Sunday, June 23, 2024

Taliban reject UN report calling Afghan government ‘exclusionary’ and ‘repressive’

The Taliban have condemned as “baseless and biased” a United Nations Security Council report that branded the ruling Afghan administration “highly “exclusionary” and “repressive”.

The report, released earlier in June by the UNSC’s Analytical Support and Sanctions Monitoring Team, said the Taliban governance structures remain “highly exclusionary, Pashtun-centred and repressive” towards all forms of opposition.

It also said Kandahar’s return as the seat of power – like it was during the Taliban’s rule of Afghanistan in the 1990s – circumvents senior Taliban ministers in Kabul, the centre of the current government, because of the way decisions are made.

The report also added the group was battling internal conflict over key policies, the centralisation of power and the control of financial and natural resources in Afghanistan.

Ongoing power struggles are further destabilising the situation, to the point where an outbreak of armed conflict between rival factions is a manifest risk, the report added.

In recent months at least two spokespersons based in Kabul were asked to shift to the southern city of Kandahar, raising speculations about the shift of power from the capital to the southern city of Kandahar, where the supreme leader Haibatullah Akhunzada is based.

In April, Taliban’s main spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid was asked to work from both places while Innamullah Samangani, another deputy spokesman of the interim government, was transferred to Kandahar. Taliban’s information ministry did not give any reasons for the transfer.

Mujahid rejected the report’s “accusations” of strife, saying they were baseless and demonstrated “obvious hostility” to Afghans.

Rumours of disagreement between the group’s leaders are a continuation of the propaganda of the past 20 years, he said, referring to the 20 years of US war and occupation.

“The publication of such biased and baseless reports by the Security Council does not help Afghanistan and international peace and security, rather, it increases worry among the people [Afghans].”

Since taking over the country in August 2021, the group has expanded its curbs on media freedom and women’s rights, with high schools for girls remaining shut. The Taliban officials had initially promised to open the schools after an infrastructure upgrade to ensure gender segregation, but the group has doubled down on women’s rights banning women from universities and employment.

Analysts say decrees such as those excluding women and girls from education and work were issued from Kandahar – the base of the Taliban chief. Several Taliban leaders have backed women’s empowerment, saying Islam guarantees women’s right to education and work.

Taliban officials have denied there was a rift among its leadership.

The report described the Taliban leader, Akhunzada, as “reclusive and elusive” and said he had elaborate measures to ensure his safety while holding meetings.

It also cited an unnamed UNSC member state as saying Akhunzada had survived two bouts of COVID-19, leaving his respiratory system weakened, in addition to his existing kidney problems, leading to suggestions that senior Taliban figures are waiting for his health to lead to natural succession.

“Hibatullah has been proudly resistant to external pressure to moderate his policies,” the June 1 report said.

“There is no indication that other Kabul-based Taliban leaders can influence policy substantially. There is little prospect of change in the near to medium term.”

In recent days, the Taliban has sought to exclude all foreign organisations from the education sector, a move the UN secretary-general’s chief spokesman, Stephane Dujarric, said on Thursday would be another “horrendous step backward” for Afghan people.

The Taliban has not commented on the education NGO move.

Aid agencies have been providing food, education and healthcare support to Afghans in the wake of the Taliban takeover in August 2021 and the economic collapse that followed it.

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