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All countries should assist people of Afghanistan to start a new chapter of their lives: Taliban spokesperson Suhail Shaheen

Suhail Shaheen asserted that Taliban is ready to reciprocate if India showed constructive posturing after the insurgent group’s takeover of Afghanistan

August 26, 2021 / 01:02 PM IST
Suhail Shaheen, Afghan Taliban spokesman, speaks during a news conference in Moscow in March 2021(Source: AP)

Suhail Shaheen, Afghan Taliban spokesman, speaks during a news conference in Moscow in March 2021(Source: AP)


The Taliban seized control of Kabul on August 15 and since then the country has been in an upheaval sending thousands of civilians and Afghan military allies fleeing to safety as a new government remains elusive.

In an exclusive interview with CNN-NEWS18, Suhail Shaheen, the Taliban spokesperson, urged the international community to help Afghanistan start a new chapter in their lives leaving the 20 years of war behind. The Taliban is ready to reciprocate if India shows constructive posturing towards it, Shaheen says. Excerpts:

It’s been more than a week since the Taliban took over, yet the government has not been formed. Your representatives have reached out to Amrullah Saleh, the former vice president, too. How do you see the situation and how long it will take to resolve the crisis?

Yes, we are taking time for consultation and deliberation. This is because we are focusing on having all Afghan politicians in discussions about the future government. Otherwise, it was easy for us to announce the new government on the first day of our entry into Kabul. We hope to announce our new government very soon.

India has in the last two decades done a lot of development work in Afghanistan. It has built roads, dams and even the parliament building. How do you view India’s contribution? It has been reported that the Taliban has stopped trade with India?

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As for projects which are good for the people of Afghanistan and which contribute to the welfare of the people of Afghanistan, if they are incomplete, India can complete them. But we have been opposing siding with the government.

READ: We will continue to fight and won't let Afghanistan become Talibanistan: Acting president Amrullah Saleh

We have been wanting in the last 20 years that India should have a relation with the people of Afghanistan. And India has also acknowledged the intention of the people of Afghanistan for the liberation of the country. It was our point and our position and we said that India should not side with that puppet government and should support the people of Afghanistan.

You have said Afghanistan will not have a western-style democracy. What will you do to the Parliament building in that case, which was built with an electoral democracy in mind?

When the government is formed, we will constitute a committee to draft the constitution. Of course, the parliament building will be used for some purpose. Maybe for the Islamic Shora.

Some very positive developments have taken place after the Taliban takeover like the general amnesty. But still, women are said to be not allowed to work. Some girls were beaten for wearing jeans. Isn’t it a concern?

It is a temporary phase. We have a policy where women are allowed to seek education and go to work while observing hijab. Women can have access to education and work. No one should worry about that.

Even after the amnesty, the Afghan government employees are worried. Their list is made and Taliban cadres are searching them door to door. Videos of such killings have also appeared on social media. How will you address this? Or does this mean that the cadre is not in your control?

The door-to-door search thing is not true. I have refuted this earlier as well. Our soldiers are investigating everything. The culprits will be brought to justice. Our policy has not changed and we have given a message to all to abide by that policy and if anyone violates that policy they will be answerable for their actions.

After the takeover, the Taliban has to govern. From managing the airport to executing civic amenities, everything seems to be a challenge. How do you intend to address this?

Those who are going abroad and possess proper documents and visa, they won’t face any problems in reaching the airport. We had received reports that some members of Daish (ISIS) are trying to travel to western countries. That is why we are strictly checking everyone and not allowing people without documents.

For the first time protests are happening, women coming on the streets and want their share in all processes. Is the Taliban allowing them because of the presence of international media or these concerns will be addressed in reality?

We are committed to women's access to work. But being Muslims, they have to follow the hijab rule. As for their grievances, we have announced WhatsApp numbers and they can reach out there with their problems. They can complain, that is their right and we have to address their issues.

There were reports earlier this week that the Taliban kidnapped Indians and released them later. Though they reached India safely, why did such reports emerge in the first place? Don’t you think, the message should be clear to allow all those who want to leave Afghanistan?

I refute the reports. The word kidnap was not proper. We had already issued a statement that we will provide proper arrangements for the functioning of embassies and diplomats.

Also, read: 'Still healing from a single Taliban bullet', writes Malala Yousafzai, 9 years after being shot

I do know that they had some problem with their documents and they were stopped for that for few hours. We stick to what we announced and we have proved that we are committed to that. Of course, there are some spoilers present in and outside the country. And they are providing fodder for propaganda against us. But when you investigate, you will know all this is not true.

 

Whenever India and Afghanistan friendship is spoken about, one remembers Bollywood movies Kabuliwala, Shahenshah by Amitabh Bachchan. Recently in India, there was a report also that in 1996 you put all your security for the crew of Shahenshah movie. Have things changed now?

I think it depends on India’s action and your policy. Is it going to be a hostile policy towards Afghanistan or follow a policy based on the relation with the people of Afghanistan and constructive posturing. So, of course, if it is positive then our people will reciprocate like the projects which are good for the people of Afghanistan. The dams made by India, for example, are for the welfare of the people of Afghanistan. The people of Afghanistan will welcome that.

What is your message to the international community on participation in development work in Afghanistan?

Our message to them is that we just finished the war and we are leaving that chapter behind. It is a new chapter and the people of Afghanistan need help. All countries should assist us financially to help the people of Afghanistan build their lives. 70 percent of the people of Afghanistan are living under the poverty line. The country has faced destruction and bloodshed in the last 20 years of war. We will appreciate any help to the people of Afghanistan.

Where is top Taliban leader Mullah Aukhandzada?

He will come very soon and will show up publically. For 20 years, we struggled against occupation and he had to keep away from public eyes. But now he will come, inshallah.

If relationship remain good, can we see Indian movies shooting again in Afghanistan?

I have no comment on that right now. This is something for the future. As I said before, what matters right now is peace and stability of Afghanistan. The security and unity of the people of Afghanistan is our priority.
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