Women can continue to work in government in Afghanistan but are not guaranteed cabinet or other senior positions, a Taliban spokesman has said.
Asked whether women and ethnic minorities would have a place in the new Afghan government, the deputy head of the Taliban political office in Qatar told the BBC that senior positions in the new administration would be filled on merit.
Nearly half of civil service jobs in Afghan ministries were occupied by women who “should come back to their work”, the official said, but “in the new government that will be announced, in the top posts, in the cabinet, there may not be women”.
The Taliban are expected to name a government in the next few days but have yet to declare how they intend to govern – unlike the last time the group seized power in Afghanistan in 1996, when a leadership council was formed within hours.
Officials have called on Afghans to return home and help rebuild the country. They have promised to protect human rights, apparently trying to present a more moderate face than their first regime, known for its brutal enforcement of radical Islamic law.
But the hardline movement made similar promises 25 years ago, only to ban women from education and employment, enforce strict dress codes, adopt a punitive approach to the people of Kabul and publicly hang a former president.
One 22-year-old woman told Reuters she had seen Taliban fighters beating women with sticks outside a bank in the Afghan capital on Tuesday, adding: “It’s the first time I’ve seen something like that and it really frightened me.”
Crowds seeking to flee Afghanistan flocked to its borders on Wednesday, as the closure of Kabul’s airport after Monday’s withdrawal of the last US troops forced thousands fearful of reprisals to try to reach Iran, Pakistan or central Asian states.
More than 123,000 people were evacuated in the US-led airlift after the Taliban seized the capital in mid-August, but tens of thousands of Afghans with a potential right to be rescued remain, with Germany alone estimating their number at 10,000-40,000.
Amid fears that up to half a million Afghans might try to flee, Britain and India have held separate talks with Taliban officials in Doha, while the US has said it will use what leverage it can to pressure the Taliban into allowing remaining at-risk Afghans out.
The Islamist militia, who have promised an amnesty for all nationals who worked with foreign forces and organisations, have so far focused on keeping banks, hospitals and government machinery running since their unexpectedly rapid takeover.
But long queues outside banks and soaring prices in bazaars have underlined the everyday worries facing Afghanistan’s population, with growing economic hardship emerging as the new rulers’ most urgent challenge.
Strict weekly limits on cash withdrawals have been imposed, but many people still face hours of queueing to get cash, while humanitarian organisations have warned of a looming catastrophe amid a severe drought hitting rural areas.
Taliban officials on Wednesday called on rebel fighters under Ahmad Massoud, the son of a former Mujahideen commander, to lay down their arms in Panjshir province, where local militia members and former soldiers have formed a last pocket of resistance.
“The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan is home for all Afghans,” said Amir Khan Motaqi, a senior Taliban leader, adding that the movement was “trying to ensure that there is no war and that the issue in Panjshir is resolved calmly and peacefully”. – Guardian