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Adopting Zahir Shah's 1964 Constitution Isn't Enough; To Gain International Support, the Taliban Must Fully Establish Democracy and Gender Equality

By Ghulam Ghaus Siddiqi, New Age Islam

29 September 2021

Taliban Must Establish Democracy and Gender Equality If They Truly Want to attract International Support

1.    Taliban will adopt some provisions of Zahir Shah’s 1964 constitution only for a limited time.

2.    The 1964 constitution granted Afghan women the right to vote for the first time, paving the way for greater political participation.

3.    A senior Taliban leader claimed that cutting hands and executions would be resumed, but such punishments would not be carried out in public.

4.    When the Taliban announced their caretaker government earlier this month, all high-ranking positions were allocated to hardliners, with no women included.

5.    The Taliban extremists want to maintain their harsh attitude while also making it stronger and more difficult than before.

6.    If the Taliban want international assistance, it must democratise its system, ensuring that gender and minority equality are fully honoured.

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When it was reported that the Taliban will temporarily adopt the constitution of Muhammad Zahir Shah’s era, some social media users argued that the Taliban were moving away from extremism and toward moderation and that the international community should back them up. I was somewhat startled to learn that the Taliban may be labelled moderate solely because they intend to enforce some sections of the 1964 constitution ratified by Zahir Shah, but that any content that opposes Taliban ideology will be erased. The reports and evidence listed below must be scrutinised more closely in order to assess whether it is not too soon to designate the Taliban as moderates.

Maulvi Abdul Hakim Shari, the Taliban's acting justice minister, said in a statement that the Islamists aim to reintroduce former King Muhammad Zahir Shah’s 1964 constitution, which was established during the “golden age of democracy”, but only for a limited time and with numerous amendments. Women were granted the right to vote under this constitution. At the same time, Abdul Hakim stated that provisions of the constitution that are incompatible with Sharia Law and the Islamic Emirate's ideals will be repealed.

What is it about the 1964 constitution that the Taliban are implementing rather than enacting new laws, and why is that period referred to as the "Golden Age" by the Taliban? When the world's superpowers did not intervene in Afghanistan about six decades ago, the country had a short-lived constitutional monarchy led by King Muhammad Zahir Shah.

Zahir Shah [1914-2007] ratified the constitution a year after taking power in 1963, and it was implemented until the end of his reign in 1973, giving Afghanistan a decade of parliamentary democracy. It is regarded as the most 'peaceful' period in the history of Afghanistan. Zahir Shah advocated for the repeal of ‘purdah’ for women and used foreign funds to improve the infrastructure of the country. He was successful in balancing conflicting Soviet and Western interests. Prince Daud, Zahir Shah’s cousin and brother-in-law, overthrew him in a coup while he was on vacation in Italy in 1973.

The 1964 constitution granted Afghan women the right to vote for the first time, paving the way for greater political participation. This, however, is incompatible with the Taliban’s extreme ideology.

Between 1996 until 2001, the Taliban, who assumed control of Afghanistan in mid-August, had a "brutal period" in which women were virtually banned from public life, including work and education. After the former Soviet Union took over in the 1980s, the country descended into civil war, with the formation of a hardliner Taliban regime, which was followed by another US-led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, and now, after all of this, the Taliban have opted to adopt the same constitution.

The Taliban, on the other hand, have decided not to fully reinstall the old monarchy, instead opting for a text endorsed in 2004 by President Hamid Karzai’s interim government, which envisaged a presidency and referenced women’s equality. Taliban authorities have also stated that girls’ schools will resume very soon, in an attempt to assuage public anxieties. They will be housed in a “proper and safe” environment, and their education will be arranged.

In an interview with the Associated Press last week, Mullah Turabi, a senior Taliban leader and one of the group’s founders, claimed that cutting hands and executions would be resumed, but that these sentences would most likely not be carried out in public. “No one has the right to tell us how our laws should be written”. Mullah Turabi stated, “We shall follow Islam and construct our policies in accordance with the Qur'an."

The intentions of the Taliban are today difficult to believe. Some individuals, on the other hand, are relieved that the Taliban are dedicated to a gentler and more comprehensive policy this time around, as Taliban leaders have often stated in the news.

However, when the Taliban announced their caretaker government earlier this month, all high-ranking positions were allocated to hardliners, with no women included. However, because the Taliban is still forming its Emirate system and is facing widespread criticism, it is temporarily announcing the ability of women to vote in order to silence some detractors. If you read the Talibani ideology, you’ll see that women’s rights aren’t as hopeful as some have hoped.

Taliban From 1996-2001 until Now: With the RAWA Study, One Might Smell Hypocrisy about Taliban Leaders’ Recent Assurances to Defend Women's Rights.

You must have been aware that the international community had warned the Taliban administration that its leadership would be put to the test based on their conduct. The Taliban government's stance toward women and minorities, in particular, will determine whether the international community should recognise and work with them. Is the international community's pressure on the Taliban, nevertheless, visible? To answer this topic, one must consider the Taliban’s current actions and role.

Despite international pressure, the Taliban named exclusively men on their list of deputy ministers when they published the names of their cabinet’s deputy ministers. It is evident from this that the Taliban extremists want to maintain their harsh attitude while also making it stronger and more difficult than before. The Taliban has doubled the male monopoly by announcing the names of the deputy ministers.

On the other hand, the impact of international pressure can be seen in the fact that when Taliban government spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid was asked why minorities and women were not included in the cabinet, he defended the Taliban, saying that his cabinet also includes minority representatives, such as Hazara minority group members. Women will most likely be included in the government later, according to Zabihullah Mujahid. Of course, the Taliban spokesman is making such statements due to international pressure, and there are several reasons for this.

By making remarks like the Taliban government spokesman urging the international community to recognise the Taliban administration, the Taliban want to attract international support. According to Mujahid, “Governments of the United Nations, European countries, Asian and Islamic countries must recognise our government and establish diplomatic relations with us. There’s no need to hold back this decision.”

However, the impact of global pressure has yet to be demonstrated in the Taliban’s actions. To put it another way, the Taliban have yet to gain the full trust of the international community. If the Taliban want international assistance, it must democratise its system, ensuring that gender and minority equality are fully honoured and that all citizens have an equal opportunity to live in peace and security while exercising their religious, cultural, linguistic, gender, and ethnic rights. However, an examination of the Taliban’s philosophy reveals that such expectations are worthless.

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A regular Columnist with NewAgeIslam.com, Ghulam Ghaus Siddiqi Dehlvi is a Classical Islamic scholar and English-Arabic-Urdu Translator.

URL:    https://www.newageislam.com/radical-islamism-jihad/zahir-shah-afghanistan-constitution/d/125465

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