No respite in sight for Afghanistan

Nine-year-old Abdullah Jan sits on the debris of his house, the sole survivor of his family of 12 in Gayan district of Paktika province. Another elderly woman Bibi Khawa of Pakitika province, while lying in the hospital herself, narrated in between sobbing for her lost loved ones that her entire house caved in seconds and nineteen members of her family died while she she retrieved the debris in the morning. As the geological survey showed that Gayan district of the Paktika, situated to the border of Pakistan's merged districts of North Waziristan, is considered as the epic center to the 6.1 earthquake, where nearly all houses were perished. Every home of Paktika, Paktiya and Khost has lost atleast one or two persons in the earthquake, whereas the most affected family in the earthquake lost 19 members to it. A UN monitoring report showed that children and women were the most affected in the tragedy. The Paktika, Khost and Paktiya hosted Pakistani migrated families from North Waziristan whereas local sources told The Express Tribune that 56 of the district died in this incident. Aid started to arrive in Afghanistan on Thursday and Friday where the earthquake claimed 1,000 lives, and Taliban leaders also announced that rescue effort were nearly completed. Around 100 miles southeast of Kabul, in dry mountains close to the Pakistani border, an earthquake struck the area early on Wednesday morning. More than 1,100 died, more than 1,500 villagers were injured and around 1,000 were rescued by Thursday morning of last week. Data from the U.S. government shows that the death toll makes it the deadliest earthquake to strike Afghanistan in 20 years. Since the Taliban took control, the humanitarian situation in Afghanistan has grown exceedingly worse. According to aid workers, aid sanctions have cut off the nation from much of its international aid, however despite that financial support has poured in from England, China and Gulf countries. The Afghan Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Abdul Qahar Balkhi spokesperson, in light of the earthquake, reiterated calls for international assistance on Thursday. In a gesture of humanitarian efforts, Pakistan has opened its border in South Waziristan – the a closest to the affected areas, established a makeshift medical facility and sent a C130 full of aid items, foods and tents for survival. Another armed forces medical team members arrived at Khost provinces airfield hospital where those injured from the earthquake were relocated. The local government officials on condition of anonymity told The Express Tribune that the most affected provinces of the earthquake were the hub to Haqqani Network’s struggle against allied forces in Afghanistan, while displaced families of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan are also living in the same areas. The Interim Interior minister Siraj Uddin Haqqani alias Khalifa Sahiba has visited his home town, distributed cash, inquired about the health of injured persons and also directed the central government and ministry of handling the natural calamities to expedite the assistance process via helicopters. In the aftermath of the earthquake, the affected areas were also hit with torrential rains, thus flooding many of the routes leading to the area. An aftershock also hit the area again the next day, killing five and injuring 11 people. The ground reality of the incident also showed a visible split in the country’s power corridors, as only Haqqani Network have visited the affected area and no one from the Qandhari Taliban leaders have paid a visit, despite this being the most tragic natural disaster to have taken place in the country in the last twenty years. However, some analysts are of the opinion that this natural calamity will bring Afghanistan’s tragedy to light again, and may pave the way to the easing of some of the sanctions that have been imposed on the country and may even result in some of its assets being unfrozen. The resistance movements Beside the Northern resistant front, other faces of resistance are also cropping up in the country. Former Afghan army members are joining ISKP and Maulvi Mehdi Mujahid – a Shia religious scholar and a Hazara Taliban Governor of Sar e Pul's province of Balkhab district – have also begun to wage a war against Kabul. Previously the Islamic Emirate tried to assuage Mehdi Mujahid by offering scores of positions within the government and empowering him with weapons and manpower, but that only served to further embolden him and turned against them. Several attempts were made by the central government to reconcile with him, including sending a local jirga Ulma as well as sending Defense Minister Mullah Yaqub to meet with him but he refused to meet either of them and began to fight and take control of the Balkhab district instead. Mehdi Mujahid hails from Hosh, a poor village in Balkhab, Sar-e Pol Province, northern Afghanistan, where he spent his early life in poverty. Due to some of his resistance efforts against the American army in the past, where the former even survived a particularly gruesome incident in which all other men with him were killed, he has garnered a name for himself within the Shia community of the area. By them, he is more commonly referred to as Maulvi Mehdi and revered as a leader. With the necessary manpower, the religious leader tried to resist the central government, however the Taliban marched to the areas and Mehdi Mujahid was left with no other choice but to flee with his men after the Islamic Emirate used aerial forces as well as ground incursion in the area. While this resulted in several casualties to the Taliban, the operation did prove somewhat successful in at least temporarily discouraging the resistance attempt against their government. A reknowned defence analyst belonging to the region, who spoke to The Express Tribune on condition of anonymity, explained that Sar-e Pol province was a test case for the Islamic Emirate. “If the government had failed against it, then it would’ve further emboldened other resistance groups against them as well,” he said. "The Taliban government’s military employs brutality, unforgiveness and elimination as its tactics with anyone who tries resist their rule such as