Taliban names deputy ministers, double down on all-male cabinet

Taliban brings members of the ethnic minority into the cabinet, but fails to appoint any women despite calls for inclusivity.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid
Taliban government spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid defended the latest additions to the cabinet, saying it included members of ethnic minorities and that women might be added later [Reuters]

The Taliban government has expanded its interim cabinet by naming deputy ministers on Tuesday. But it failed to appoint any women, doubling down on a hardline course despite the international outcry that followed their initial presentation of an all-male cabinet lineup earlier this month.

The international community has warned that it will judge the Taliban by its actions, and that recognition of a Taliban-led government would be linked to the treatment of women and minorities. In its previous rule of Afghanistan in the late 1990s, the Taliban had barred girls and women from schools, work and public life.

Taliban government spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid defended the latest additions to the cabinet at a news conference on Tuesday, saying it included members of ethnic minorities, such as the Hazaras, and that women might be added later.

Mujahid bristled at international conditions for recognition, saying there was no reason for withholding it.

“It is the responsibility of the United Nations to recognise our government [and] for other countries, including European, Asian and Islamic countries, to have diplomatic relations with us,” he said.

He also took the time to announce several appointments, including ministers and deputy ministers, to the Taliban’s caretaker government.

The appointments included figures from Panjshir and Baghlan. Panjshir is home to the National Resistance Front, which is the sole large-scale effort to try and keep the Taliban from taking over the entire country.

Calls for inclusivity continue

Baghlan has also seen pockets of resistance in some districts over the last month. By pointing out that three of the new posts would be given to residents of Panjshir, Baghlan and Sar-e-Pul, provinces with considerable Tajik and Uzbek populations, the Taliban seems to be sending a message of inclusivity.

The Taliban has framed the cabinet as an interim government, suggesting that changes were still possible, but it has not said if there would ever be elections.

Al Jazeera’s Hashem Ahelbarra, reporting from Kabul, said the new announcement is unlikely to win over the international community’s consent.

“The international community … were saying that we want a strong interim government, that represents the different ethnic groups – the Hazara, the Uzbeks, the Tajiks – and also represents members of the former establishment that have key positions in this interim government,” Ahelbarra said.

The international community wants clear signals from the Taliban that those represented in the interim government will be representing women as well as minorities when they draft a new constitution and a new election law, he added.

“The international community is far from convinced that this interim government is answering the needs of Afghan people,” Ahelbarra said.

Neighbouring Pakistan has also been among the countries calling on the Taliban to establish an inclusive government.

Earlier this week, Prime Minister Imran Khan said in a Twitter post he “initiated a dialogue with the Taliban for an inclusive Afghan govt to include Tajiks, Hazaras & Uzbeks”.

The inclusive government will ensure “peace and a stable Afghanistan”, he added in remarks rejected by the Taliban.

Though Mujahid has not commented on the remarks, other Taliban officials said they “reserve the right to have our own system”, the Pajhwok Afghan News agency reported.

On Tuesday, Mujahid was also asked about the recent restrictions imposed on girls and women, including a decision not to allow girls in grades six to 12 to return to classrooms for the time being.

Mujahid suggested this was a temporary decision, and that “soon it will be announced when they can go to school”.

He said plans were being made to allow for their return, but did not elaborate. Boys in grades six to 12 resumed their studies over the weekend.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies