KABUL (Pajhwok): Government Spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid has said the Taliban supreme Leader Mullah Habatullah Akhunzada will appear publicly when the nation-wide security is ensured.
During an exclusive interview with Pajhwok Afghan News he said green signals by the international community had been shown regarding the recognition of the current government.
He said Ulma Council and National Council will be convened to discuss matters related to the future system of the government.
Referring to Former President Ashraf Ghani’s recent statement, Mujahid said: “We did not launched coup but he left the ground and he killed the time very well which was available for political reconciliation.”
He said government was committed to release all information regarding contracts and made it clear that they were not against professional journalism and urged propaganda and fake news should be prevented.
Mujahid said a relevant public institutions will discuss matters related to the national flag. Matters related to beard and turban are preached not enforced and efforts were on to re-arrest criminals to flee from jails during regime change.
Pajhwok: Islamic Emirate Supreme Leader Mawlavi Habatullah Akhundzada met people and officials in Herat, Kandahar, Helmand and other provinces but why doesn’t he appear in the media?
Mujahid: Islamic Emirate Head Excellency Ameer-ul-Momineen Shaikh Mawlavi Habatullah Akhundzada has travelled to Kandahar, Farah, Herat and Helmand provinces and met common people there. This process may continue and his excellency will meet more people.
In Kandahar, he continuously meet elders and people, there are naturally reservations on the issue of camera coverage and photographing. Some security and other issue might have been the reason behind no media coverage of his excellency. He meets people, exchange views and send messages.
Pajhwok: Are there any security threats from any side?
Mujahid: One thing we should know that nation-wide security is not established and we have not received all the resources to ensure overall security. There may be some enemy forces who may have nefarious designs but we could not name any side. We witness some drone in the air in some provinces despite our repeated request to the US side that air surveillance should be stopped. Such things are also a security concern.
Pajhwok: Despite general amnesty why some individuals violate the order of Taliban leadership by arresting and torturing previous regime personnel?
Mujahid: People violated orders of Allah and our leader is a human, this happened but on few occasions. We witnessed two or three percent such cases not many.
Individuals who violated leadership order in this regard, these people misused their authority. They had been arrested, now we have around 200 prisoners who violated amnesty order. We cannot say why an individual is violating order but we can say that violators will be punished.
Pajhwok: There are reports that government officials embezzled foreign assistance and a portion of these assistance is given to security forces, What do you thing govt doesn’t have the ability to maintain its armed forces.
There are two types of Assistence, one type is provided by NGOs for a particular portion of society and these NGO themselves distribute these assistance and government only monitor them.
The second type assistance is in the government control and they are distributed by five institutions — ICRC, Health Ministry, Natural Disaster Management Authority, Refugees Ministry and Martyres and Disabled Ministry.
If some of our people are listed in these five catagories but it never meant that other vulnerable persons are ignored and removed from lists. There are some assistance such as some businessmen provide to our forces.
Our forces have not received their salaries from that past six months and they have no fund for their meal and other essential needs.
Pajhwok: Officials in Uruzgan and Pakita have said that government employees should grow beard and wear turbans, while musical instruments were set on fire in Paktia. Why is the government so focused on such issues at this critical situation, when it has other important priorities ahead?
Mujahid: I don’t know if it might be said by individuals, had the government such a plan, it would have been implemented in all provinces not in one or two provinces and the musical instruments that were burnt in Paktia…. We probed it, it was a video of the past, not the present, but still I say sometimes some perceptions of individuals are personal, or some of their actions are their own, they are curbed. It is not something that is repeated on a daily basis, or is repeated in the form of a program, or it is common for all people to suffer from it.
Pajhwok: Governors are 1st ranking officials in provinces, but most of them make recommendations on these issues.
Mujahid: I will say this is a matter of recommendation, all leaders when they speak, preach and advise individuals and countrymen, but they are not forced, on which the people will be punished, its only recommendations.
Pajhwok: So such issues have not been enforced yet?
Mujahid: No, it has not been issued in the form of government so far, of course it has been recommended, our scholars always recommend it in mosques, the Ministry of Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice recommends it, the governor who is the leader of a place, also gives advice to the people there. So it would be nice if people accept it because they are informed of Sharia, nothing else.
Pajhwok: The government has repeatedly said that employees of government institutions of the previous administration have been called for jobs, but information shows that not a single prosecutor and judge of the previous government has been asked. Are they excluded?
