It has been more than 100 days since the Taliban in Afghanistan stopped teenage girls from attending school. Ever since the Taliban took over Afghanistan on August 15 this year, they have been claiming that this time their rule will be different from their previous stint in power in the 1990s.
Even Taliban supporters outside Afghanistan — mostly in Pakistan — have been claiming the same. Their supporters go to great lengths to convince people that the Taliban are not the monsters they are made out to be.
However, as the days have passed, the Taliban have shown that they are incapable of any substantial change in how they operate and function. The ban on teenage girls attending school is a solid example of their incapacity to change.
Afghan women themselves have been the most vocal about the cause of girls’ education. They have been protesting for their rights and freedoms, in Kabul and other parts of Afghanistan, since the Taliban takeover. Afghan women have been leading protests bravely and at great risk to their lives. Their protests have been disrupted, at times violently so, by the Taliban but they have not stopped speaking out. Global human rights activists have also been campaigning for Afghan girls to be allowed to go to school.
Afghanistan has changed significantly in the last two decades. It is not a country that can be ruled easily by those who have taken over by force, like the Taliban have. They do not have the legitimacy they require and are largely seen as enemies.
Pakistani government officials have been advocating for the Taliban in the region as well as globally. Our Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi appears to represent the Taliban more than Pakistan. Other representatives of the government on key positions have been doing the same. When the Taliban took over, Prime Minister Imran Khan claimed that Afghans have broken the shackles of slavery. He said the Haqqanis of the notorious Haqqani Network are actually a Pashtun tribe, when in reality, no such tribe exists.
Very recently, in his address to the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation’s (OIC) Council of Foreign Ministers, convened to discuss the situation in Afghanistan, he made racist remarks against Pashtuns, claiming that the Taliban are a predominantly Pashtun movement. He has been making such ill-informed and derogatory remarks against Pashtuns for a while now, trying to portray Taliban’s ignorance and barbarism as traits of the Pashtun identity when in fact there is nothing Pashtun or Afghan about the Taliban.
While other countries in the region appear to be engaging with the Taliban for their own policy objectives, Pakistan appears to be engaging in order to facilitate the Taliban’s rule in Afghanistan. This is a fact not missed by Afghans.
It is not just the hybrid regime that is currently in power in Pakistan, which is sympathetic towards the Taliban in Afghanistan. Most of the major opposition parties have also not yet clarified their position about Afghanistan. Parties like the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam Fazl and Jamaat-e-Islami have made public statements about their support for the Taliban. They have publicly welcomed the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan.
The limited discussions about Afghanistan in the mainstream media have been no different. The support for Taliban is dangerously widespread in the mainstream political discourse. This remains a major cause for concern for those who are struggling for peace in the country and region.
It is difficult to predict Afghanistan’s future. The Afghans are facing a serious humanitarian crisis which is still unfolding. Videos of the Taliban beating former government officials and ordinary Afghans continue to circulate on social media. Reports of Taliban violence against Afghans continue to be shared on social media. Given the situation in Afghanistan, one can imagine that these videos are only the tip of the iceberg.
Afghan women who have protested and stood up to the Taliban give Afghanistan hope. Their resolve and their bravery will inspire hope for Afghanistan. For those outside Afghanistan who want peace for Afghans and for the region, we need to keep speaking out and supporting these efforts. We must continue the struggle for some semblance of sanity to be restored to their country.