The Taliban dispensation is again in the eye of the storm. Its radical measures intended at curbing the freedom of women participation in national life is questionable, and is drawing flak. The new decree to close down all beauty salons within a month has raised eyebrows, as what was expected of the regime was not to touch-base on the personal lives of women. A salon operated by female staff, of course, has much to do with personal life and should not be an issue of state politics. But the curb speaks high of a state of mind by men in power in Kabul, and is inadmissible.
The growing restrictions on women since Taliban 2.0 returned to power in August 2021 are self-defeating. The closure of girls’ high schools, barring women from university and slapping a ban on female Afghan aid staff is highly condemnable. Moreover, the militia also scuttled avenues of employment for the fairer sex, and many women who were part of administrations and government service were shown the door. This is an unbecoming act, and tantamount to denying the due space to women in state apparatus. The new restrictions are a departure from the policies of early days when Taliban assumed power after withdrawal of US forces, and it hints at growing perplexity in their rank and file.
It may be pointed out that Taliban 2.0 had exhibited a brave heart by allowing due space for religious minorities. They had acted indiscriminately against non-state actors, and upheld the pledge of cleansing Afghanistan from elements who make use of its soil for extra-territorial objectives. The crackdown on the remnants of Al Qaeda, Islamic State-Khorasan and the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan are a case in point. This has elicited appreciation from Western governments and, especially, the United Nations. What is needed is that the Taliban must stick to their resolve of ushering in a pluralistic society and do away with politics of marginalisation. No society can prosper by denying women their due rights, and this entails the Morality Ministry to indulge in some introspection.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 5th, 2023.