Mujahid: Currently about 80 percent of employees in all government institutions are the people of the previous government, they work with us and carry out their daily work with sincerity, but there were fears of bribery, embezzlement and theft in military or the judiciary. So some people are not asked to return. Of course, the administrative people of all institutions have been asked to return to their job, but people like judges, their deputies and people close to them are not called because of compulsions, we want this judiciary not to be as it was before, we want to bring positive change in it. People who were previously tainted with corruption should not be in this category.
Pajhwok: How long will the Islamic Emirate remain silent about the national flag?
Mujahid: This is a national issue. The Emirate will Inshallah (God willing), discuss this issue when a body of representatives of the nation is formed.
Pajhwok: The white flag next to you is not national?
Mujahid: We also call it the national flag; the whole nation has no problem with the white flag (لااله الا الله), it can represent the whole nation.
Pajhwok: so why more focus is made on another national flag?
Mujahid: Yes, if there are any demands, they can be discussed too.
Pajhwok: The visits between Afghanistan and Pakistan look stronger than ever before, you saw director of ISI visited Kabul after the fall of the previous administration, then the Pakistani foreign minister came and it was decided that last week Pakistan’s NSA would visit Kabul, but his trip was canceled, while serious reaction exchanged on the Durand Line, even verbal dispute. The Afghan border forces prevented Pakistan from fencing the line and responded to the rocket attack from Pakistan, how do you assess the relationship between Afghanistan and Pakistan and why both countries are focusing this sensitive issue at such a critical time?
Mujahid: Fist the visits are common among representatives of the countries, as we travel to Pakistan we have more visits to Qatar, to Turkmenistan, to Iran and China, representatives of all countries have come to Afghanistan, of course the levels will be different, but at the level of foreign minister people have come here and such representatives come here on a daily basis. Afghanistan needs relationships. Afghanistan needs good relations with Pakistan, because we have a very long border, we have common values, religious, language and many other things, so the same is with Iran, our government officials have to go and find a solution to these problems and one is that when it comes to the Durand Line, we are not in favor of it, because maintaining the government needs stability, the nation needs peace, the issue of Durand Line is the issue of the nation and the nation should be given a chance, when the nation is in prosperity and solves its problem then we will present such issues for solution.
Pajhwok: When will this conflict be resolved?
Mujahid: We are trying not to pursue a policy of confrontation, but to pursue a policy of cooperation, every time we have a meeting with them, we have asked the Pakistani side to do the same. We must not compete but have cooperation, because the neighboring countries are connected to each other, whether we like it or not, Pakistan will be there and Afghanistan will be in its place, like Iran, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and China, we are in favor of better relations, with our arrival relations with these countries have improved and we are trying more.
Pajhwok: When did you raise the Durand Line issue with Pakistani authorities?
Mujahid: I have already mentioned that the Durand Line is a very big issue, which is above the level of governments.
Pajhwok: But confrontations and problems arise from time to time on the Durand Line!
Mujahid: Yes, this problem is created for the purpose of hurting these nations, the line is drawn for that intention, but there is need for rationality that nations and countries on both sides should act responsibly on this sensitive matter and no arbitrary actions should be allowed. Some local-level confrontations may have taken place, but we do not allow the problem to turn serious and Pakistan also feels the same way.We try to control the situation. If there are some clashes on the local level, then governments have a duty to solve it so that it would not turn into a crisis.
Pajhwok: There were many notorious prisoners in Afghanistan’s prisons, why prisons were broken and criminals released when Islamic Emirate took power?Can you assure people that released prisoners and criminals would be arrested again?
Mujahid: Yes, unfortunately it happened when the Islamic Emirate entered the cities, before we took control of the city, all security orders had been broken, the prisons were broken, the prisoners even came out on the streets to meet us. At that time, controlling, identifying and re-arresting prisoners was a difficult task. The situation was the same in Kabul and provinces. Prisoners should have not been released that way, we were trying the security in Kabul return to order in a better way, but it did not happen. We assure that efforts are on for the detention of criminals, many Daesh or ISIS militants have already been detained, other criminals are also under chase. If people lodge complaints, all criminals would be arrested.
Pajhwok: What is the threat to the current administration?
Mujahid: The current administration is new, it has different problems, I don’t see any threat, because the threat would be when God forbid there was a big war against it, then it would have been a threat, now there are no threats, but there are problems, the biggest problem is the economy that needs to self-sustain. Unemployment should be reduced and the economic problems of the people should be solved. The second issue is security, which we are succeeded to a large extent,there are some incidents of robbery and kidnapping in some areas which also require control. The third is our relation with the world which requires us to have good relations with the international community, we cannot call them threats but problems, so these problems exist which is normal when a new situation forms.
