Afghanistan: is world serious about rights violations?

US held the Taliban accountable for massacring dozens of civilians in Spin Boldak and termed the incidents war crimes


Syed Akhtar Ali Shah August 11, 2021
The writer is a practising lawyer. He holds PHD in Political Science and heads a think-tank ‘Good Governance Forum’. He can be reached at [email protected]

The United States has recently issued a bizarre statement on the mission in Kabul. It has held the Taliban accountable for massacring dozens of civilians in Spin Boldak and termed the incidents ‘war crimes’.

The US’ mission statement confirmed reports of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC), which were issued last month. As many as 33 assassination incidents were reported in the southern Afghan province of Kandahar after Taliban insurgents overtook a crossing point with Pakistan. The commission believes that the recent targeted attacks come as a kind of warning from the Taliban for everyone to fall in line. The attacks targeted religious scholars, tribal elders, civil society activists, journalists, and human rights defenders. The United Nations Security Council condemned what is called deliberate attacks on civilians in Afghanistan. It also declared its opposition to restoration of a Taliban rule in Afghanistan.

In principle, the concerns and demands are in the right earnest. But it is almost laughable considering as to whom the demands are made. The obvious question is: who will rein in the Taliban? Who will hold trials for war crimes? Will the US take practical steps to stop the atrocities, or was that a mere lip service? Did not the US wash her hands off the matter? Will the international community come to the rescue of the civilian population that continues to suffer human rights violations?

Those familiar with the world view of the Taliban, on both sides of the divide, know that they have their own well-defined strategy and modus operandi regardless of the name they operate under. In pursuit of their strategic goals, they keep changing their tactics. But they have been very clear about their ultimate objective of establishing an Islamic emirate headed by an ‘Amir-ul-Momineen’. In this type of state, the command of the Amir is final. The Amir is the authority to issue a fatwa and all other individuals are subservient to him. This form of government follows exclusiveness instead of inclusiveness in the affairs of the state.

A democratic system is out of question because there is hardly any room for dissent. Human rights under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights are a misplaced notion in a state based on the concepts of Taliban. Their atrocities and brutal actions against non-combatant civilians are a clear demonstration of the style of governance that accepts no opposition. The magnitude of terror is limitless as even poets, historians and comedians are not spared. The gruesome murder of a well-known Afghan comedian, popularly known as Khasha Zwan, and the brutal killing of renowned Afghan poet and historian Abdullah Atifi are some recent examples.

Human rights can only be ensured in an independent system of checks and balances — one that does not operate under the shadows of guns. Gun-toting persons controlling the streets, placing restrictions on movement, and curtailing freedom of choice are inimical to fundamental rights. The Taliban recently warned Afghan President Ashraf Ghani that his time has “run out” and dismissed his accusations and declarations of war. They are hell bent on capturing political power in Afghanistan and excluding anyone who threatens their power.

In this context, if history is a guide to future events, it is safe to say that the Taliban with scant regard for human rights would never agree to arrive at a common ground. They will continue to push their demand for Ghani’s removal to create a rift within the Council for Reconciliation. If such a crack appears, it will further embolden the Taliban, with more demands in the bag. Their appetite for concessions will continue to grow if they are continually appeased with concessions.

The whole discussion boils down to one main question; is the international community serious about human rights violations? To answer this question and address the US condemnation of Taliban’s crimes, the matter should be referred to a war crimes tribunal under the International Criminal Court (ICC). The UN must impose restrictions and rescind the Doha Agreement because the Taliban have failed to perform their part of the agreement. The international community under the auspices of the UN must take punitive action for enduring peace and protection of human rights.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 11th, 2021.

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