Rajat Sharma

Terror masterminds of Taliban Govt : Who is supporting them?

rajat-sir People all over the world are wondering whether the new interim Taliban cabinet is indeed a government or a conglomerate of terrorist leaders and masterminds. I studied the track record of each of the Taliban ministers and was surprised to find some of them experts in making self-detonating explosives, some are experts on flogging, some are rabid misogynists who are against women’s education, and 14 members of Taliban government are on United Nations Security Council terrorism blacklist.

The US State Department in a stinging remark said, “We note the announced list of names consists exclusively of individuals who are members of the Taliban or their close associates and no women. We are also concerned by the affiliations and track records of some of the individuals…We will judge Taliban by its actions, not words.”

Among those on the UNSC terrorism blacklist are acting PM Mullah Mohammad Hasan Akhund, both his deputies, Home Minister Sirajuddin Haqqani (with a $10 million US bounty on his head), his uncle Khalil Haqqani, Mullah Omar’s son Mullah Yaqoob, Foreign Minister Ameer Khan Muttaqi and others.

Questions arise whether governments across the world will hold talks with the Taliban ministers? Whether the Taliban government will get recognition from major world powers ? On Wednesday, the Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi announced that China would help the Taliban government and give #31 million in aid in the form of Covid vaccines, medicines, foodgrains and winter supplies. He was addressing a meeting of foreign ministers of Pakistan, Tajikistan, Iran, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. Russia was absent from the meeting.

Meanwhile, reports continue to pour in of Taliban fighters flogging journalists and women protesters with canes, belts and whips, in Kabul and other cities. The Taliban promise of giving press freedom has simply evaporated.

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) on Wednesday demanded that Taliban must immediately cease detaining journalists, end the use of violence against them, and allow the media to operate freely and without fear of reprisals. CPJ alleged that in the last two days, Taliban detained and later released at least 14 journalists covering protests in Kabul. At least six of these journalists were subjected to violence during their arrests or detention, CPJ alleged. Some journalists were prevented by Taliban from filming protest march.

In my prime time show ‘Aaj Ki Baat’ on Wednesday night, we showed visuals of journalists showing injury marks on their back caused by Taliban, who flogged them inside a room.

On Wednesday, Taliban detained Taqi Daryabi and Nematullah Naqdi, a video editor and a video reporter with the daily newspaper ‘Etilaatroz’, following their coverage of ongoing protests in Kabul. The two journalists were taken to a police station, where they were separated in two rooms, beaten and flogged with cables. Both the journalists were tortured in custody. When the newspaper editor and two other journalists went to the police station, they were also detained.

The newspaper publisher Zaki Daryabi named three other journalists who were detained as editor Kadhim Karimi, and two reporters Lutfali Sultani and Aber Shaygan. Taqi Daryabi’s lower back,upper legs and face, and Naqdi’s left arm, upper back, upper legs and face were marked by red lesions after beatings by Taliban, as seen in the video. Daryabi was unable to walk unaided.

There were two other incidents of Taliban’s attack on journalists in Kabul on Wednesday. Two journalists working for Los Angeles Times, were covering women’s protest in Kabul, when they were caught by Taliban and taken to a police station. Their camera was confiscated. A Taliban leader told them that covering protests was “illegal” and they should delete all photos of protest from their camera.

In another incident, 3 Taliban fighters repeatedly slapped a journalist with EuroNews, in his face and confiscated his phone and wallet. These were later returned after his release. On Tuesday, Taliban had detained Wahid Ahmadi, a cameraman of TOLO news channel, while he was filming a women’s protest near the presidential palace in Kabul. His camera was confiscated, he was handcuffed and was taken to Taliban military headquarters in Kabul. He was released after three hours after the news channel officials contacted the Taliban cultural commission. The camera was returned later with the footage intact.

In another incident on Tuesday, near the presidential palace in Kabul, Taliban fighters shoved two journalists of a local broadcaster to the ground, and beat them on their heads with their microphone, which broke after impact. They were handcuffed and taken to National Directorate of Security. Inside a room, both the journalists were thrown to the ground, and beaten on head, chest, arms, shoulders, back and legs by Taliban fighters. The attackers threatened them that they would beat them with metal and electrical tools. They were later released, but Taliban fighters kept the memory card of camera and microphone with them.

