Everything Goes Wrong in Afghanistan As Taliban Eliminate the Last Symbols of Republic constitutional Order

In a massive setback for the world, on May 16, Taliban authorities announced the dissolution of some key democratic-related bodies from the Afghan government structure. The move dashed hopes for the continuation of Afghanistan’s semi-partial democracy, which had been practiced and implemented to some extent over the past twenty years. According to the Taliban leader’s order, the Human Rights Commission (AIHRC), the commission for overseeing the implementation of the Afghan constitution, the secretariats (Darul insha) of both the  Lower House of parliament and the Senate, the High Council for national Reconciliation (HCNR) and the National Security Council (NSC) have been dissolved. The group’s prime minister Mullah Hassan Akhund had signed the letter.

Go deeper: Before the Taliban came to power and during the peace talks, women, human rights activists, and Afghan civil society activists feared that the country would lose the democratic gains of the last twenty years if the group came to power and they launched a campaign called “we will not return to the dark past”.

    • However, today, nine months since the group took power in Afghanistan, those fears have become a reality and every day more democratic institutions are being destroyed. Despite making repeated pledges to respect human rights, the Taliban have engaged in widespread rights abuses since retaking control of the country, including revenge killings, systematic discrimination against women and girls, severe restrictions on freedom of expression and the media, and land grabbing.

How did it start? Well, it was written on the walls as they say. Many had warned about the Taliban’s radical ideologies and how it could lead the country to darker days.

    • And the process of taking Afghanistan back to hell started with the announcement by the Taliban cabinet on September 7, 2021, a month after taking power, that the Ministry of Women’s Affairs had been removed and replaced by the Ministry of promotion of virtues and prevention of virtue. This ministry was the same ministry which wreaked havoc during the Taliban’s earlier regime in the 90s and destroyed all signs of freedom and introduced rudimentary thoughts in the form of law in the country.
    • Later on December 23, 2021, the Taliban removed several other departments from the government structure, including the Independent Election Commissions, and the State Ministry of Peace and reconciliation. But announced that the Independent Human Rights Commission will be retained, however, it will be “renamed”. What followed was not unexpected.
    • In their latest order on May 16th, the hardline Islamist group said that “these departments are not considered necessary, so they have been dissolved and the national budget did not include quotas for them”.

Regarding the dissolution of the Independent Human Rights Commission, the Taliban claim that there are other organizations will carry out similar activities related to human rights which are linked to the judiciary. They added that the mentioned departments will be reactivated “if needed”.

Why are human rights necessary? Looking at the current situation in Afghanistan, there is no sign of security in this country, and in addition to the war between the Taliban and resistance groups across the country, civilians are being killed or tortured every day across the country by unknown gunmen and on the orders of field courts.

    • On the other hand, the threat of ISIS in Afghanistan is intensifying and the border problems of Afghanistan with its neighbors are increasing every day. In such a situation, the question arises as to who and how will human rights be ensured for those left far behind across the war-torn nation, which is already reeling under a severe economic crisis.
    • Women have been left to hide inside homes due to new decrees on their clothes, education and how they should act and behave. Minorities like the Hazaras are systematically facing a possible genocide and with no human rights body to advocate for such causes, there will be no stopping the Taliban from absolute tyranny.
    • The Taliban’s removal of the AIHRC and five other key institutions in Afghanistan shows that the group is still seeking to establish an authoritarian and oppressive tribal rule in which there will be no civil and human rights institutions in the political structure to defend the violated rights of the people. On the other hand, in this crisis of unemployment and hunger in Afghanistan, the closure of these institutions will also cause the unemployment of thousands of employees of these offices, each of whom was a breadwinner to a family and in turn, it will increase the number of unemployed people.
    • In their new move, the Taliban also removed the High Council for National Reconciliation. The removal of this institution in a society where war is practically going on, the space for political dialogue is closed and politicians and civil society activists are fleeing, shows their lack of commitment and belief in political pluralism and solving the country’s problem through dialogue and understanding.

Take note: Let’s understand why the Taliban is against a constitutional order approved through the will of people in a democratic manner. Well, this time round and in contrast to 1990s, the Taliban have announced that they are going to use parts of Afghanistan’s 1964 monarchy constitution that is not in conflict with the “Islamic sharia law and the principles of the Taliban”.

