Life under Taliban in Kabul & the Pakistan connection

 | Updated: Aug 18, 2021, 04:26 PM IST

Already there are signs that people are changing the way they live to accommodate the return of the new regime -- if not by direct order, then at least for self-preservation.

Taliban in Kabul

A Taliban fighter stand next to poster bearing the image late Afghan commander Ahmad Shah Massoud at the Massoud Square in Kabul.

The White House said the Taliban had promised that civilians could travel safely to the Kabul airport as the US military stepped up its airlift for Americans and Afghans fleeing the Islamist group.

Some 3,200 people have been evacuated by the US military so far, a White House official said, including 1,100 on Tuesday alone -- US citizens, permanent residents and their families on 13 flights.

Life was returning to a new normal in Kabul as cautious residents ventured out of their homes to see what life would be like under the Taliban following their astonishing return to power at the weekend.



Taliban in Kabul

For some, it's as if the last 20 years never happened.

Already there are signs that people are changing the way they live to accommodate the return of the new regime -- if not by direct order, then at least for self-preservation.

During their first stint in power -- from 1996 until 2001 when they were ousted by the US-led invasion in the wake of the September 11 attacks -- the Taliban ruled with a strict interpretation of the Koran and Sharia law.


Taliban in Kabul

A Taliban militant outside the interior ministry in Kabul.

Earlier, public floggings, amputations of limbs for thieves and even executions were scheduled for Fridays -- sometimes held at the national stadium during the 90s when the Taliban ruled with an iron fist.

A ban on mixed schools meant most girls could not get an education, and women were barred from working in scenarios where they may have contact with men.

There was no sign Tuesday that such strict measures had been re-introduced -- or even would be -- but people were taking no chances.

"People are scared of the unknown," another shopkeeper said.

"The Taliban are patrolling the city in small convoys. They don't harass people but of course the people are scared."

A sign of the new times was seen on the TV stations that proliferated during the Taliban's absence.


Taliban in Kabul

State TV is showing mostly pre-recorded Islamic programmes or announcements from Maulvi Ishaq Nizami -- a man introduced as the head of Voice of Sharia, the Taliban media outlet.

Tolo TV, the private channel which thrived over the past two decades on a mix of Western style game shows, soap operas and talent contests, has stopped most routine programming and is now showing repeats of a Turkish drama about the Ottoman empire.

They did, however, have a newscast with a female presenter interviewing a Taliban official.

On Tuesday the Taliban announced a "general amnesty" for all government officials, and urged them to return to work.


Taliban in Kabul

"You should start your routine life with full confidence," the announcement said -- and some appeared to take the advice to heart, with white-capped traffic police re-appearing on the streets for the first time in days, although it was not as busy as usual.

Suhail Shaheen, one of the Taliban's official spokesmen, repeated late Monday that women will not face any threat in the future.

"Their right to education is also protected," he said, but the Taliban have generally been vague in pronouncements on how they would rule Afghanistan, apart from saying it would be in accordance with Islamic principles.

And in one remarkable act of defiance, a handful of women protested briefly outside an entrance to the Green Zone, demanding the right to go back to their jobs as cooks or cleaners for the affluent within.


Afghanistan-Pakistan Friendship Gate

Meanwhile, People gathered and waved Taliban flags at the Friendship Gate crossing point in the Pakistani border city of Chaman on Tuesday (August 17) to welcome a prisoner released from Afghanistan.

The Taliban has reportedly freed prisoners as it took control in Afghanistan and the Pakistani Taliban, or Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), said in a statement around 780 prisoners, including some of its important leaders, were being released.


Pakistan-Afghanistan border

Hundreds of vehicles loaded with goods crossed a Pakistan-Afghanistan border point after Taliban's takeover of Kabul after it was closed by Pakistan on Sunday as the militant group marched into the capital.

Pakistan closed the Torkham crossing with neighbouring Afghanistan as the Afghan side of the border came under Taliban control.

The Torkham border was reopened for bilateral trade with Afghanistan later on Sunday.

Zahidulla Shinwari, director of the Pakistan-Afghanistan Joint Chamber of Commerce And Industry, said they wanted peace and stability for trade irrespective of which government rules Afghanistan.

Taliban militants had taken control of the presidential palace in Kabul as US-led forces departed and Western nations scrambled on Monday to evacuate their citizens.


Pakistan-Afghanistan border

Afghans earlier tried to flee the Taliban offensive as they crowded to cross the gate into Pakistan at the border town of Chaman on Sunday.

A long queue had formed at the Friendship Gate checkpoint as people, including women and children, waited for paper checks to allow them entry into Pakistan.

The crossing point, manned by Pakistani Army soldiers was choked with new arrivals with people trying to flee while the border remained open.

There were reports of sporadic gunfire around Kabul as the Taliban entered the city but there was no significant fighting as the Taliban said they were waiting for the Western-backed government to surrender peacefully.