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Taliban Say They Will Use Parts of Monarchy Constitution to Run Afghanistan for Now

FILE - Taliban flags flutter at the airport in Kabul, Afghanistan, Sept. 9, 2021.
FILE - Taliban flags flutter at the airport in Kabul, Afghanistan, Sept. 9, 2021.

The Taliban said Tuesday they plan to temporarily enact articles from Afghanistan’s 1964 constitution that are “not in conflict with Islamic Sharia (law)” to govern the country.

An official announcement quoted Abdul Hakeem Sharaee, the Taliban’s acting minister of justice, as telling the Chinese ambassador about the plan in a meeting in Kabul.

“The Islamic Emirate will implement the constitution of the era of former King Mohammad Zahir Shah for the interim period without any content that is in conflict with Islamic Sharia and the principles of the Islamic Emirate,” Sharaee said, using the Taliban's name for their new government.

“Moreover, international laws and instruments which are not in conflict with the principles of Sharia and the Islamic Emirate will be respected, as well,” Sharaee added.

The minister did not discuss the provisions they are using from the constitution that granted women the right to vote and opened the doors for their increased participation in Afghan politics.

Then-King Shah enacted the constitution in 1964, enabling Afghanistan to enjoy a decade of parliamentary democracy on its own, without external help or intervention, before he was overthrown in 1973 in a peaceful coup by his cousin, Mohammed Daoud.

The hard-line Taliban swept back to power in August and have promised to rule the conflict-torn country with a more tolerant and inclusive political approach than during their reign in Kabul from 1996 to 2001, when women were barred from public life and education, among other human rights abuses.

The Taliban are already under fire for excluding women in their male-only caretaker Cabinet introduced earlier this month. Taliban leaders have promised to bring women on board and dismissed criticism of their government, saying it is represents all Afghan ethnicities.

But the failure to give women a role in governance has fueled concerns about a marked deterioration in women’s rights since the Taliban takeover, especially after the new rulers announced that secondary education would resume for boys only.

Taliban officials have dismissed those fears as unfounded, saying female students will be able to return to schools “very soon” once arrangements for them to study in a “safe and sound” environment are put in place.

And one of the group's founders said last week that executions and amputations will be back, though perhaps not in public.

The U.S. said Monday it was “deeply concerned” about the human rights situation in Afghanistan.

“We have also consistently emphasized, as has the international community, the importance of respect for human rights, as well as fundamental freedoms on the part of any government in Afghanistan,” Jalina Porter, principal deputy spokesperson at the State Department, told reporters in Washington.

“Of course, these rights would include freedom of expression, as well as the promotion and protection of the rights of women and girls, as well as other ethnic and minority religious groups,” Porter emphasized.

After invading the country nearly 20 years ago to oust the Taliban for sheltering al-Qaida leaders, the United States and Western allies helped Afghanistan adopt a new constitution in 2004 that envisaged a presidency and enshrined equal rights for women.

But while waging a deadly insurgency against the Western-backed Afghan government, the Taliban adamantly rejected that constitution as an illegal entity and a product of the U.S. occupation of Afghanistan.

The U.S. and the world at large have so far refused to recognize the Taliban as legitimate rulers of the country, saying they want to see if the Taliban uphold their commitment of introducing an inclusive government and respect human rights.

“It seems a pragmatic approach by the Taliban to adopt the 1964 constitution,” said Said Azam, a Canada-based political analyst and former Afghan government official, when asked about the Taliban’s plans.

He noted that the constitution was the outcome of a comprehensive national debate, and the entire process of drafting and ratification spanned over two years.

“The Taliban’s main goal is to receive widespread acceptance from the Afghan society by implementing the 1964 constitution, therefore,” Azam said.