    • In that constitution, the king has many powers, such as appointing the prime minister and the head of supreme court. It also has the power to remove the prime minister and dissolve parliament. While the king’s position is not accountable to any individual or institution. But the aforementioned constitution is the one that, however, enabled Afghanistan to a parliamentary democracy on its own, and terms such as democracy, freedom of expression and the media, and popular elections were deemed necessary in Afghanistan with the support of the 1964 constitution.
    • Under the same constitution, Afghanistan had an electoral law and experienced a democratic parliamentary election in 1965. But in their latest decree, the Taliban has dissolved the independent election commission and the independent commission for overseeing of the constitution and the electoral complaints commission, which means, they don’t believe even in the 1965 kingdom constitution, while they have a king who is their so-called supreme leader, Mullah Hibatullah.

With no constitutional order and key democratic institutions that have advocated for democracy in Afghanistan for the past 20 years, the Taliban have monopolized power in the country under a totalitarian brutal regime. It should be noted that although power was monopolized by former presidents under the republic constitutional order in the presidential palace, but under the Taliban government and despite several different poles and centers of power such as Hibatullah Akhundzada in Kandahar, the Haqqani family in the Ministry of Interior, Mullah Baradar and Mullah Yaqub in other parts, the Palace will not have its former centrality.

How did the commission work? The dissolved institutions have been supported by the constitution in Afghanistan for the past twenty years and have worked to implement and practice democracy in the country.  

    • The Independent Human Rights Commission was established in accordance with Article 58 of the Constitution to promote, protect and monitor human rights in Afghanistan on June 6, 2002. Since then, the commission has worked in the areas of protection of children’s rights, women’s rights and development, protection of the rights of people with disabilities, transitional justice, investigation and monitoring of human rights violations and education, as well as supportive areas such as researches, planning, translating, publishing, reporting, peacebuilding and special oversights.
    • Over the past 20 years, the Commission has worked to protect civilians from the complexities of the different dimensions of war in Afghanistan, children and women’s rights, the abolition of private prisons, the release of illegal prisoners, and overseeing Afghanistan’s elections, reforming laws, improvement of the situation of prisons and Documenting torture, violence and civilian casualties in the country.

Reactions from the international community: The UN special rapporteur on Afghanistan Richard Bennett said that the abolition of the AIHRC is a massive setback and an independent domestic mechanism to monitor and promote human rights and receive complaints is critical for human rights protection in Afghanistan. He added that he is going to talk to the Taliban officials regarding the same.

    • EU Special Envoy for Afghanistan, Tomas Niklasson said that “the decision by the Taliban to dissolve key institutions in Afghanistan sends a worrying message when it comes to dialogue, human rights and national reconciliation. “All very much needed and in demand after decades of conflict and war,” he said.
    • German special representative for Afghanistan Jasper Wieck said that dissolution of key institutions in Afghanistan is another blow to human rights, rule of law and national reconciliation. It makes the path more difficult towards an inclusive and stable future that the Afghan society wants and needs.
    • Associate women’s rights director Heather Barr said that it is shocking to see a country go backwards in this way.
    • EU ambassador to Afghanistan Von Brandth said that national human rights institutions are the bridge to the outside world and now those bridges are being destroyed. According to him, this step is towards a wrong direction and it excludes Afghanistan from universally agreed rights and principles and is also strange for a country which relies heavily on international food aid and support.
    • Shaharzad Akbar, former chairperson of the Afghanistan independent Human rights commission (AIHRC), said that under the Taliban regime, education is banned, and human rights institutions are disbanded, while suicide attacks are praised and torture happens in public and women are attacked regularly. Detailing the role of the commission, she added that the commission aimed to serve the most vulnerable and stand for human rights, women rights, children and people with disability and monitored the places of detention followed up on citizen’s complaints with executive and judiciary, contributed to the legislative process and provided human rights education.
    • Former Afghan foreign minister, Mohammad Hanif Atmar said that dissolution of the institutions will hurt the hope and efforts to revive the system based on the will of the people and adherence to human rights and fundamental freedoms. Regarding the budgetary constraints for dissolving these institutions, Atmar says that there are always ways to address those constraints, adding that the decision must be reversed and the institutions should be maintained.

Zoom out: The Taliban’s order to disband the Afghan democracy-related institutions has dashed hopes of establishing an inclusive government and genuine democracy in Afghanistan. And it shows that the Taliban have no believe and commitment to human rights, freedom of speech and democratic processes.

On the other hand, given that one of the most important factors regarding recognition of the Taliban by the international community is the commitment to democracy and regard for the individual and social rights of the people, shutting down the democracy-related institutions by the Taliban must encourage countries and international organizations not to recognize the hardline group more.

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