THE Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) celebrates 15 August 2021 as Independence Day from foreign occupation and forces.
The IEA still struggles to get recognition based on the following three conditions: 1) ensure safety and security and orderly departure of foreign nationals; 2) broad-based government specifically ensuring women’s rights; 3) its soil not to be used for terrorist acts.
So far Taliban met the first condition but is still working on meeting the other two. Unfortunately, no country has yet recognized the Taliban as legitimate rulers of the country.
The world blames the IEA mainly for its harsh treatment of Afghan women and girls. However, the Taliban consider women an important part of their life and honor as a part of their tribal customs.
But everyone asks one simple question. Where are the Afghan women? Is it not so simple to answer in words, we must understand the Pashtun’s code of conduct and customary law to understand it well.
The principles on which Pashtun tribal law is grounded are found in Pashtunwali (literally ‘Pashtun-ness’).
The main tenets of Pashtunwali are (1) hospitality and asylum to all guests, (2) justice through the law of Moses, “an eye for an eye”, (3) the defense of zan, zar, and Zameen (women/family, treasure, and land).
The above three points are for both men and women. They are bound to correct the performance of their social duties to maintain a sense of personal honor.
Indeed, honor is the word that many Pashtuns will use to define or translate the essence of Pashtunwali.
The element of Pashtunwali that is most important to personal honor is the rigorous maintenance of separate social spheres for men and women.
Hence the above details illustrate that Pashtuns abide by a code of conduct to manage their affairs.
They cannot deviate from their local tribal customary laws which we can call in layman language indigenous laws.
So, is the problem of empowering women a failure or reluctance of the Taliban regime or does it connect with the socio-cultural dynamics of the indigenous laws, or is it something related to the orthodox mindset of the old version of Taliban?
The current Taliban regime struggles between Taliban 1.0 and Taliban 2.0 over the issue of women empowerment.
Currently, girls and young women are allowed to seek an education, but certain age groups are yet not allowed to go to school.
Girls at primary and tertiary levels are regularly visiting schools and continuing their education (except for a short pause during the early days of the Taliban takeover when the newly formed regime was getting stabilized to manage their affairs).
However, girls at higher secondary levels are struggling with their education as they are yet not allowed to go to school.
Such as from grade 6 to 12. But what are the problems associated with this age group for seeking education? Taliban 1.0 considers this age group as sensitive.
They want to provide safety and security to them before getting exposed to society. They wish to ensure all means of safety and then let them continue with their education.
Here the question arises: what safety measures are required by the old-fashioned version of the Taliban to securitize young girls going outside?
They want to establish segregated schools where they feel protected, and the state ensures that these young girls can freely seek their education without any hurdles.
Secondly, they want to provide separate transportation services for girls. But their budget does not allow them as their assets are yet frozen by the US.
Thirdly, they want to provide female teachers for them but apparently, it seems to be impossible.
Because educated girls/women left Afghanistan already. They need to wait for the university-level females to finish their degrees and then offer educational services at higher secondary levels.
For that matter currently, exams at university levels are taking place. The most important point here is that at university levels male teachers are allowed to teach females.
Which seems to be against the set rules of the Taliban 1.0. On the face it looks like male teachers teaching girls is one of the drastic steps on the part of the Taliban 2.0.
Whereas in some parts of the country such as Bamyan and Ghazni girls are attending higher secondary schools already.
But whom can we hold accountable for women’s disempowerment in Afghanistan: 20 years of American presence or 1 year of Taliban rule?
America’s hasty withdrawal from Afghanistan unveiled the dark side of the United States along with the NATO allies in Afghanistan.
For twenty years they claimed to build a coherent and functional democratic Afghanistan. But, unfortunately, rule of law during the American presence in Afghanistan remained complicated and corruption was at its peak.
Civil society was ignored and mismanaged which could have enabled growth and development.
The US never took appropriate measures to improve the lives of ordinary Afghan people. Even by 2020, when it was clear the USA would withdraw, Afghanistan’s military spending was still only 18 percent of US military aid.
In the process, Afghans were prepared to rely on US and foreign support. Post withdrawal two key issues stand out: Firstly, the future of the Afghan military under a new Taliban government.
Secondly, SIGAR has routinely warned the US Congress about the waste in US public spending on reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan.
This indicates that the US and its allies never aimed to train the Afghan people using advanced machinery and military equipment, instead, they should rely on the US and its partners. In the same way, empowering women never fits their criteria.
—The writer is an Assistant Professor, at the Department of Government and Public Policy, School of Social Sciences and Humanities, National University of Sciences and Technology.