Thursday June 01, 2023

Pledges from the Taliban

By Editorial Board
January 22, 2022

It has been over five months since the Afghan Taliban assumed power in Kabul and the rest of Afghanistan. Any hopes for opening all schools for girls across the country have not materialised so far. Now they have issued a statement expressing their hope to be able to open all schools after late March. Their narrow explanation of Afghan mores and Islamic traditions does not allow boys and girls to attend institutions in a coeducational setting. Since mid-August, when the Taliban consolidated their authority in the entire country, most girls in Afghanistan have not been back to school beyond grade seven. This is an alarming situation as the world community is reluctant to formally recognise the Taliban government. The Taliban government in its previous iteration from 1996 to 2001 had banned women from education, public life, and work. This time around, the Taliban made different pledges with an assurance not to repeat the same practices they followed over 20 years back. Still, the Taliban representatives at various forums have reiterated numerous times that boys and girls must completely segregate themselves in schools. Apparently, the new government is finding it hard to have separate buildings and classrooms to accommodate boys and girls in isolation from each other.

While claiming that they are not against education, if the Taliban are still adamant on some basic principles of education in the 21st century, the world can only wonder where they are leading the country. There appears to be no coherent policy from the Taliban as most of the steps they have taken are erratic and differ from province to province depending on the whims of the local Taliban commanders. The slow progress on their pledges has made the world even more sceptical about the future course Afghanistan will take. This is added to by social media posts by Afghan women who say they have been threatened and some even assaulted by Taliban members.

In addition to education, a massive humanitarian crisis can become a catastrophe if sizable aid does not come in time to the country. Any further delay in aid may endanger millions of lives across Afghanistan. Most utility services have already stopped working and power is sporadic in bitter cold. Winter in Afghanistan is bone-chilling and without any heating most families are at the mercy of the elements. According to reports, even firewood is in short supply and coal is even scarcer. In the coming months, at least three million Afghans living as refugees in their own country will face drought. This is compounded by fear of the Taliban and extreme poverty. Those who have fled their homes have nowhere to go. Though the UN has appealed for at least five billion dollars in immediate aid for Afghanistan, the response has not been encouraging. But it is unfair to blame only the Taliban for this plight of the country. The occupying powers spent hundreds of billions of dollars in shoring up the Afghan army but still over half of the population remained in poverty even before the Taliban took over the country. Now the world must put aside cultural or political differences with the Taliban for the sake of common people in Afghanistan and offer cooperation at least through the UN to help the needy people.