Sirajuddin Haqqani making a public appearance

Sirajuddin Haqqani making a public appearance

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The Taliban Interior Minister Siraj Haqqani, long in hiding, has abandoned his ‘secretive posture’ and has been seen in public. This marks the beginning of a new phase in Afghanistan’s troubled history.

Sirajuddin Haqqani’s group, popularly known as the Haqqani network, was not integrated into the Taliban party but was closely working with the Taliban during the US occupation of the country.

During the Taliban insurgency, Siraj Haqqani carried out a number of lethal attacks against Afghan and Nato forces. The US declared him a terrorist with a bounty of $10 million on his head. He has not been seen in public for many years.

His appearance in public shows the advent of a new era in Afghanistan. Many leaders of the current Taliban government fought against the US occupation of their country. They received huge support from the public across the length and breadth of the country. Never were the people of Afghanistan happy with the invasion of their country by the former Soviet Union or by the US. Afghans fought against both these interventions and paid a high price. They eventually triumphed. Sooner or later, the US and the West will have to accept the ground realities by working with the new leadership to address many critical issues of hunger, disease, poverty, education, health services etc.

Sirajuddin had to appear in public to discharge his new responsibilities as interior minister. His appearance in public also conveys a message to the US and the world that Taliban have restored peace to the war battered country after more than four decades of conflict. His assumption of duties  shows Taliban leaders have decided to confront the challenges of such groups as Daesh, ‘Fidayee Mahaz and Turkistan Islamic movement.

Problems on the economic front are formidable. The US has refused to deliver frozen Afghan assets worth more than $9 billion to the new government in Afghanistan. That is being done, according to some analysts, to weaken the Taliban to the extent where they are not able to function. If that is the intention, it speaks volumes of American duplicity and how much they really care for the stability of a country that was devastated by the US. Non delivery of funds which belong to Afghanistan is against international law and clearly an act of banditry. There is a veiled sinister design behind such a move: to create conditions for the return of the warlords who will pose a challenge to the new set up-- and to destabilize Afghanistan so that the grand Chinese project ‘One belt, One road, cannot be successfully completed.

His appearance in public shows the advent of a new era in Afghanistan.

Rustam Shah 

But despite these enormous challenges, Afghanistan has been receiving funds in different forms from different sources. Problems of hunger, unemployment, diseases, and lack of medical care are making life difficult for many Afghans. But there is hope that these will soon be taken care of as the situation begins to improve.

The most notable achievement of the Taliban government has been the establishment of genuine peace in which the fear of attacks, murders, robberies, theft have nearly vanished with people having taken of sigh of relief. Entities like Daesh continue their attacks because they know their days are numbered and soon their cadres will have to confront the law of the land.

Obviously, the Interior Minister cannot remain in hiding while formulating and executing policies for the safety and security of people and properties. It is a signal that the security environment has improved to an extent where ministers can appear in public, visit places, meet people and supervise the work of police and local officials. The US bounty on his head will soon become irrelevant as governments reach out to the Taliban leaders. The Chinese are busy undertaking projects in the sector of mineral exploration. and Afghanistan sits on a treasure trove of minerals-oil and gas, copper, iron, molybdenum, precious stones, cobalt and many more. Exploring these enormous reserves could constitute the backbone of the country’s economy in the years to come. But in the immediate future, the regime has to deal with problems of poverty and unemployment as a priority. And more importantly, they have to lay the foundations of sustainable institutions for a participative system of decision making at village, town, province levels and at the national level .The elected councils or ‘shuras’ would handle the task of reconstruction, of socio-economic uplift, of institutionalized systems of justice and accountability, of eradication of disease, poverty and advancement of education. A stable, peaceful Afghanistan where the rule of law is firmly established, will motivate people to cooperate with the government and will help in creating conditions for the return of refugees and asylum seekers currently living abroad.

The task is by no means easy. It is a daunting task. But given the determination of the new rulers and the support of the international community, the country could overcome the myriad challenges that it faces on multiple fronts.

- Rustam Shah Mohmand is a specialist of Afghanistan and Central Asian Affairs. He has served as Pakistan’s ambassador to Afghanistan and also held position of Chief Commissioner Refugees for a decade.

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