Taliban Interior Minister Sirajuddin Haqqani. (File Photo | AP)
Taliban Interior Minister Sirajuddin Haqqani. (File Photo | AP)

Power struggle in Afghan Taliban and its possible fallout

The latest blow for women is the regime’s ban on the sale of contraceptives, spinning it as a conspiracy against reproductive rights.

A public spat between the powerful interior minister and deputy head of the Taliban, Sirajuddin Haqqani, and its reclusive supreme leader, Hibatullah Akhundzada, appears to have sown the seeds of an intense power struggle in the terror outfit that captured Kabul a couple of years ago. While dissension within the Taliban leadership was well known, this was the first time it spilled out into the open. Addressing a gathering, Haqqani said monopolising power and hurting the reputation of the entire system were not beneficial, emphasising the situation cannot be tolerated. The loaded statement was an oblique reference to Akhundzada, who rarely stirs out of Kandahar, hardly appears in public, has hardline religious scholars and tribal leaders for company, and sets policy goals written in stone. It came in the wake of the appalling ban on women and girls from universities and schools after the sixth grade despite assurances to the international community about safeguarding women’s rights. Haqqani said the Taliban need to show maturity, patience and good behaviour in their engagement with the people, so they do not end up hating them and the religion. Wise words from a man widely believed to have sheltered Ayman al-Zawahri at a Kabul hideout before the Al Qaeda chief was taken out by a US missile last year.

The latest blow for women is the regime’s ban on the sale of contraceptives, spinning it as a conspiracy against reproductive rights. Afghanistan’s shadowy policymaker would let the country remain a basket case that provides terror sanctuary and thrives on the export of narcotics rather than reform itself from a medieval theocracy and integrate with the global community. In contrast, Haqqani appears to be positioning himself as a moderate amenable to universal human rights and dignity of life. He seems to be indicating to the Western world that he is readying to do business with them, hoping to metamorphose as, say, a Machiavellian Prachanda who captured power in Nepal using the levers of democracy, learning that jaw jaw was better than war war.

If Haqqani wins the power struggle eventually, it could empower Pakistan since his network was midwifed by its Deep State. As for India, it has little leverage despite abundant goodwill in Afghanistan because of the development works executed there over the years. While continuing humanitarian aid, India can do little beyond staying vigilant and keeping up multilateral pressure to block terror spillage into its border.

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