the ISKP, Mehdi or NRF,” he said. “This minimises chances of them losing control and no one can hurt their overall control of the country." The crushing of Mehdi’s forces have discouraged other resistance movements. NRF, despite being active on social media, have not made any attempts on ground to fight against the Taliban. The crushing of Mehdi’s forces have demonstrated Taliban’s abilities to other resistance movements. NRF forces, which are based in Punjshir, have restricted their resistance to social media alone as Taliban controls food supply to the district. This is despite the fact that the former’s followers recently took down a government helicopter last week. Girl's education and the return of the Hijab While several promises were made to reinstate girl’s education in the country, no active measures have been taken to restore this. Several senior members of the Taliban government including Deputy Interior Minister Mullah Saddar Ibrahim, the chief Justice of iIslamic Emirate Mufti Abdul Hakim Ishaqzai and Minister of Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Evil Shiekh Muhammad Khalid as well as some seniors members of Qandhari Taliban are still opposed girl's education. It was previously disclosed that girl's education would soon be resumed, but later changed their stance and said that they are "we are providing a safe environment" in the country. Some of Taliban’s political officials have told the Afghan media that the Taliban have said that the ground isn't prepared as yet for girl's education and nor do they have resources to establish separate buildings for girl’s education. Afghanistan had 49 colleges and universities before the takeover of the Taliban and the UN data showed that women’s literacy, was still below 50 percent. More than 3.6 million girls were enrolled by 2018 – over 2.5 million in primary schools and over 1 million in secondary schools. The increase in girls in secondary education was particularly marked, with nearly 40 per cent enrolled in 2018 compared with 6 per cent in 2003, according to the UN report. By 2020, there were 803 private schools in Afghanistan, teaching over 170,000 students of which 44 per cent were women. In over half of these private schools, according to the UN monitoring data, 420 were in Kabul and 124 in Herat. "The people of Afghanistan will continue their higher education in light of the Sharia Law in a safe environment without mixing,” the spokesperson of the Islamic Emirate Zabihullah told the media in Kabul. According to him, the new regime is "committed to the rights of women" within the context of its strict interpretation of Islamic mandates. "Our sisters and our men have the same rights," Mujahid said. But the ground situation still very bleak as some of the Qandhari Taliban are opposed to the education of girls beyond sixth grade. According to Spokesperson of the Ministry of the Promoting Virtue and Preventing evil Muhammad Akif Mohajir, "Our women are different from rest of the world, we cannot imitate the western culture in in our closed circuit society. " "As the Afghan women fought alongside the Taliban against the infidel for the implementation of Islamic law, [by doing this] they chose the Hijab, " said Akif Muhajir to The Express Tribune Mujahir also told local media that promoting virtue and preventing evil, is the main goal of an Islamic state. "Our plan is to reform the society in a soft way and not by force, " he said. "We have now begun a new Jihad that is about the implementation decree of hijab, " he added. "No one can interfere in our internal affairs, as we are a sovereign state with independent legal action." "The [culture of] hijab has been in Afghan society for hundred years and the world should not misinterpret the concept of it,” he said. Most of those who had previously worked within government organisations for women’s empowerment, shy away from speaking on the matter. However, one female student, on the condition of told The Express Tribune, "We lived in the darkest era of our nation's history where women are deprived of their basic rights, their right to education and their right to earn a living. " However, members within the Taliban ranks know that girl’s education is an important bargaining chip to get the country’s assets released and for its government to gain international recognition. Currently, the UN has imposed a travel ban on both Head of Higher Education Abdul Baqi Haqqani and Deputy Director of the Ministry Saeed Ahmad Shahidkhel due to the country’s restrictions on girl’s education. The travel rights of 13 other members of the current regime have been extended to three months. The spokesperson of the Afghan government terms the sanctions on two of their members "uncalled for". Indian presence of Afghan soil The Indian government has recently stated that they are pleased with the improved security situation in Afghanistan and announced to resume their diplomatic services in the country. On 2nd June, the Taliban Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi hosted meetings with head of the Indian delegation where he urged India to resume stalled projects and revive diplomatic presence in Afghanistan. Muttaqi pressed for the resumption of consular services, particularly to Afghan students and patients. As a result, the Indian foreign office announced the resumption of humanitarian services to Afghanistan and also announced the resumption of technical level staffers into the embassy in Kabul. The Islamic Emirate, in response, have assured complete security to them. Economic conditions – a continuous threat Former senior government officials which include former ministers, bureaucracrats and military leaders of the country have shared concerns that despite control on the affairs the government urgently needs to address the economic situation in the country. They demanded that the Islamic Emirate should fulfill the international community’s demands such as girl's education, implementation of the constitution and other conditions listed during the Doha Agreements otherwise Afghanistan’s situation would only grow worse. ShahabUllah Yousafzai s a freelance writer. All information and facts provided are the sole responsibility of the writer.

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