Pajhwok: In the first conference after Islamic Emirate took power, you said that the war in Afghanistan is over, why Al-Fatah Army Corps said yesterday that it killed 10 resistance fighters in Balkh province, there are also reports of some explosions and casualties, what is your explanation about that?
Mujahid: Yes, the war is over, there is no war front against us, you cannot show us the physical location of any of such fronts, but secret explosions or attacks in which some people are killed happen in many countries, it is the job of the government to stop it, when they are arrested or killed, it means that the government is serious against them.
Pajhwok: Who are behind explosions?
Mujahid: These are two or three dimensions, one is a group called ISIS evils, although we do not see their physical presence, but they secretly carry out some explosions. Sometimes who raise their voice in the name of resistance also create some problems. The third is kidnapping and crimes which involve individuals.
Pajhwok: According to a survey by the Afghanistan’s National Journalists Union (ANJU), 95 percent of journalists do not have access to information and cannot openly publish information they have access to. In addition, in the last five months, some journalists have been beaten and some of them tell us that they first share their reports with provincial departments of information and culture, why the government enforced this situation on media?
Mujahid: It is not the main problem, it does not mean censorship of media and I do not remember that in the last six months since I have been working in the Broadcasting Department of the Ministry of Information and Culture, if I opposed any report of Pajhwok. Your publications would continue as normal, but the main issue is that we should separate propaganda from a report. If journalists carry their job professionally, no one will criticize them, they should tell the truth, tell what is happening, no one will tell them to stop publishing the truth. Spreading rumors, speculations, propagandas and accusations are not media responsibilities, the media itself is against it, there is no place for such things in media rules, so we prevent such things. About journalists coordination with provincial information and culture departments, I can say that it is not a restriction, its aim is something else, our administration is new and people leading them are also new. In most cases, when a journalist visits an office, officials do not appear for interviews or they just try to skip, or they are not professional in responding to journalists. Sometimes journalists visit security organs where they face some problems, their cameras are taken and they are beaten, so to prevent such issues, we have directed information and culture departments to facilitate journalists’ interviews with officials by introducing them to concerned organs, it helps journalists to do their job comfortably, but if a journalist visits an organ without our coordination and then face some problems, it depends on the journalist.
Pajhwok: It means journalists are tortured because of their misconduct.
Mujahid: No, some torture cases are because of the strangeness of our forces to the situation. When security personnel try to control the situation, they could not differentiate between journalists and common people. They don’t judge who has a camera or a microphone. We are trying to spread awareness among our forces to help improve the situation. The situation in provinces will also improve when there is close coordination between our cultural departments and journalists. This coordination is for the protection of journalists, not for censorship.
Pajhwok: Why do journalists have a feeling of insecurity and fear? A few months earlier, I removed an article from the website, fearing the Taliban intelligence personnel may follow me. Why do we feel frightened?
Mujahid: Again, I would stress the need for close coordination and cooperation. If you have more interaction with us or our intelligence personnel, this fear will go away and mutual trust will be built. One thing should be very clear: We should differentiate between propaganda and news. If journalists behave professionally, we have no issue with them.
Pajhwok: Propaganda eradicates when officials are responsive and share information with the media. When official don’t cooperate, then news may have issues. It could be addressed by input from officials.
Mujahid: So far, we have addressed this problem. For instance, I have appointed three deputies to address media queries when I am not available. We are working in the provinces as well. We have appointed spokespersons for different government institutions.
Pajhwok: The previous government disseminated relevant information on its website and media outlets used that. But such information is no longer available. A few days back, a mining project was presented for bidding but no information was shared with media in this regard. Why?
Mujahid: Yes, all information about that contract is released. All procurement institutions have been re-established and efforts are ongoing to make them fully functional. We want information regarding every contract to be made available to ensure transparency and implementation of the contract by the government and the contractor in its true spirit. This is a positive step and we want similar things to happen in the future.
Pajhwok: Let’s talk about recent political changes. In a recent interview with the BBC, former president Ashraf Ghani said his government was ousted as a result of a coup. what is your response?
Mujahid: I don’t know what he meant by coup. We did not oust him. Instead, he himself left and we entered Kabul. He was a US ally and when the Americans were preparing to exit Afghanistan, he left ahead of them.
Pajhwok: By using the word coup, he meant political reconciliation had not really taken place.
Mujahid: He may be referring to the time when his national security advisor took him out in sandals. We were not involved in any coup. We brought in change when we closed in on Kabul. We told them that we won’t enter the capital and they may stay there to ensure security. If they had stayed there, this change might have happened in a decent manner. But he did not stay and escaped.
