Taliban declares general 'amnesty' for Afghan government officials

The Taliban announced a "general amnesty" for all government officials on Tuesday and urged them to return to work, trying to calm nerves across a tense capital city that only the day before saw chaos at Kabul airport as people tried to flee. Women would also be allowed to play a role in government that corresponds with sharia law, the group said. 

A deserted street in the green zone in Kabul, Afghanistan on August 17, 2021.
A deserted street in the green zone in Kabul, Afghanistan on August 17, 2021. AFP - WAKIL KOHSAR

The comments by Enamullah Samangani, a member of the Taliban's cultural commission, represent the first comments on governance in Afghanistan since the Taliban takeover of the country on Sunday. 

"You should restart your routine life with full confidence," Samangani said in announcing the amnesty. Some appeared to take the advice to heart, with white-capped traffic police reappearing on the streets for the first time in days.

Women would also be allowed to join the government in accordance with sharia law, he said.

“The Islamic Emirate doesn't want women to be victims,” Samangani said, using the militants' term for Afghanistan. “They should be in the government structure according to Shariah law.”

“The structure of government is not fully clear, but based on experience, there should be a fully Islamic leadership and all sides should join,” he added. 

Samangani remained vague on other details, however, implying people already knew the rules of Islamic law the Taliban expected them to follow. 

"Our people are Muslims and we are not here to force them to Islam,” he said. 

Suhail Shaheen, one of the Taliban's official spokesmen, has also tried to calm fears that women would be relegated to diminished status in the new Afghanistan. 

"Their right to education is also protected," he said late Monday.

But the Taliban have been vague in pronouncements on how they would rule Afghanistan, apart from saying it would be in accordance with Islamic "principles".

Interaction with individual Taliban fighters on the streets has been mixed, according to those on the ground. "Some have been friendly and give no trouble at all," said a man trying to get to his office past a Taliban checkpoint.

"But others are tough ... they push you around and shout at you for no reason."

While there were no major reports of fighting in Kabul, many residents have stayed home and remain fearful after the insurgents’ takeover saw prisons emptied and armories looted.

Evacuation flights resumed early Tuesday following a suspension the day before as people crowded the runway trying to flee the Taliban takeover. 

Following Monday's chaotic scenes at the airport, many Afghans who worked with US, French and other Western embassies and NGOs stayed home awaiting word on evacuation plans.   

Older generations remember the ultraconservative Islamic regime that saw regular stonings, amputations and public executions during Taliban rule before the US-led invasion that followed the September 11, 2001, terror attacks. 

Female broadcaster back on air, talks resume

Under the Taliban, which ruled in accordance with a harsh interpretation of Islamic law, women were largely confined to their homes. The insurgents have sought to project greater moderation in recent years, but many Afghans remain sceptical.

Afghanistan's leading TV station, Tolo News, on Tuesday broadcast a news programme with a female anchor interviewing a member of the Taliban's media team. Afghan female anchors have been off the air since Kabul fell to the Taliban on Sunday as the city reeled in shock over the rapidly changing situation on the ground.

Meanwhile, talks appeared to be continuing between the Taliban and several Afghan government officials, including former president Hamid Karzai and Abdullah Abdullah, who once headed the country’s negotiating council. President Ashraf Ghani earlier fled the country amid the Taliban advance and his whereabouts remain unknown. 

An official with direct knowledge of the talks, who spoke on condition of anonymity as he wasn't authorised to brief journalists, said senior Taliban leader Amir Khan Muttaqi had arrived in Kabul from Qatar. Muttaqi was a higher education minister during the former Taliban regime and had reportedly begun making contact with Afghan political leaders even before Ghani fled. 

(FRANCE 24 with AP and AFP)

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