In one more incident on Tuesday, Taliban arrested a journalist with an international broadcaster who was taking video of the women’s protest at Janbagh Square, and dragged him into the NDS office. Taliban fighters pointed guns to his head and threatened to shoot him dead if he published any report about the protest. He was released two hours later. The journalist said, he was not beaten, but he was psychologically shaken.

Not only journalists, but brave Afghan women who came out in the streets were also flogged with whips and batons by Taliban on Wednesday. The women protesters were demanding equal rights and representation for women in cabinet. The women were marching peacefully, when they were stopped by Taliban fighters, who came in vehicles, and began beating them with batons that emitted electric shocks and lashed them with whips.

The new Taliban education minister Abdul Baqi Haqqani has said that students need not go for higher education and should rather pursue “religious education” in madrasas. He has already implemented segregation of male and female students in colleges and universities of Afghanistan.

Much as the Taliban spokesman would claim that his government is in favour of justice to all, the ground realities continue to be harsh and brutal. Journalists are being beaten, their cameras confiscated and threatened with death. Women, who are demanding equal rights, are also being subjected to flogging and beating. The common people in Afghanistan are in deep trauma. They have practically lost their liberty. That is why cries like ‘Azad’ are renting the air of Kabul, when women protesters come out to march.

The people of Afghanistan, particularly women, had high hopes and expectations from the US, which had helped the country to rebuild itself during the last 20 years. Now that the US has left them high and dry, they are in a state of shock. For the last two decades, women in Afghanistan were living free, studying in colleges and universities, and working in offices and factories, without any segregation. The people of Afghanistan elected Ashraf Ghani as their president, but he fled when Taliban came knocking at the gates of Kabul, leaving his people high and dry. With the president having fled, the Afghan army fell like a pack of cards, and tamely surrendered to the Taliban.

On Wednesday, in a statement, Ashraf Ghani sought forgiveness from his fellow Afghans for fleeing the country, but said, he did this to avoid bloodshed. Ghani denied having taken huge amount of cash with him while fleeing, and said he was ready for a transparent probe into his finances. The people of Afghanistan had hopes with the Northern Alliance, which was strong in Panjshir valley, but Pakistan helped Taliban in bombing their positions, and Taliban made its entry into the valley. The people of Afghanistan now hate Pakistan for interfering in their domestic matters.

In India, two former Jammu and Kashmir chief ministers Dr Farooq Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti said they expect good governance from Taliban. Dr Farooq Abdullah said, “I hope Taliban will deliver good governance, follow Islamic principles and respect human rights”. Mehbooba Mufti said, “Taliban has now become a reality. If they want to rule Afghanistan, they should follow the real Shariah rules which include rights for women, not the ones they say, then only they can have relations with other countries.”

Pious hopes indeed, but the ground realities are harsh. I am surprised over the statements made by Mehbooba Mufti and Dr Farooq Abdullah about the Taliban. Leaders who could not challenge Prime Minister Narendra Modi politically, are now resting their hopes on Taliban in Afghanistan. It is unfortunate that there are leaders in India who are expecting Taliban and Pakistan to join hands so that they can foment violence in Kashmir, and put Modi and his government in a tight spot. Such views are anti-national and their hopes are sure to vanish into thin air.

Are these leaders not aware about the number of terror masterminds sitting in the Taliban cabinet? Are these leaders not aware of the brutal atrocities that were committed by Taliban on common Afghans? Are these leaders not aware about the muzzling of press freedom, beating of journalists and women protesters by Taliban? Are these leaders not aware about women being denied equal rights, jobs and education? Are these leaders not aware of Taliban whipping women even today?

These leaders know the gruesome facts. They also know that Taliban had not changed, and will not change in future. But for their political advantage, these leaders are bowing before an imaginary and benevolent portrait of Taliban, for their selfish ends. The people of India will never forgive such leaders.

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