Pajhwok: Has Ghani or his team established any contact with the incumbent government?
Mujahid: Ghani is an Afghan and he may have his own thinking about Afghanistan. But I would say he just killed the time. If this process had been conducted peacefully, the situation would have been different. He declared war and said within six months he would recapture all districts. You may check your archives. Someone adopting such a position doesn’t mean reconciliation. He thought the Taliban are a small group and someone is behind it. He also believed this group could be suppressed in six months.
Pajhwok: Why did he adopt a stance like this?
Mujahid: I don’t know. Maybe he did not have exact information about the situation. Maybe he had not judged us accurately. Even today, they talk of war and even 10 years later they will be talking of war.
Pajhwok: Despite the passage of nearly five months since the formation of the new government, it has not yet been recognised. Why have countries not even green-lighted it?
Mujahid: There green light is there. When our foreign minister and other delegates travel abroad, they are accorded good protocol, which means recognition. However, this recognition has not been formally announced yet. A few days ago, we arranged an economic conference. Representatives from about 20 countries were physically present there. Another 40 countries participated in the conference online. Foreign embassies in Kabul are open. The EU office also reopened a few days ago. Our delegation is visiting Norway. Although no one has officially recognised our government yet, all countries are awaiting a nod from America. Since the US has long been our foe, we will take time returning to a normal situation. This is no easy problem.
Pajhwok: What are you doing to end this state of affairs? You say the green light has been switched on for recognition, but it has not been announced yet. What should your government do to make this announcement happen?
Mujahid: We are striving to convince the world to move away from the politics of confrontation to the politics of cooperation. It will be a win-win situation for the world as well as Afghanistan. It will also lead to Afghanistan’s economic stability, the recognition of its government and establishment of diplomatic relations with foreign countries. In this way, global concerns about the Taliban and Afghanistan will be addressed.
Pajhwok: The world is talking about the formation of an inclusive government in Afghanistan, women’s participation in it and the reopening of girls’ schools. To you, what is the world’s definition of an inclusive government? Is the current caretaker government not an inclusive one? Why doesn’t the Islamic Emirate respond positively to these calls?
Mujahid: In fact, these questions are being used as an excuse. The real real issue is that they may be concerned about our government structure, or about the security situation. At this point, they may not fully believe in our commitments. Some circles are raising doubts. For instance, there are two groups in the US. One had strong military opposition to us. Even today, it is spreading propaganda and raising concerns about us. The other group came, sat with us for negotiations and succeeded in ending the war. The issue of an inclusive government pertains to Afghans. It has nothing to do with the outside world. Which country has formed its government in line our choice? Why would we set up a government of their choice? Governments formed elsewhere in the world are not based on America’s choice. Inclusivity and women’s issues have not been the consideration.
Pajhwok: Everyone reserves the right to have a representative in the cabinet. But the sitting caretaker cabinet is comprised only of Islamic Emirate members.
Mujahid: If the groups and factions that have already been tested are included again in the cabinet, it will be divided. The government will run into the same problems we have faced over the last two decades. We are not going to push the country back into crisis just for meeting demands of some individuals. People have their representatives in the cabinet. Uzbeks, Pashtuns, Tajiks and Balochs have representatives in the cabinet.
Pajhwok: But the sitting cabinet members belong to the Islamic Emirate. There is no one else in it.
Mujahid: The Emirate is a network, a government. The Emirate is not another party; we are not a separate entity. We are part of the people, of course. If other political movements are not included in the government, we have problems with them ay the moment. It means their inclusion will destabilise the government. Then come demands for rights and thus ethnic hatred is fanned.
Pajhwok: Why do you have problems with other political movements?
Mujahid: The problem is that they have been tested once. The nation is not happy with them and so does our system.
Pajhwok: A few days ago, Afghanistan’s acting foreign minister met Ahmad Massoud and Ismail Khan in Iran. They reportedly floated power-sharing proposals. What do you say about it?
Mujahid: Basically, our meeting with Ismail Khan and Ahmad Massoud was to reassure them about their security and safety of property. We went to Iran to address their concerns. However, we did not talk to them about the system. They may have demands and would like to talk about them, but this issue was not raised by the Emirate.
Pajhwok: Isn’t power-sharing going to happen again?
Mujahid: No, we do not believe in power-sharing, because the 20-year crisis in our country resulted from such arrangements that also stoked ethnic and political tensions. Kabul was converted into a ruined place. Too much money poured into Afghanistan in the past 20 years. But it was embezzled due to differences and corruption. So we will never push our country into crisis again or allow divisions.
