Taliban on Tuesday announced the formation of its acting government with Mullah Mohammad Hasan Akhund as the prime minister. Akhund is the man who ordered the demolition of world famous Bamyan Buddha statues in 2001. Akhund is on the United Nations Security Council sanctions list. He heads the powerful decision making body Rehbari Shoora. Akhund was foreign minister and deputy prime minister during the first phase of Taliban rule from 1996 till 2001. He is one of the closest associates of late Mullah Omar, the founder of Taliban, whose death, in hiding, was announced after two years.
Taliban co-founder Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, who was a strong contender for PM post, is now the deputy PM. Mullah Abdus Salam Hanafi is also the new deputy PM. Mullah Baradar headed the negotiations with the US in Doha that led to the US withdrawing its troops from Afghanistan. Baradar, who was deputy defence minister during the previous Taliban regime, was arrested in Pakistan in 2010 but was released eight years later. Baradar was very close to late Mullah Omar, who gave him the nickname ‘Baradar’(brother).
The chief of Haqqani terrorist network based in Pakistan, Sirajuddin Haqqani has been appointed Interior Minister. A rabid India-hater, Sirajuddin Haqqani was the mastermind of the 2008 terror attack on Indian embassy in Kabul in which 58 people were killed. He carries a $5 million (Rs 36.8 crore) reward on his head announced by the US. He is on the FBI list and is a “specially designated global terrorist”. Another Minister for Refugees, Khalil Haqqani, is also a terrorist from Haqqani network, wanted by UN, US and India.
Mullah Mohammad Yaqoob, son of Late Mullah Omar, is the new Defence Minister. He heads the Defence Commission of Taliban. Amir Khan Muttaqi is the new Foreign Minister, considered a moderate voice of Taliban. Muttaqi was Culture, Education and Information Minister during the previous Taliban regime. He was part of the Taliban team that conducted negotiations with the US in Doha.
Sher Mohammed Abbas Stanekzai, known as ‘Sheru’ by his batchmates in Indian Military Academy, is now the deputy foreign minister. He is known to have close links with ISI. The official Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid is the new deputy information minister.
In the 33-member interim government, there are twelve who were sent to US jail in Guantanamo Bay. They include Information Minister Mullah Khairullah Khairkhwah, Border and Tribal Affairs Minister Mullah Noorullah Noori, Chief of Army Staff Qari Fasihuddin Badakhshani, and Director of Intelligence Abdul Haq Wasiq. Wasiq spent 12 years in US prison at Guantanamo Bay.
A close look at the list of cabinet members makes it clear that this government is packed with either terrorists or terror masterminds. The interim government is dominated by leaders from mostly western and eastern Pashtun tribes. The ISI stamp is clear on the list. Pakistan army chief Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa had himself made it clear a few days ago that his country would help Taliban in forming the government. ISI chief Lt Gen Faiz Hameed played a major role in Kabul, bringing disparate Taliban groups on a single page. But there are a large number of groups across Afghanistan who resent the domination of Pashtuns in the government.
The anger was evident from Kabul to Herat on Tuesday, when Afghan women came out on streets to lead protest march. In Kabul, Taliban fighters swung clubs to beat women protesters and fired in air to disperse the march. These protesters were shouting anti-Pakistan slogans like ‘Pakistan Murdabad’ outside the Pakistani embassy in Kabul.
The protesters were shouting slogans against bombing of resistance group’s positions in Panjshir valley by Pakistani army. Taliban fighters fired a huge number of bullets in the air to scare away the protesters. Such a heavy firing has not been noticed in Kabul since August 15, when Taliban occupied the capital. Taliban fighters took TV camerapersons and reporters captive and hauled them away, but later released them. The protesters, particularly women, displayed bravery in the face of intimidation, threats and beatings by Taliban fighters.
The images of Taliban beating women with clubs have sent a strong message across the world about the brutalities being committed by Taliban. Many of these women protesters had told their family members that they may not return alive. Taliban fighters started firing bullets from 10 meters distance, but these women did not fear. They continued to shout slogans demanding freedom and liberty. In Herat too, Taliban fighters rounded up women protesters and took them to an undisclosed destination.
Pakistan is trying to show to the world that the new Taliban is different from the old one, but most of the incidents that have taken place in the last three weeks have proved otherwise. The world has realized that it is Pakistan army and the ISI, which are behind the resurgence of Taliban. They had been giving them sanctuary, providing them with money, weapons and fighters for the last two decades, and are now presenting Taliban as an Islamist group that is serious about governance. However, the world cannot be oblivious of the fact that though these Taliban fighters may be holding US-made weapons, seized from former Afghan army, they have been trained in warfare by Pakistani army commanders.
Pakistani ministers are on record having said that they have fed and clothed Taliban fighters, taught them how to fight battles and gave them money. The ISI chief himself reached Kabul to give the message that he had gone there in helping Taliban form a government. Pakistani ministers have also claimed that their army provided cover to Taliban in entering Panjshir valley, and that Pakistani troops attacked Ahmed Massoud’s positions. The people of Afghanistan are watching these developments closely and they are angry with Pakistan, for interfering in their domestic affairs. They consider Pakistan as the new invisible invader.
Pakistan, by displaying its affection towards Taliban, is trying its hand at oneupmanship against India. The common Afghans know how India worked in rebuilding Afghanistan by constructing its Parliament, its dams, highways and power lines. Till August 15, Pakistan was on the sidelines, but after Taliban carried out its blitz and captured Afghanistan, Pakistan along with China have come out openly to bolster the Taliban regime, by use of force. The aim of both China and Pakistan is to harm India’s interests in Afghanistan, and indirectly, try to engineer violence in Kashmir valley, which has been peaceful for more than two years since Article 370 was abrogated.
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