Taliban 2.0: Old laws in newer package?

Better PR skills cannot hide the chaos that continues at Kabul airport, or the firing at Jalalabad where two people were killed and a dozen injured

Image: Reuters

With the Taliban takeover, a pall of gloom had descended upon Afghanistan that would otherwise be celebrating its Independence Day today on August 19. In 2019, they marked 100 years of independence “by holding gatherings in different provinces, mainly in Helmand, Balkh, Herat, Kabul, and Nangarhar,” reported ToloNews adding that President Ashraf Ghani had laid a wreath at the Azadi Memorial minaret on Independence Day before appearing at a ceremony at Darul Aman Palace.

He had then said that while “the main celebration of the centenary of Independence Day was postponed to honor the victims of the deadly attack [at a wedding party in the country]” and added that “we will take the revenge of our people… We will eliminate Daesh hideouts all around the country. The fight against Deash will be intensified.” 

However, this year, he is safe in exile, after having fled Kabul when the Taliban took over. Releasing a video message on his Facebook page late on Wednesday he claimed this was the “only way to prevent bloodshed”. He confirmed that he was in the United Arab Emirates.

Will Taliban 2.0 be any different?

The images of public executions and women being brutally beaten by the previous Taliban regime’s “Culture Police” are still fresh in the minds of the Afghan people. Which is why many wonder if the Taliban 2.0, as some have labeled the gun toting men now in power in Afghanistan, will be any different.

But Taliban 2.0 has a stronger PR game where they hold press conferences, one spokesperson also appeared on a TV news bulletin with a woman news anchor. However, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

“There will be no democratic system at all because it does not have any base in our country,” said Taliban leader Mullah Haibatullah Akhundzada, as reported by Reuters. That is the clearest message that the Taliban has sent to the world, at no point will the Taliban, which now rules the “Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan”, will allow democracy to flourish. Their “supreme leader” Haibatullah Akhundzada is now the man in charge, and the country will be governed by a council. According to media reports, Waheedullah Hashimi, a man who was described as one with “access to the group’s decision-making”, said, “We will not discuss what type of political system should we apply in Afghanistan because it is clear. It is sharia law and that is it.”

He said, power structure in the country will bear “similarities to how Afghanistan was run the last time the Taliban were in power from 1996 to 2001. Then, supreme leader Mullah Omar remained in the shadows and left the day-to-day running of the country to a council”. However, apart from the ‘power’ structure, ordinary Afghans, many of whom are attempting to flee to safer countries, and those who have stayed back are fearful of a regime known to trample upon the basic rights of citizens, especially women. 

Chaotic scenes continue to be reported from outside the Kabul airport, as desperate Afghans, many with young children in tow, are trying to escape the country. According to multiple reports, and as seen on social media videos, parents have been seen hoisting their babies and children over the barbed wires, hoping the soldiers on the other side will catch them and keep them safe till evacuation. A British soldier told Sky News, “It was terrible, women were throwing their babies over the razor wire, asking the soldiers to take them, some got caught in the wire.” The armed Taliban meanwhile had set up checkpoints and ‘controlled’ crowds using whips and pointing guns mi-automatic at the terrified crowd of men, women and children.



Why is the west giving the Taliban a ‘chance?’

A report by Reuters quoted Nick Carter, Britain’s chief of the defence staff, who said, “It May Well Be A Taliban That Is More Reasonable”. He believes that the “world should give the Taliban the space to form a new government in Afghanistan and may discover that the insurgents cast as terrorists by the West for decades have become more reasonable.” This sounds startling, but explains how the developed countries, who have all been active in evacuating their own citizens, especially embassy staff and Afghans who worked for them, are yet to denounce the Taliban takeover, so far.

The leaders of the Taliban 2.0, are armed with more than guns and war weapons this time. They are also armed with a ‘communication’ strategy that was unveiled at their first press conference on Tuesday, just two days after they seized power in Kabul. Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid had then said, “No one will be allowed to use Afghan territory for attacks against any nation.” And promises were made that women will be “allowed” to work as study, but will have to adhere to the Taliban’s interpretation of Islamic laws.   

The first women’s protest has already been reported from Kabul after the Taliban’s takeover. The women held handwritten paper signs that reportedly read: “We want our rights, here are women, we want social security, no ban on work, the right to education and the right to political participation. No force can ignore and stifle women. All our achievements over the years should not be compromised and our basic rights!” It is yet to be reported how the Taliban have responded to these women protestors. 

However, the Taliban leadership is busy projecting its ‘outreach’ with the country’s political leaders who still hold a visible presence and recognition in the international community. On Wednesday, Taliban commander Anas Haqqani met former Afghan president Hamid Karzai and ex-foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah in Kabul. Anas Haqqani, heads the Haqqani Network. According to NDTV, this is an important faction of the Taliban and is based on the border with Pakistan. 



Violence against citizens on the street 

Taliban fighters have reportedly been shooting at citizens marching on the streets in protest against the regime and its flag. In Jalalabad, the country’s fifth largest city which is on the border of Pakistan near Peshawar, at least two persons were reportedly killed, when shots were fired at protesters. According to a report in Al Jazeera, “At least two people have been killed and 12 wounded after gunmen fired into a crowd of people who had taken down an Afghan Taliban flag in the eastern Afghan city of Jalalabad.”

It was reported that the black-on-white Taliban flag that was waving at a roundabout in Jalalabad “was removed and replaced with the black, red and green flag of the previous Afghan government on Wednesday morning.” However, soon gunshots were reportedly fired. Videos circulating on social media, also showed protesters “waving Afghan flags as they walked down a street, with bystanders whistling their support.”

According to Al Jazeera, “Jalalabad is the traditional hub of annual independence day celebrations in Afghanistan, which take place every year on August 19 to commemorate the date when the British government recognised Afghan independence in 1919, ending the third Anglo-Afghan war.”



It has been reported that shots were also fired at “a central square in Daronta district, just outside Jalalabad, when people there also replaced a Taliban flag.” The civil Afghan protesters have been replacing the Taliban flag with the red, green and black national flag of Afghanistan.

Pajhwok Afghan News showed clips of the procession carrying the national flag crossing a street when shots were fired. This was the first pushback against the Taliban since it marched into Kabul on Sunday. Protests had also been held in Khost a day before.




According to Reuters, these are the evacuations carried out by various countries, the numbers continue to rise slowly.

US: Evacuated over 5,200 and has pledged to get 22,000 vulnerable Afghans and all 15,000 Americans out. 

UK: 1,200 including Afghans. 

Germany: 500, including 100 Afghans

France: 209 people, including 184 Afghans 

Spain: 500 people

Netherlands: 35 nationals – they are aiming to take 1,000 Afghan workers and their families

Denmark: 84 people 

Hungary: 26 nationals

Poland: 50 people

Czech Republic: 46 people including Afghan workers

Japan: 12 embassy staff

Australia: 26 people including Afghans. It says it is unlikely to help all of its Afghan workers

India: 170 people

Turkey: 552 nationals

Switzerland: Aiming to evacuate 230 Afghan workers



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