The current Afghanistan government is a tentative one, made under an ‘urgency’ to provide people with essential services, Taliban spokesperson Mohammad Suhail Shaheen told CNN-News18 on Monday, amid objections being raised on the cabinet not being ‘inclusive’ enough.
In an exclusive interview with CNN-News18, Shaheen addressed reports on the alleged ‘killing’ of Taliban co-founder and new deputy prime minister Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the rights of Afghan women, and the ‘interference’ of Pakistan in the government-formation with the inclusion of Haqqanis, known to be at odds with the Taliban.
Here are the edited excerpts from the interview:
Q) There are a lot of rumours about the killing of Mullah Baradar. Videos and screenshots are being posted by reputed channels. What is your take on that?
They are rumours, I have contacted him and he is on a journey. He is okay and I categorically refuse all these rumours.
Q) So you have spoken to Mullah Baradar?
Yes, yes, to his secretary.
Q) Your government is in place now, and there is a lot of talk about it being non-inclusive. What is your explanation for that?
This is not our government in full, but a tentative government. There was urgency. The people needed essential services to be provided to them immediately. So, because of that, our leadership decided to appoint cabinet members of some of the more immediate Ministries. Still, there are some ministries, for which ministers will be appointed. That is for the future.
We appointed leaders for those urgent ministries to provide services needed to the people, that was a vacuum that needed to be filled up.
Q) There has been global concern and backlash on the way women are treated after the Taliban came to power, and that there is no woman cabinet minister. Pictures of Hijab with women covering even their hands with black gloves are creating a lot of furor. What do you have to say on this?
Choosing to wear gloves or not is something personal, it’s a woman’s discretion. It is not imposed. Some anchors while reporting or reading news reveal their faces and don’t cover them, and some teachers also do this. The glove thing you mentioned is not compulsory.
Q) There was an audio clip of deputy Defence Minister that came out in the public domain. He was upset about this Punjabi guest; the DG ISI. Apparently, they were upset because they forced the Taliban to not make an inclusive government. What is your clarification on that?
No, these are unknown voice messages spread by some circles for their own goals. They have no basis, no foundation. They are only circulated to mislead opinion in their favour and against us.
Q) There are reports that there are huge differences between the Haqqanis and Taliban, and that the Taliban was not keen to give them the interior ministry, but that Pakistan interfered and it happened. What do you have to say about this?
Yes, as I said they are a lot of rumours but those rumours, of course, have no basis. They are being spread time and again by our opponents. But they are not based on realities.
Q) Yesterday, Iran also objected on Pakistan’s role in Afghanistan. One MP came in public domain and he clearly said that what Pakistan is doing is not correct and spoke about the way Pakistan came to your aid in Panjshir. What do you have to say?
Panjshir is our internal issue and will be sorted out. We were trying to resolve it through talks but we could not reach a conclusion, so the last resort was military approach and that has been completed now. It is an internal matter as the Afghan people are freedom-loving people. We want no country to interfere in our internal affairs.
Q) So you are saying that Pakistan will have no role and you will decide everything of your own?
No country has any role. We have relation with both neighbouring and regional countries. So, of course, we seek their cooperation in the construction of Afghanistan but that doesn’t mean their interference in our internal matters. That is not our policy, our policy is clear. Our issue will be sorted.