The takeover of Kabul by the Taliban has once again sparked fears of an oppressive rule that resembles its rule in Afghanistan between 1996-2001. Rising evidence of gross human rights violations being committed in Afghanistan- civilian deaths, crimes against women and children, crushing of basic freedoms, crimes against minorities, has left the world shocked and disturbed. Moreover, the potential for a rise in transnational terrorism has added to the woes of South Asian security.
To bring attention to the human rights scenario in Afghanistan at the behest of the Taliban, and the role of Pakistan and China, Red Lantern Analytica has written a letter to Mrs. Michelle Bachelet, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. Through our demands, we have called for strict action to be taken to hold the perpetrators accountable and protect the civilians and human rights defenders in Afghanistan.
The recent comments by the Taliban in a press conference regarding human rights have exacerbated these fears further due to worrying caveats that talk about retaining human rights under the umbrella of Islamic Law.
At the same time, the gross human rights violations that have been carried out in Afghanistan at the behest of the Taliban are testimony to these fears, with such crimes against humanity expected to continue under their rule. Even Ms. Michelle Bachelet, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, has stated that her Office “has received harrowing and credible reports of the impact on civilians of violations of international humanitarian law, as well as violations and abuses of human rights, by the parties to the conflict.”
Ms. Bachelet’s statement rings of a harsh truth that Afghanistan is faced with today- that Afghani civilians, especially women and children, are at the receiving end of the Taliban’s wrath.
The number of civilian casualties has hit alarmingly high numbers, with the UN estimating that more than 180 civilians have been killed in Afghanistan, with more than 1000 being injured. Moreover, 46% of these casualties included women and children, exposing the lies behind the Taliban’s commitment to human rights in the country. It should be further noted that the extent to which media freedom has been suppressed by the Taliban since their takeover of Kabul, the actual numbers of deaths will be much higher than the reported numbers.
However, a deeper study reveals a string of human rights violations that have been committed by the Taliban over the years. These violations may very well be carried out again soon, given the Taliban’s actions in the past few weeks.
Until its rule in 2001, the Taliban had ordered the closure of schools, banned education for women, and restricted their freedom of movement by confining them to their homes. A country that had, despite the war, seen a surge in women becoming a part of the government and daring to dream, Afghanistan is now, once again, standing at the brink of losing what it has gained over the years. The Taliban rule between 1996-2001 also saw extreme punishments for women such as lashing and stoning for various crimes, standing in complete contravention of international covenants and treaties on human rights.
Yet, another gruesome reality about the Taliban’s takeover of Kabul remains criminally underreported- the threat to the Hazara community in Afghanistan.
It was recently reported by Amnesty International that the Taliban massacred nine Hazara men after taking control of the Ghazni province in Afghanistan. In the village of Mundarakht, six Hazara men were shot, and three men were brutally tortured to death by the Taliban. The brutality with which the Taliban fighters carried out these executions is a testimony to what’s about to come- one man was strangled with his own scarf and had his arm muscles sliced off. Once again, these are the numbers that have been reported, while the real numbers remain unreported.
There is another angle of the human rights violations in Afghanistan at the hands of the Taliban that needs utmost attention- the issue of terrorism. And this is where the role of Pakistan becomes very important to understand.
Pakistan has shown an innate ability to waltz with the Taliban since its inception. Additionally, Islamabad also has a history of providing support to terrorist outfits like Al-Qaeda and the Haqqani Network. This is the very reason that Pakistan has maintained its spot in the Financial Action Task Force or FATF’s annual ‘grey list’ for terror funding. Plus, the Taliban takeover of Kabul and appointment of Khalil Haqqani (of the Haqqani Network and a protégé of Islamabad) as one of the key rulers of Afghanistan post the takeover reveals the deep nexus that Pakistan shares with both the outfits.
Another key aspect of this unholy alliance is that the recent airport attacks on the Kabul Airport were carried out by the Islamic State in the Khorasan or IS-K. The attacks have left more than 170 people dead and at least 200 wounded. The IS-K, not so surprisingly, is linked to the Taliban through the Haqqani Network.
Thus, the terror funding that Pakistan sponsors for these terror outfits, along with the military and logistical support, makes it clear that transnational terrorism will find a new breeding ground in Afghanistan. And this, in turn, shall only lead to an increase in crimes against humanity at the hands of this unholy alliance between the Taliban and Pakistan, along with other militant organizations.
Another important link in this entire thread, naturally, comes out to be China. China has long wanted to establish its influence in Kabul for economic and security reasons. But in doing so, Beijing has shown the world that it is ready to engage with a terrorist outfit as long its interests are catered to.
Even though China has asked the Taliban to delink itself from terrorist outfits, it is highly unlikely that the Taliban will do so. It is also interesting to note that China has called the Taliban a “pivotal military and political force”. To achieve a jewel for extending the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) in Afghanistan, China is now supporting a repressive regime to satisfy its expansionist appetite.
The fact that China has not kept Pakistan in line for the latter’s support for cross-border terrorism, it is highly unlikely that Beijing will keep the Taliban in line. The biggest sufferers will once again be the Afghani people, along with human rights defenders like journalists, activists, and volunteers. What needs to be noted with regards to the human rights situation in Afghanistan is that the takeover by the Taliban has emboldened terrorist organizations across the world.
Based on this evidence that establishes the deplorable state of human rights in Afghanistan, Red Lantern Analytica, in their letter to the abovementioned authority, has implored them to dispatch a fact-finding mission to Afghanistan to assess the overall situation of human rights under the aegis of the Human Rights Unit of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan; and ensure that the OHCHR takes suo moto cognizance of the matter and constitutes a special committee to investigate the matter after the fact-finding mission submits its report.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights should take prompt action to maintain peace in Afghanistan and protect Afghani citizens and human rights defenders.
Google Drive Link to the Letter: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1VHvW3X3gRapPhSCjxe6ilqP1hXeGqY-m/view?usp=sharing