For some months now there has been a refrain in many circles, in Pakistan and around the world, that the Afghan Taliban had moderated after being out of power for twenty years. After taking over Kabul, the Taliban has shown a media savvy face to the world.
However, has the Taliban really changed or is this simply a façade?
According to Mohammad Taqi, however, the proof of the pudding is in the eating. The Taliban captured, tortured, and killed the Reuters’ photojournalist Danish Siddiqui, and then mutilated his body during their first major battlefield victory. Further, “After taking Kabul, the Taliban has raided the homes of several journalists and activists and killed a relative of a Deutsche Welle journalist. This forced others to go into hiding and erase their digital and cyber presence. The Taliban spokesman’s pledge to let women have the right to education and work was also contradicted by the fact his men had turned away a female broadcaster Khadija Amin when she showed up for work that day at the same building. The next day the Taliban fired Shabnam Dawran, another female presenter at the state-owned television.”
Further, “outside the swamped Kabul airport, the Taliban whipped women and children trying to get in. That an armed insurgent untrained in policing can use harsh tactics could potentially be rationalised but why were they carrying medieval short snake whips begs the question of whether they planned to become moderate only after entering Kabul. No ordinary civilian, police, or military carries whips. Only a sadist, barbaric group like the Taliban could brandish whips at the drop of a hat.”
Finally, “The Taliban has assured religious freedom to the minorities, including the country’s sizeable Shia population. The group sent a delegation to Kabul’s Hazara Shia community, which attended a Muharram commemoration and subsequently provided security for the subdued Ashura processions. But in the Hazara heartland, the Bamiyan province, the Taliban blew up a statue of Abdul-Ali Mazari, a Hazara Shia leader who had led the resistance against its emirate in the 1990s.”
Thus, Taqi concludes by noting “The Taliban’s actions clearly belie its claims of change, moderation, and tolerance.”