Pajhwok: A member of the second resistance, Younus Qanoni, in a recent interview warned that the situation would change in the coming spring and the Taliban (current government) would collapse if they do not reach a political phase. They say they created the resistance to work for the rights of people and confrontation is the final option, what is your opinion on that?
Mujahid: No, we are responsible for the rights of people, the rights of none have been violated in any part of the country, we are in touch with the people, we know our responsibility that we should give the rights of people. Of course, if the rights of these few fugitives are in jeopardy and they term their right to be in power, have access to bribes, they surely will be angry and no one will give it to them.
Afghanistan now has its owners, we will not face any problem, we have come with strength and will keep this country strong, we are not so weak that we will face threats and we will collapse in the spring, these imaginations should be no longer in people’s mind, we should accept Afghanistan as a nation, it is a nation, there is no more space for party divisions, ethnic divisions and other contradictions. If anyone wants their rights, our arms are open for them. What rights they need? These gentlemen who left the country and live abroad, all their properties are safe, whatever buildings and houses they have here are safe. They have ownership of their properties, they can come, they can live in it, and if they want to have power again, they had given their test and we saw their leadership. The nation no longer wants them. Therefore, it is good for them to change their mind.
Pajhwok: But they say some areas will be recaptured in the spring and war will be the last option.
Mujahid: No, it is not possible, I assure the people through your media that there is no possibility of any obstruction, they will be responded and suppressed seriously.
Pajhwok: There are speculations about creation of Loya Jirga or Ulema Council, will these councils be formed? Will there be a Jirga at all? Former President Hamid Karzai and other politicians are proposing a Loya Jirga for the internal legitimacy of the government while Islamic Emirate is talking about forming Ulema Council, which one is in your priority?
Mujahid: The government is using various options for its structure, stability and strength. Talks are underway for creation of a council about some major issues which have religious aspects. A meeting of Ulema is important for resolving them, efforts are underway about it. There are hopes for formation of the grand meeting that would resolve our major issues which most of them are Sharia related and Ulema will provide commandments for the government based on Islam. The second issue is that formation of a council is also necessary. The council will have representatives at the provincial level, it will be a national council which is in plan for the future. There is also a plan for a permanent council of Islamic scholars which will have the authority of country’s religious affairs. These councils are in plan for the future after some economic and political stability.
Pajhwok: You showed three options, one is Ulema Council, the other is the National Council and the third an Ulema’s Permanent Council. What will the Ulema Council do? Would it define the policy of the Islamic Emirate or it would talk about the new administration?
Mujahid: We have some big issues ahead, the issue of women, women’s education and work, creating a safe environment for women and some other issues such as banking and their activities based on Islamic policy. These things need to be resolved from the Sharia point of view and the government should be given way to follow.
Pajhwok: Does it mean that the Islamic Emirate should be given a plan?
Mujahid: Yes, give the government a plan based on the framework of Sharia which should be followed,then it will make things clear for the government and people as well as provide an explanation about our policy to the international community.
Pajhwok: When will this council form?
Mujahid: It is under work, hopefully in the future.
Pajhwok: You also mentioned the National Council. What is the purpose of this council?
Mujahid: The government needs a council, it is in plan for the future, which also include economic issues, it will represent people from different provinces and groups. The council will be advising the government and should work continuously.
Pajhwok: Can you please provide information about Ulema Council?
Mujahid: It will have religious aspect which is also called Hal wa Aqd Council. This council should be formed, it will consist of influential scholars of the country.
Pajhwok: Like who, can you specify?
Mujahid: I can’t name them, it will depend on the leadership, but the Ulema should be highly educated, aware about different issues including politics, they will have the authority to decide in rare cases such as absence of Emir, change of government or reforms in the government.
Pajhwok: How long will the current caretaker government continue?
Mujahid: This is also an issue that needs to be discussed; some issues surfaced during the caretaker government should be responded to. The government will normally functional when it gets some strength and capacity in various areas.
Pajhwok: The government last week banned currency bids in the country and now Da Afghanistan Bank (DAB) sets daily rates, but money changers call the action in conflict with the free market and say that the market has been monopolized. What is your view on that?
Mujahid: The market and economy for all countries depend on the interests of a country, national interests are important. The free market was not a good idea as we witnessed the value of afghani was affected and prices surged, particularly the prices of food items. There are some mafia groups who want it, so the government, particularly the central bank and finance administration have the responsibility to define an economic policy for moneychangers and traders. We do not want an absolute freeness of the market, there should be some kind of control.