How Will The Taliban Govern Afghanistan? The Group Says It Has Changed
STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
How will the Taliban govern Afghanistan? The armed group that occupied Kabul is promising amnesty for enemies and to let people leave. The tone seems different from the mass executions and repression when the Taliban ruled most of the country in the 1990s. In a few minutes, we report on the daily reality on the ground, but we begin with the Taliban's commitments. We called Suhail Shaheen, the Taliban spokesman in Qatar, who promised that people in Kabul should be safe.
SUHAIL SHAHEEN: No, there is no - any kind of reprisal nor revenge on those people who are working with the foreign troops. And so we have announced the general amnesty. They can lead their normal life and they also contribute to the reconstruction of the country, to people's economic prosperity, to their own prosperity, and they can use their talents and capacities in the service of the country and people.
INSKEEP: We are hearing reports from Kabul of people being searched for, of Taliban fighters going door to door searching for individuals. Are you saying that such activity is not authorized by your leadership?
SHAHEEN: Yeah, not authorized - not authorized at all. Our security forces are coming to Kabul in order to maintain order, to - and to prevent any such incidents taking place in the city. We have announced also telephone numbers by the complaint commission. If there is any such incidents and complaints, they can call the complaint commission and - to address their grievances.
INSKEEP: There are news reports describing people who would be unable to complain because they have been killed. This is outside of Kabul, I should say. There was a CNN report in recent days of Taliban fighters executing 22 Afghan commandos as they attempted to surrender, and there was video of this. TOLOnews had a report of 43 people killed in Ghazni. Al-Jazeera reported on dozens of civilians killed in Spin Boldak some days ago. Do you deny these reports?
SHAHEEN: Some of these videos you mention, they are fake videos. For example, for Spin Boldak - so they had spliced the two different location and different incidents. So they are, you know, spreading such fake videos against us.
INSKEEP: I would not say it's impossible that a video is faked, but these stories arrive to us amid some well-documented history of the Taliban. When the Taliban took over in 1996, there was a former president who was dragged out of a diplomatic compound and left hanging from a light pole. There were public executions of civilians at a soccer field - a football field in Kandahar. I stood on that football field afterward and talked with people who had seen those executions. I do not doubt that they happened. Is your group any different today than it was?
SHAHEEN: Today, we have announced general amnesty. We - you may have seen our statements. So it is our commitment. And the people are - those who are behind those incidents, they are detained and brought to courts to be punished.
INSKEEP: Are you saying then that your group is different than the 1990s? And if so, what has changed?
SHAHEEN: No, the 1990s, at that time - even at that time, there was a - the media was against us. There was biased reporting against us. So we're not...
INSKEEP: No, no, no, no, I stood on the football field, and I talked with people who had seen the executions. I do not doubt they happened, sir. Are you saying that your group has changed from what it was then?
SHAHEEN: Oh, yes. Yeah, yeah. About the execution, I don't say it was - if someone has killed a person. So the relatives of that person has right to kill him as a retaliation, according to the law. So that is another story.
INSKEEP: This is very useful because now we're turning to the question of how a country - how Afghanistan should be governed. In the 1990s, when the Taliban were last in power, it was said that people's hands were cut off when they were accused of stealing and that the hands were held up for display. Is that something the Taliban intends to do again?
SHAHEEN: So I'm not a religious scholar, but I can say the Islamic rules - that is interpreted by the judges. It is referred to the judges. So everyone has the right of defense. So then they can issue their ruling as per the law - the Islamic law. So I have no comment on that.
INSKEEP: This leads to another question then. In the country where the Taliban have just taken power, numerous women are in elected positions in the government, serving in various roles in the government. Will they be allowed to remain there?
SHAHEEN: Yes, the women - they have a right to education and to work. Right now, the doctors, they have started serving. The teachers have started teaching. In other fields, the women are working - the journalist women, they have started working by observing hijab.
INSKEEP: By observing hijab - you're saying that unlike the last time the Taliban were in power, women can move about without male escorts, but they must cover themselves completely.
SHAHEEN: Of course. When a woman goes off to job - to the site of her job, she can go and then returns to her home.
INSKEEP: We spoke earlier with an analyst, Asfandyar Mir, who had recently been in Afghanistan and who said that al-Qaida remains present - some members of al-Qaida remain present in Afghanistan. A Taliban spokesman has said in the last day no one will be harmed from Afghan soil. It will not be used as a place to attack other countries. How do you intend to keep that promise?
SHAHEEN: Now, what he says, they are present, I don't believe that. It is our commitment that we will not allow anyone to use the soil of Afghanistan against any other country, including the United States. We want to pave the way for reconstruction of Afghanistan.
INSKEEP: Do you promise to allow free elections and free media?
SHAHEEN: Of course the media is free, but they should also observe certain laws that they should not be against the Islamic rules and also the national interest. So these are the main thing. Otherwise, they can criticize the government, the officials, the people and also to show the best way.
INSKEEP: They may criticize the government?
SHAHEEN: They may - may, may, yes.
INSKEEP: When you said earlier that they cannot write against the national interest - depending on how you define that, that's not really press freedom at all. That's a way to imprison journalists.
SHAHEEN: Yeah, no, no. The press - national interest will be well-known. So that means that in future, it will be very clear, these are the national interests; other are not. So everyone will know. It will not be ambiguous.
INSKEEP: Suhail Shaheen, thank you very much for the time.
SHAHEEN: Thank you. Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.