The Taliban after their dramatic takeover of Kabul on Sunday have gone into overdrive to message that they have indeed changed. The idea is to tell the world that Taliban 2.0 is light years away from their Barbarian mid-nineties past. But should the world be taken in by their syrupy homilies, which could well be part of finely chiseled mind games?
During their first press conference on Tuesday the Taliban pressed the right button-backing women’s rights. But their promise of protecting women’s rights had an important nuance: Women will enjoy freedoms but within the ambit of “Islamic law” .
“There will be no violence against women, no prejudice,” (they) can study and work, but “within bounds of Islamic law, ” said Taliban’s chief spokesperson Zabibullah Mujahid.
When pointedly asked by an Afghan reporter : ” You have pardoned all the people of Afghanistan. Will the people of Afghanistan do the same? Do you apologize?”
Also read: Taliban strike softer note on women’s rights at first press briefing after taking over Kabul
Mujahid’s response: “Collateral damage” happens.
“The world is watching us and so behave..” is the message Mullah yakub, the chief of Taliban’s military wing and son of the founder Mullah Omar, to his fighters. He is considered the natural “heir” of the group.
Despite Taliban’s assurances many people remain fearful, and unconvinced. “Taliban (is) saying all the right things (amnesty, women’s freedoms, free media) They’re telling the world what it wants to hear. Outside Kabul, the situation is starkly different. Taliban have reimposed its repressive laws, oppressing women and banning independent media,” says Frud Bezhan, an Afghan journalist in his post.
“We need to be really careful about drawing premature conclusions about this “new” Taliban. It’s early days, they’re media savvy, we’re seeing mostly only Kabul right now, & Twitter and other social media is giving us a soda straw view often without necessary context,” says another journalist’s post.
Taliban says that they “want to establish a government that includes all sides," and the process has started with the arrival of Taliban’s political face and deputy, Mullah Baradar and other leaders of Doha team at Kandahar, the group’s birth place.
Also Read: Taliban desperate to capture its place of birth–Kandahar
A video clip released by the Taliban showed the arrival of its leader Mullah Baradar at Kandahar airport by C-17A plane of Qatar Air Force.
#Taliban Political Chief Mullah Baradar Akhund along with the rest of the political office arrive in #Kandahar #Afghanistan from #Qatar #افغانستان #طالبان pic.twitter.com/5Qc559lhlC
— Sami Ullah Khan (@SamiUllah800) August 18, 2021
The focus has shifted from Doha to Kabul. There are unconfirmed reports that few officials of the Pakistani army including former Pakistan army chief Raheel Sharif are also there to have a meeting with Taliban leadership. There are reports that Russian and Chinese point persons will also be reaching Kandahar/Kabul this week. It’s expected that Mullah Baradar will be reaching Kabul shortly to discuss with the Afghan politicians and representatives from the international community about forming an “inclusive government”. According to TOLO news the hectic meeting between the group’s leader Amir Khan Motaqi and former president Hamid Karzai, Abdullah abdullah and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar has been going on.
“They are busy in discussions about an inclusive government, a government that is accepted by all Afghans and where differences are overcome,” Sayed Akbar Agha, head of the Rah-e-Nejat Council of Afghanistan told TOLO news.
"Afghanistan will have a strong, Islamic government," the group said that they were working and consulting on the name and specification of the new government.
“The Taliban know that governing a country of 40 million is an uphill task. They will keep much of the bureaucracy in place. But the political setup has to be inclusive as well. A long way to go, but encouraging that they are engaging major political leaders outside their group,” says Afghan analyst Arif Rafiq.