Taliban government wants to have positive ties with India, says Suhail Shaheen | India News

Doha-based Suhail Shaheen has become the face of the Taliban. He heads the militia’s political office and is Afghanistan’s permanent representative (designate) in UN. In an interview, to mark one year of the takeover, it becomes clear the Taliban are in denial over key issues — women in the workforce, education for girls, shedding their extreme interpretation of Islam, and severing ties with terrorist organisations. Excerpts from the interview
What would you count as your achievements given that people are going hungry, women almost pushed out of public life and there are reports of Afghans selling their organs to survive?
Our achievements, compared to the past, include a sense of security in the country. About 300 Afghans were getting killed every day before in fighting. That has ended. Corruption was rampant. That’s not the case now. Our internal revenues have doubled almost 200%. We inherited poverty and the sanctions now have added to the people’s sufferings.
Why are girls not allowed in classrooms beyond grade 6?
Private secondary schools for girls are open across the country. Opening public schools is pending until further notice from the leadership. We have some technical problems as well because we are building everything from scratch. For the record, we are not against the education of girls, provided they wear the hijab.
India says it wants ‘humanitarian engagement’ but that should not be mistaken for recognition. What assurances have you given India?
We are committed to providing a safe environment to the routine functioning of embassies of all countries in Kabul. This includes India.
How do the Taliban view Kashmir and the changes to its special status?
Kashmir is an issue between Pakistan and India. We hope they resolve it through peaceful means.
India and other countries are worried about al-Qaida leader Ayman al-Zawahari’s killing in a drone strike in Kabul. Is Afghanistan allowing its soil to be used by terrorist groups?
Our leadership was not aware of Zawahiri’s presence in Kabul. It is just a claim. The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) is probing the claim and will share the findings with all.
If the leadership was not aware of Zawahiri’s presence, is that not an intelligence failure?
Let’s put it this way. Tens of incidents occurred in India in the past, but the Indian government was not aware until they happened. It doesn’t mean they were not committed to prevent them. Is our policy to not allow anyone to use our soil against others in place? Yes, and we are determinedly adhering to it. This is of significance for all.
The Haqqani group has targeted Indians and Indian assets in Afghanistan. Your interior minister Sirajuddin Haqqani says he wants better relations with India. Can India take him for his word?
The IEA has never targeted Indians because of them being Indians. We are an independent country and we want to have positive relations with India and other countries. There is no separate entity titled “Haqqani group” as portrayed by the media. The IEA has sole leadership and unity in its hierarchy.
Former President Hamid Karzai has appealed to the Taliban to break away from Pakistan’s influence. Do the Taliban want to?
We have de facto diplomatic relations with several countries. We establish relations on the basis of our national interests and values. We are an independent country and we take no dictation from anyone to frame our policies.
As a woman journalist I must ask you this. Why are Afghan women journalists losing their jobs?
There is no restriction from the government on female journalists. But because of the deteriorating economic situation many media outlets have shut down. The reason behind Afghan women journalists losing their jobs is economic, rather than any other factor.

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