09/16/2021 Washington D.C. (International Christian Concern) –International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that infighting within the newly formed Taliban government in Afghanistan intensified to such a degree that rumors of betrayal and murder needed to be officially denied on Wednesday, September 15. According to multiple reports, disagreement between pragmatists and ideologues sparked tensions within the Taliban’s hardline cabinet, leading to a violent confrontation.
The BBC reported that the argument appeared to center around two groups, one led by Abdul Ghani Baradar, the Taliban’s Deputy Prime Minister, and the other led by Khalil ur-Rahman Haqqani, the Minister for Refugees and a prominent figure within the militant Haqqani network. Baradar had been the first senior Taliban official to hold out the possibility of an inclusive government, but these hopes were short-lived after the Taliban announced, on September 7, the formation of a governing cabinet filled with hardline figures from the group’s rule in the 1990s.
Following a violent confrontation between Baradar and Haqqani, Baradar disappeared for several days and was rumored to have been killed. These rumors reached such intensity that an audio recording and handwritten statement, purportedly by Baradar, were released by the Taliban. On Wednesday, September 15, Baradar appeared on a televised interview, again to dispel the rumors of his murder.
“I was traveling from Kabul so had no access to media in order to reject this news,” Baradar said in the interview. A spokesman for Baradar also said that the Deputy Prime Minister had traveled to Kandahar to meet the Taliban’s supreme leader, but later told BBC Pashto that he was “tired and wanted some rest.”
For Afghanistan’s minorities, the confrontation within the Taliban government, and apparent victory of the group’s more hardline figures, is another cause for concern. Many fear that the Taliban government will return the country to the group’s oppressive rule of the 1990s.
Before the invasion of U.S.-led forces, the Taliban ruled Afghanistan through an unelected leadership council that brutally enforced the group’s fundamentalist interpretation of Sharia law. Many hoped the Taliban’s new government would soften its stance on Sharia and eventually form a more inclusive government. Recent events would suggest that these hopes are unlikely to be fulfilled.
For Afghanistan’s Christian community, the formation and solidification of a hardline Taliban government has many bracing for increased persecution. As converts from Islam, Afghan Christians will likely be treated as criminals under the Taliban’s interpretation of Sharia and subject to Sharia’s deadliest consequences.
ICC’s Regional Manager for South Asia, William Stark, said, “Recent events within the Taliban’s new government seem to indicate that the group will likely return Afghanistan to what the country was like in the 1990s. For Afghan Christians, this is a particular concern, as the Taliban’s strict interpretation of Sharia will view them as apostates and subject to severe punishment. The international community must continue to keep a close eye on the actions of the Taliban and their treatment of minorities, including Christians. If the Taliban are allowed to return Afghanistan to what it was in the 1990s, it will likely become the most dangerous country in the world for Christians.”