PESHAWAR: The Taliban supreme leader Maulvi Sheikh Haibatullah Akhunzada on Friday issued a decree on women's rights, saying females should not be considered a "property" and their consent to marriage is a must.
However, the Taliban leader failed to mention when they would allow the women to resume studies in schools, colleges and universities and go to workplaces without fear of persecution. Some of the critics believed that the Taliban issued the decree for women's rights in a bid to curry favour with the West, particularly the United States (US) to make it unfreeze Afghanistan's assets amounting to billions.
Besides lacking recognition at the international level, the Taliban are facing a serious economic crisis and desperately want the world to help them in terms of financial assistance.
Presently, the Taliban are mostly focusing on the installation of the Islamic Sharia system, improving the economic situation, while their third important objective seems to strengthen the internal security and crack down on the Islamic State in particular to prevent it from gaining a foothold in the troubled country.
Though the Taliban claimed to have opened high schools in some of the provinces, in many places girls don't have access to education and are not allowed to work outside home. The US froze Afghanistan's assets running into billions after the Taliban seized control of the war-ravaged country on August 15 this year, forcing President Ashraf Ghani to leave Kabul in a hurry "to avoid bloodshed".
A Taliban delegation headed by Afghanistan's acting Foreign Minister Maulvi Amir Khan Muttaqi recently held his maiden meeting with the US authorities in Doha, the capital of oil-rich Qatar, housing the Taliban's political office.
He reportedly discussed a host of issues, including the installation of an inclusive government, women's rights, female education and so on. The Taliban have assured the world community that they would spare no effort to ensure basic human rights to all and sundry in Afghanistan.
The latest decree is believed to be an effort by the Taliban to reassure the US that they intended to honour their commitments. "A woman is not a property, but a noble and freehuman being. No-one can give her to anyone in exchange for peace...or to end animosity," the Taliban leader stated in the decree.
It is in other words banning Swara, a centuries-old custom in Pakhtun-inhabited areas in Pakistan and Afghanistan in which girls are given to a rival party to end a blood feud. Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid shared the decree with the media, including The News.
The Taliban leader mentioned the Islamic Sharia rules to ensure women rights, govern their marriages and ensure their share in property. He said women should not be forced into marriages and widows should have a share in the property of their husbands.
He directed the courts to stick to the rules while giving verdicts, asking the Religious Affairs and Information ministries to safeguard the rights of the weak and the oppressed. "After the death of the husband, a woman is supposed to observe Iddat (four months and ten days or giving birth in case of pregnancy)) to remain in seclusion and is prohibited from marrying before the passage of that mandatory duration. No-one can marry a widow by force, including her relatives. A widow has the right whether to marry and or to determine/choose her future," it was stated in the decree.
It said that a widow had inheritance rights and fixed share in the property of her husband, children, father and relatives, and no-one can deprive her of these rights. Senior Taliban leaders said there was nothing new in the decree and their supreme leader just explained women's rights guaranteed by the Islamic Sharia.
According to the Taliban, the decree was issued in order to counter the growing allegations from the critics accusing them of denying rights to the women in Afghanistan. Though the Taliban's supreme leader has ordered implementation of the decree, it is rare in the male-dominated Pakhtun society to willingly give share to women in the property.