At last the Afghan mujahideen have triumphed following the withdrawal of the US forces. Their victory may not be seen as the victory of the people and democracy. They have been trying for long 20 years to establish Afghanistan as a religious state. No doubt the fundamentalists and militants are happy with their resurrection. The concern is whether the mujahideen are going to take hardline in enforcing Sharia rule that was practiced during their previous regime in 1996-2001? Whether they will uphold the fundamentalist values or realise the global reality and maintain democratic code of conduct? But one thing is clear that the international recognition of Taliban depends on whether it becomes moderate or not? If the answer is positive they can gain international recognition.
After taking control of entire Afghanistan speedily the Taliban have drawn attention of international community. Like in the past if they turn violent and follow the Sharia Law of their own version for building an Islamic State and patronise militant organisations like al-Qaeda they may not get recognition from international community easily. These acts will inspire the Islamist militants not only in the South and central Asian countries but also in other countries of the globe. In the previous regime Afghanistan was the safe haven for militants and terrorists. Even many Bangladeshi militants were trained by the Taliban. Saudi Arabia also follows the Sharia law. But they have gone through reforms of the law. Taliban did not go for reform of the Sharia law during their previous regime. During its previous rule, the Taliban had introduced punishments such as public executions of convicted murderers and adulterers and amputations for those found guilty of theft.
Men were required to have beards and women had to wear the all-covering burka. Women were barred from working outside and girls were banned from school. The Taliban had also banned television, music and cinema and were accused of various human rights and cultural abuses.
After taking control of entire Afghanistan the Taliban
have drawn attention of international community. Like in the past if
they turn violent and follow the Sharia Law of their own version for building
an Islamic State and patronise militant organisations like al-Qaeda they may
not get recognition from international community easily
Now they are trying to project themselves as a moderate entity and promised to delink with international militant network al-Qaeda and IS although many Afghans are fearful of the Taliban rule and are fleeing the country. But, there are reports published in the media that Taliban are going door to door with lists of followers of Ashraf Ghani and killed relative of Deutsche Welle journalist. They have attacked Indian High Commission in Kabul and destroyed secrete and valuable documents. The militants of al-Qaeda are freely moving from here and there in the country.
If good sense does not prevail in them and if they behave like in the past it would not be so easy for the Taliban to run the government. Already news is being published about demonstrations against the Taliban in some areas of the country.
There are some factors which have linked to their stay in power. Firstly, the Taliban picked many regional or ethnic groups to fight back with the government of Ashraf Ghani. These groups have their own agenda. A big question is how long they will remain united if the ongoing chaos and anarchy persists. In fact there is some sort of political stability in Afghanistan since Soviet and US aggression.
Secondly, the economic base of the country is weak. The previous Ashraf Ghani government had run the country with the financial assistance of US and some other countries. After departure of USA forces the chances of getting aid from that country are remote. Moreover, it would be very tough for Taliban to procure aid from the international community as they would wait for a stable Afghan government that suits democracy. The Taliban’s main source of income during last 20 years was from drug smuggling. According to UN report they earn about $1.6 billion a year from opium cultivation and drug smuggling. The international community will never consider illegal opium cultivation and smuggling in case of giving aid or credit to Taliban government.
Thirdly, analysts are predicting that Afghanistan is on the brink of humanitarian crisis as there is severe food scarcity in the country. The country may witness famine due to scarcity of food. The government may face challenge to mitigate corona pandemic due to lack of full-fledged administrative system.
Fourthly, both USA and India have huge investment in Afghanistan. They will definitely try to maintain a relation with Taliban to secure their investment. But they will not allow Taliban to establish Islamic state. Rather they will try to influence on Taliban to be moderate. Those who say that the US diplomacy has failed after withdrawing its troops from Afghanistan are not correct. When the Biden administration took office, American diplomats got to work on a plan to reenergize Afghanistan’s sputtering peace talks. As a follow up to the peace talks with Taliban the Biden on 14 April this year announced to withdraw US troops from Afghanistan saying that “the American troops should not be used as a bargaining chip between warring parties in other countries.” Now we have to wait for some days to see how Taliban behave and what the countries like USA, China, Russia and India decide?
Finally, if there is a design to form another Islamic state in South Asia the attempt will probably not succeed as the people of South Asia is committed to democracy and against religious fundamentalism. India is one of the largest democratic countries. Pakistan is a pseudo democratic state. Bangladesh also practices democracy. So it will not be possible to transform Afghanistan into an Islamic state.
Dr S A Malek is the former Political Adviser to the Prime Minister, Member of Parliament, Secretary General of Bangabandhu Parishad and Columnist