taliban invitation should be given a role in the country's affairs and government.

She said this knowing that the Taliban were not likely to do that. They have kept all government positions to themselves, notwithstanding the promise they made 15 months ago to form an inclusive government.

UNAMA's deputy representative in Kabul, Markus Potzel, observed, in turn, that Afghanistan needs to engage in an all-inclusive socio-political process to create a meaningful context for government to people relations. No country has officially recognised the Taliban government even after 15 months in office.

For this to happen, it was rightly said at a recent United Nations meeting on Afghanistan that the government should engage with the people first. They have not done that. The Foreign Minister of Norway hit the nail on the head when he said on Nov 14 that instead of improving the conditions of their people, Afghanistan's government leaders were prioritising other matters.

The other matters mostly included imposing more and more restrictions on women and implementation of the Shariah. This latter move was mentioned many times before but singling out hudud and qisas will most likely bring back death by hanging, mutilation of the hand for theft and lashing.

Hudud and qisas provisions exist in the Afghan Criminal Code 1976 but were to be converted to long prison sentences.

Serving the people, attending to poverty and hunger issues and unemployment have evidently not engaged the focus of the Taliban government. After 15 months and a persistent refusal to reopen the schools for girls and form an inclusive government, it is almost certain that the Taliban will not change.

Taliban representatives were able so far to participate in the numerous international events and conferences that Afghanistan's neighbouring countries and the international community have held on Afghanistan.

That was not the case, however, in the mid-November international conference of Afghanistan's neighbouring countries in Moscow. Russia did not invite the Taliban.

The Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov indicated that the Afghan leaders had not listened to the international community's demand to change its negative stance on human rights and form an inclusive government. The Taliban have continued to deny their girls their right to go to school.

The Afghan public, the United Nations and the international community are not repeating their demands. A state of political impasse now seems certain.

The United States that used to be an active participant in Afghanistan affairs has left and disengaged itself, while China and Russia that are thought to be filling the gap are in a wait-and-see situation without taking any important initiative, and the Taliban seem to be internally paralysed by their dogmatic Supreme Leader and his courtiers in Kandahar.

International conferences are being held but seem to pass and go most likely still looking up to the United States for any headway.

Hekmatyar's suggestion, also essentially voiced by UNAMA'S Potzel, is that the Afghan people and civil society should suggest solutions. That may be the way forward.

The writer is a professor and Very Distinguished Fellow at the International Institute of Advanced Islamic Studies (IAIS) Malaysia.

Published in: The New Straits Times (online), Thursday 1st December 2022

Source: https://www.nst.com.my/opinion/columnists/2022/12/856664/let-afghans-lead-way-out-their-own-political-impasse

On Oct 15, 2022 the Afghan Taliban ruler, Mulla Hibatullah Akhundzada, sent another message from his headquarters in Kandahar to call for the nullification of all existing laws in the country and enforcement only of the Sharia, adding that the existing laws be repealed and replaced and that Afghanistan's relations with other countries should also be based on the Sharia.

This is not the first time he has said this and the reason for repeated emphasis is probably the difficulty of implementing a sweeping order of this nature.

Rumour also has it that some internal dissension in the Taliban ranks in Kabul is developing due to Hibatullah's unruly decrees. This order to enforce only the Sharia throws the country, its government and justice system into an unprecedented legal vacuum.

Afghanistan's government and court practice are entrenched in its previous constitutions, its Civil Code 1976 (over 2,300 articles) and its Criminal Code 1977 (over 523 articles and a large number of other statutes). Setting all these aside at a moment's notice is irresponsible especially for a government that lacks professional background and experience.

The order is also oblivious of history in that past governments normally enforced the Sharia side-by-side with government decrees and policy decisions. These had existed in various names such as Nizamnama, Firman, Qanun, etc. Hibatullah's decree insisting that only the Sharia and nothing else should apply in Afghanistan is, therefore, ill-informed and unrealistic. 

Except for some banking laws that are also changing due to the progressive introduction of Islamic banking, all the laws of Afghanistan are either Sharia based or Sharia compliant. Besides, most of Afghanistan's constitutions contain the so-called Repugnancy Clause, providing that no law in Afghanistan may be contrary to the Sharia and basic principles of Islam.

At a time when Afghanistan is grappling with poverty and economic problems, the Taliban are focused on religious and gender issues that are oblivious to the people's needs. Many of Mulla Hibatullah's previous decrees have similarly been problematic.

The Taliban decision over a year ago to close secondary schools for girls blatantly violated their fundamental right of education. The girls' schools remain closed to this day despite persistent public demand to reopen them.

The general public, including religious leaders, parents, women and girls, have emphasised education as a basic right and an Islamic requirement - all of which have fallen on deaf ears.

The UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, the European Union, Afghanistan's neighbours and numerous other countries have urged the Taliban to reopen the girls' schools immediately – all to no avail.

Earlier on July 29, 2022 (7 Thawr 1401 of the Afghan calendar), the Afghan people celebrated the National Flag Day of Afghanistan with the traditional tricoloured (black, red and green) flags, but contrary to expectations, the Taliban government ceremonially raised their own white coloured flag and the matter became a media issue.

Commentators noted that the Taliban government should have also celebrated the public event together with the people. But they followed their own agenda regardless. It was publicly emphasised that the tricolour flag was not changed by any other government ever since its adoption under Amir Habibullah in 1899 CE.

Afghanistan had many regime changes from monarchy to republic to communism, Mujahidin, Islamic Republic and now Islamic Emirate. None had attempted to change the national flag which had become part of the Afghan identity and had much sentimental attachment. No country has officially recognised the Taliban government. It has become public knowledge in Afghanistan and abroad that official recognition will not happen unless the Taliban grant the legitimate demands of their own people, open the girls' schools and set up an inclusive government that also includes women.

The Taliban have not only turned a deaf ear to these calls but have, on the contrary, taken an obsessive focus on women's rights, their public appearance on the screens and their role in television and the media - not only introducing veils for all but surprisingly also specifying that women should wear only black attire.

These specifications have not been welcomed by the people and appear to follow the Iranian model. The fact that the Taliban have not changed the composition of their Taliban-only government violates their own initial promise that they will introduce an inclusive government.

Then, the Taliban government also abandoned the constitutionally mandated practice of presidential election that Afghanistan had practised in recent decades. As soon as the Taliban took office on Aug 15, 2021, they abolished the Ministry of Women Affairs and introduced a new ministry of Promotion of Good and Prevention of Evil.

On July 28, Mulla Hibatullah announced that all the existing laws of Afghanistan were man-made and have no credibility - only the divinely-ordained Sharia was the applied law of Afghanistan. The Taliban reconfirmed what they had practised that there will be no democracy and only the Sharia will apply.

Afghanistan has traditionally subscribed to constitutional and parliamentary government, initially introduced under King Amanullah in 1923, and subsequently elaborated and reformed under the 1964 constitution. Although almost every subsequent regime change in Afghanistan was espoused with a new constitution, most of these retained a participatory government model.

Democracy was also upheld side by side with the Sharia. The Taliban regime have abandoned that, it has no Constitution nor has it declared as to what type of government or political system they are applying.

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

Published in: The New Straits Times (online), Tuesday 18 October 2022

Source: https://www.nst.com.my/opinion/columnists/2022/10/841586/taliban-reneges-inclusive-govt-pledge-sharia-decree-afghanistan%C2%A0

Taliban's Grand Assembly a disappointment

Thursday, 07 July 2022 16:52
Published in Articles

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
Published in Articles

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
Published in Articles

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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