The Taliban were on the cusp of forming a government on Friday, with the hardliners being watched closely internationally for their vow to rule Afghanistan with greater tolerance, especially on women’s rights.
The announcement of a new government, previously expected to be made after Friday afternoon prayers, would now take place on Saturday at the earliest, a Taliban spokesman told AFP.
The Islamists face the formidable challenge of shifting the group’s gears to governing power, days after the United States completely withdrew its troops and ended two decades of war.
While the West has taken a wait-and-see attitude towards the Taliban, there have been some signs of engagement with the new leaders that are accelerating.
Hours earlier, China confirmed a tweet from a Taliban spokesman indicating that Beijing will keep its embassy in Kabul open.
“We hope that the Taliban will establish an open and inclusive political structure, adopt a moderate and stable domestic and foreign policy and make a clear break with all terrorist groups,” said Wang Wenbin, spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
The United Nations said it had resumed humanitarian flights to parts of the country linking Pakistan’s capital Islamabad with Mazar-i-Sharif in northern Afghanistan and Kandahar in the south.
The country’s flag carrier, Ariana Afghan Airlines, said it would resume domestic flights later Friday, while the United Arab Emirates sent a plane with “urgent medical and food assistance.”
Western Union and Moneygram said they are resuming money transfers, which many Afghans rely on from relatives abroad for survival, and Qatar said it was in the process of reopening the airport in Kabul – a lifeline for aid.
– Threat of a humanitarian disaster –
Even before the Taliban’s lightning strike, Afghanistan was heavily dependent on aid — with 40 percent of the country’s GDP coming from foreign funding.
The UN has warned that 18 million people are staring into the course of the humanitarian disaster, and another 18 million could soon join them.
The new rulers have pledged to be more lenient than during their first stint in power from 1996 to 2001, which also came after years of conflict—first the Soviet invasion of 1979, then a bloody civil war.
That regime was notorious for its brutal interpretation of Sharia law and the treatment of women, who were forced behind closed doors, denied access to school and work and denied freedom of movement.
This time, the Taliban have repeatedly stated that they will not retaliate against opponents, that women will have access to education and some employment.
They have promised a more “inclusive” government that represents Afghanistan’s complex ethnic makeup.
British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said the international community should test the Taliban for their “sincerity”.
“It is important at this stage to assess the Taliban against these initial, probably quite modest, tests and see if they can live up to it,” Raab said during a visit to Pakistan, where he assured the safe passage of Afghans from the discussed country.
The European Union also set out on Friday its terms for stepping up its involvement with the Taliban, agreeing to set up a joint “presence” in Kabul to assist departees if security allows.
– Women’s protest –
There is a lot of speculation about the composition of a new government, although a senior official this week said women are unlikely to be included.
In Kabul, some 30 women took to the streets to demand the right to work and integration into the government – just a day after several dozen women staged a similar protest in the western city of Herat.
Women’s rights were not the only major concern in the run-up to the announcement of a new government by the Taliban.
In Kabul, residents expressed concern about the country’s long-standing economic problems, which are now being exacerbated by the terrorist movement’s takeover.
“With the arrival of the Taliban, it is fair to say that there is security, but things have fallen below zero,” Karim Jan, an electronics store owner, told AFP.
Earlier this week, the United Nations warned of an impending “humanitarian catastrophe” in Afghanistan as it called for a way out for those who still wanted to flee the new regime.
The Italian foreign minister is due to visit Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Qatar and Pakistan from Friday to help Afghan refugees.
Qatar’s foreign minister said Thursday that the Gulf state is working with the Taliban to reopen Kabul airport as soon as possible.
Turkey said it was also evaluating proposals from the Taliban and others for a role in running the airport.
Friday also saw signs of normality in Kabul, where a nearly packed house saw Afghanistan’s best cricketers play in a trial match – the first since the city fell to the Taliban – with Taliban and Afghan flags side by side. in what witnesses described as a demonstration of national unity.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NewsMadura staff and has been published from a syndicated feed.)