ON March 25 this year, PAS president and Malaysia’s special envoy to the Middle East, Abdul Hadi Awang, posted a statement on Facebook and published an editorial in the Harakahdaily, the PAS mouthpiece, supporting the Taliban regime in Afghanistan.
According to Hadi, the Taliban has changed for the better and we must not believe its negative portrayal by the Western media.
His statement received extensive coverage in the international press.
This matter is of grave concern as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has not yet clearly stated Malaysia’s position on the Taliban takeover in Afghanistan.
Hadi’s statement impacts how the international community views Malaysia, an exemplary Islamic democratic nation, and our people.
It may also encourage the potential resurgence of the Jemaah Islamiyah, ISIS and Al-Qaeda-affiliated organisations in Southeast Asia.
The reality is that the situation in Afghanistan is delicate and fragile. The Taliban takeover happened in a matter of weeks and a major humanitarian crisis is looming.
Mass exodus, internal displacement and human rights violations are not Western propaganda but are very much part of the reality in Afghanistan.
Therefore, any statement or argument in support of the Taliban must be made in the context of the political security situation in Afghanistan and not based on rhetoric.
The Taliban has promised to respect women’s rights and to have an inclusive government.
Yet Afghan women are not even allowed to leave their homes at the moment for security reasons.
The Taliban has admitted that most of its people are not used to dealing with women; indeed, some have never even talked to women.
The Taliban must follow through with its promises as its every action will be scrutinised by the international community.
The language used by the Taliban is not of reform and moderating their extreme views but rather an acknowledgement of the mistakes they had made.
The Taliban recognises that it needs the support of the international community if it is to govern Afghanistan successfully and develop diplomatic relations with other countries.
The Taliban, however, has an extremely poor track record. As such, it needs to prove their commitment to fulfil its promises.
The examples and events stated in Hadi’s statement about the teachings of Hanafi and other Islamic scholars have no relation to the present context of the Taliban.
These examples cannot be used to reflect the Taliban’s behaviour and policies when there have been years of credible reporting from international news outlets, human rights organisations and non-governmental organisations about the Taliban’s criminal actions of human trafficking, sectarian violence, degrading treatment of women and children, widespread torture and ethnic cleansing.
It is also unacceptable to dismiss the Taliban’s involvement in opioid trading without credible sources.
Numerous international news outlets such as the South China Morning Post, the Japan Times, Reuters and Al Jazeera have published articles on the Taliban opium trade.
According to UN officials, the Taliban is involved in all stages of the opium trade, from poppy planting and opium extraction to collecting “taxes” from cultivators and charging smugglers’ fees.
The UN Office of Drugs and Crime in Kabul has reported that between 2018 and 2019, the Taliban earned over US$400 million from the opium trade and uses these funds to finance its activities. The Taliban has yet to issue any statement refuting these reports.
The Taliban has also made no efforts to convince the international community that it is taking steps to deradicalise themselves or dissociate themselves from such known terrorist organisations as ISIS, Al-Qaeda or the Haqqani network.
Hence, the international community has every right to be suspicious of any claims made by the Taliban that it is moving away from terrorism.
The fall of Kabul is in no way due to the Taliban’s diplomacy and negotiation with the United States.
The Taliban would not have been able to capture Kabul if Biden had been better prepared to withdraw from Afghanistan.
US strategy in Afghanistan has always been counterterrorism and security, never nation-building. When the US decided to evacuate, it created a vacuum that the Afghanistan government was unable to fill, thus allowing the Taliban to advance into the capital.
All that having been said, the international community must support the people of Afghanistan.
The looming humanitarian crisis will involve millions of internally displaced Afghans and millions more fleeing the country.
Unfortunately, Hadi, as special envoy to the Middle East, has yet to explain his plan for Malaysia’s role in mitigating the current crisis.
His delay in doing so is undermining Malaysia’s strategic role in the crisis and his worthiness for such a role.
The future of Afghanistan is in limbo. While the Taliban has vowed to change, it is too early to judge the extent of its commitment.
The next few months will be vital in determining whether the Taliban has truly reformed and abandoned its extremist stance.
Meanwhile, we should refrain from making statements that are unfounded in fact. – August 26, 2021.
• Dr Abdul Razak Ahmad (founding director of Bait Al-Amanah) and Amirun Hamman Azram (policy and advocacy associate at Bait Al-Amanah) contributed this article.
* This is the opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of The Malaysian Insight.