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Amid Panjshir resistance Taliban likely to announce government today

By Saima Siddiqui 
Updated Date

Kabul: While the Taliban is facing strong resistance in Afghanistan’s Panjshir Valley from the resistance fighters loyal to local leader Ahmad Massoud, the new extremist leaders are likely to announce a new administration after Friday afternoon prayers on the lines of the Iranian leadership with the group’s top spiritual leader Haibatullah Akhundzada as supreme leader, according to reports.

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On Thursday, Bilal Karimi, a member of the group’s cultural commission, said that the Taliban and other Afghan leaders have reached a “consensus” on the formation of a new government and cabinet under Akhundzada’s leadership.

Amid reports of the American drone strike killing 10 Afghan civilians, including 6 children, the US has come out to defend the strike. Senior US military officials said the drone strike hit an Islamic State target and weakened the extremists’ ability to further disrupt the final phase of the US withdrawal and evacuation of thousands of people from Afghanistan. Army Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has said that at least one of those killed in the drone strike was an Islamic State “facilitator”.

“The consultations on forming an inclusive Afghan government within the Islamic Emirate’s leaders, with the leaders from the previous government and other influential leaders have officially ended,” Karimi was quoted as saying by Bloomberg. “They have reached a consensus. We’re about to announce a functioning cabinet and government in a few days, not weeks,” he added.

All eyes are on the Taliban whether Afghanistan’s new rulers will keep their promise of a more “inclusive” government and be more accommodating than during their first stint in power from 1996 to 2001, which was notorious for its brutal and violent interpretation of Sharia, and its treatment of women. Women were not allowed to work and denied freedom of movement and girls were banned from school.

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Karimi said Haibatullah Akhundzada will be the top leader of any governing council, and Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, one of Akhundzada’s three deputies and the main public face of the Taliban, is likely to be in charge of the daily functioning of the government in Afghanistan. Senior Taliban leaders have said that Mullah Haibatullah Akhundzada will monitor the government from Kandahar, the stronghold of the movement.

The Taliban government will follow the pattern of the Iranian leadership under which the supreme leader is the highest political and religious authority of the country, as per reports. In Iran, he is above the president and appoints the heads of the military as well as the government and the judiciary. The Iranian supreme leader has the final say in the political, religious and military affairs of the country.

Haibatullah Akhundzada has been serving at a mosque in the Kachlaak area of Balochistan province for 15 years.

Mufti Inamullah Samangani, a senior official in the Taliban’s information and culture commission, said on Wednesday that governors will control the provinces and district governors will be in charge of their respective districts. The Taliban have already appointed governors, police chiefs and police commanders for provinces and districts. Samangani said the name of the new governance system, the national flag and the national anthem are yet to be finalised, he said.

Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanikzai, the deputy leader of the Taliban political office in Doha, said that women and members from all tribes in Afghanistan will be part of the new government setup. Stanikzai also told BBC Pashto in an interview that while women could continue working, there “may not” be a place for them in the cabinet of any future government or any other top post. “Any person who was part of any former Afghanistan governments during the last 20 years will not be included in the new Taliban administration,” he said.

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Meanwhile, some 50 women took to the streets in the western city of Herat on Thursday in a rare, defiant protest, demanding the right to work and over the lack of their participation in the new government. Basira Taheri, one of the organisers of the protest, told AFP she wanted the Taliban to include women in the new cabinet. “We want the Taliban to hold consultations with us. We don’t see any women in their gatherings and meetings,” Taheri said.

Stanikzai said the Taliban want to have friendly relations with the European Union, the US and India, and that members of the group’s political office in Doha are in close contact with different countries.

On Friday, a Taliban spokesperson tweeted that China’s foreign ministry had promised to keep its embassy in Afghanistan open and to “beef up” relations and humanitarian assistance. Qatar said it was working to reopen the airport in Kabul. Turkey said it was also evaluating proposals from the Taliban and others for a role in running the airport.

Italian foreign minister was due to visit Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Qatar and Pakistan from Friday to assist Afghan refugees and his British counterpart was to head to the region next week.

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