It will be difficult for the comity of nations to be convinced about the “inclusive” character of the expanded edition of Afghanistan’s interim cabinet. Of course several new members have been included, the striking feature being that they belong to non-Pashtun ethnic groups.
No less marked is the reality of the gender construct ~ there is not a single woman even after Tuesday’s recast. With the induction of 17 new members, notably representatives from the Hazara, Tajik and Uzbek ethnic groups, the strength of the caretaker government has reached 50. In the first phase, that was announced on September 7, the Taliban had announced the names of 33 ministers. It is too early to assume that the international community will recognise the government, as articulated by Zabihullah Mujahid, deputy minister for information and culture. Suffice it to register that the character of the government is selective at best and discriminatory at another remove.
The minister claimed that there was no reason to withhold recognition. “This is the responsibility of the United Nations to recognise our government. We want to have diplomatic relations with European, Asian and Islamic countries,” he said. While the contours of foreign policy are obvious, it is a caretaker setup for which the Taliban is yet to fix any duration. Nor for that matter has the establishment disclosed its plan for the formation of a permanent government, let alone the conduct of elections. As of now, Kabul boasts an unelected government, whose composition appears to have been finalised by hardliners of the ruling entity. As regards the economic collapse, Mujahid claimed that the domestic revenue was sufficient for fulfilling basic needs. “We are using all diplomatic channels to unfreeze the Afghan assets,” he said.
After the Taliban took over, the US had frozen assets worth $ 9.5 billion of the Afghan central bank. More than 150 media outlets have stopped their operations in the last month due to shortage of funds and fear of Taliban policies. Many journalists and broadcasters have left the country after August 15, when the Taliban toppled the previous government. Rights groups have accused the Taliban of “steadily dismantling” human rights after they took control of the country. Indeed on Tuesday,
Amnesty International, the International Federation for Human Rights and the World Organisation Against Torture accused the Taliban of a number of rights violations, including limits on freedom of the press, restrictions on women and targeted killing of civilians and former government officials. A 29-page report claimed that the Taliban have merely “attempted to portray themselves as a reformed group that acknowledges a semblance of women’s rights and freedom of expression” but such statements “are only a cover for a regression to their earlier regime of repression”.
Profound has been the international response to the professed certitudes of the Taliban administration. It is anything but “moderate” and “inclusive” and clearly has a long way to travel before it can hope for even grudging acceptance.