Taliban Not Ruling Out Holding Elections

General

WASHINGTON — During their two-decade-long insurgency, the Taliban cast aspersions on democratic elections, describing them as un-Islamic, and frequently attacked Afghan election workers and rallies.

But a top Taliban spokesman now says the group is not ruling out holding elections as it moves to establish a permanent government based on Islamic law, or Shariah.

In an interview with VOA’s Urdu Service, Suhail Shaheen, the top spokesman for the Taliban’s political office in Doha, Qatar, said the issue would be determined by a future constitution.

“About election or no election, let’s wait,” Shaheen said. “We have a constitution [planned] in the future, so we would have deliberation about that in the future, about when we are drafting the constitution, so that would be seen there at that time, not now.”

Shaheen’s comments came in response to a question about Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi’s recent call for elections in Afghanistan to determine the country’s future. Conducting elections has been a huge concern for many ethnic minorities and anti-Taliban groups in the country.

At a Tuesday news conference in Kabul, the Taliban’s new interim foreign minister, Amir Khan Mutaqi, dodged a question about elections, saying foreign countries should not interfere in Afghanistan’s internal affairs.

Taliban forces seized power on August 15 after then-President Ashraf Ghani fled the country, sparking the collapse of his government and the evacuation of more than 100,000 Afghan civilians by the U.S. and its allies.

Last week, the newly empowered Taliban announced a caretaker government largely made up of hardliners, naming Mohammad Hassan Akhund as interim prime minister. Akhund and several others in the Taliban government are on a U.N. sanctions list.

Conspicuously absent from the government were ethnic minorities and women who served in parliament or held senior government posts under the country’s nascent democracy over the past 20 years.

But the Taliban have stressed that the appointments are not permanent, indicating that women would be allowed to serve, though not in ministerial positions.

“Our leadership had to appoint some ministers in order to start the economic movement in the country and to provide the essential services to the people,” Shaheen said. “But this Cabinet is called a tentative Cabinet, not a full Cabinet or permanent Cabinet.”

Although the 2004 Constitution of Afghanistan said no law would contravene Shariah, the Taliban have said they want to rewrite or amend the charter to bring it more into line with Islamic law.

The Taliban did not hold any elections the last time they ruled Afghanistan, from 1996 to 2001.

During their insurgency, they were accused of using violence to disrupt elections, viewing them as a Western tradition at odds with Islam. In 2019, the militants attacked political rallies and other election-related activities, killing or injuring scores of civilians, according to Human Rights Watch.

In March, the Taliban rejected a proposal by Ghani to hold early elections, insisting that he step down as part of a peaceful transfer of power.

 

Source: Voice of America