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ISLAMABAD: Amid mounting domestic and international pressure, the Taliban have delayed the formation of the new government in war-battered Afghanistan by a day, the group’s spokesman said on Friday.
The new government, according to Taliban sources, will be headed by the group’s co-founder, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar. Mullah Mohammad Yaqoob, the son of late Taliban chief Mullah Muhammad Omar, and Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanikzai, Taliban sources added, are the two other senior Taliban leaders to be appointed to senior positions. Mullah Haibatullah Akhundzada, the Taliban chief, will focus on religious matters and governance within the framework of Islam.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said that the government will now be formed on Saturday. Earlier, it was claimed that the government would be announced after Friday prayers.
As all eyes were glued to TV stations, protests were held by groups of Afghan women and civil society activists in Kabul calling for their inclusion in the future government.
The Taliban have already stated that women will be allowed to work in government institutions but not in higher-ranking positions.
The protesters urged the Taliban and the international community to protect the political, social and economic rights of women that they had achieved in the last two decades. “No society will make progress without women’s active role,” civil society activist Taranum Saeedi said.
As women continued their rallies in Kabul and other parts of the country, videos posted on social media showed some Taliban members in front of a government building forcing them to call off their protest.
All the top Taliban leaders are said to be currently in Kabul.
While the EU, Britain and the US have declared that they will deal with the Taliban but won’t recognise them, Pakistan said on Friday that its approach towards the group has to be different and realistic.
“Some have the choice of getting up and leaving, but we do not. We are neighbours and we have to coexist. Geography ties us together so our approach to the Taliban has to be somewhat different and realistic,” Pakistan foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said at a joint news conference with British foreign secretary Dominic Raab, who had arrived in Islamabad on a two-day visit on Thursday.
Explaining the UK’s approach to the Taliban, Raab said: “The approach we are taking is that we don’t recognise the Taliban as a government but we do see the importance of being able to engage and have a direct line of communication, the reason being that there is a whole range of issues that need to be discussed, including the question of safe passage of British nationals and the Afghans who worked for the UK government.”
On the other hand, Doha-based Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen announced that China has promised to keep its embassy in Afghanistan open and to increase humanitarian aid to the war-ruined country. China has also issued a statement saying that it “affirms” its ties with Afghanistan and that it wishes Afghans well as they rebuild their country.
Meanwhile, intense fighting continues between the Taliban and the resistance force in Afghanistan’s Panjshir Valley, northeast of the capital Kabul, as both sides claimed to have inflicted heavy losses on each other. Smoke could be seen billowing from the distant mountains as the Taliban engaged in a battle to take control of the last of the country’s 34 provinces. The fighting had intensified on Tuesday after attempts at a negotiated settlement failed.
The Taliban claim of taking some territory was rejected by the National Resistance Force (NRF), a multi-ethnic group made up of militias and former Afghan security force members, saying it has control over all entrances to the valley, and the invading militant group had lost hundreds of fighters.
The NRF is led by a local tribal leader, Ahmad Massoud, a 32-year-old graduate of Kings College London and Sandhurst Military Academy. Massoud’s father, Ahmad Shah Massoud, had held off the Red Army of the former Soviet Union in the 1980s and the Taliban in the 1990s. The young Massoud was joined in Panjshir by the country’s former vice-president, Amrullah Saleh, after the Taliban seized control of Kabul.
Locals in districts adjacent to Panjshir said that days before the fall of Kabul on August 15, they had seen former Afghan National Army soldiers from the provinces of Kunduz, Baghlan, Kapisa, Parwan and Takhar heading towards Panjshir after those provinces surrendered to the Taliban. Those soldiers, as witnessed by local residents, were transporting military vehicles and equipment.
Former Afghanistan president Hamid Karzai has called on Taliban and resistance forces in the Panjshir Valley to lay down their arms and engage in peaceful dialogue. Karzai, who led the nation from 2001 to 2014, tweeted that “despite the efforts of the reformers, military operations and fighting have started in Panjshir”. “I do not consider the consequences to be in the interest of the country and the people,” he said.



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