Taliban destroy Shia leader's statue; PM Modi reviews Afghan situation: Top developments - Times of India

Taliban destroy Shia leader’s statue; PM Modi reviews Afghan situation: Top developments – Times of India

NEW DELHI: With Afghanistan now in the firm grip of Taliban, early glimpses of the war-torn country’s future were already visible on Wednesday amid reports of the militant group blowing up a statue of a Shia leader as well as opening fire at protesters waving the national flag. Meanwhile, evacuations of diplomats and other officials have also gathered pace with a host of countries sending special flights to rescue their citizens.
Here are the latest developments in the Afghanistan crisis …
Former Afghanistan president meets senior Taliban leader
Afghanistan’s former president Hamiz Karzai on Wednesday met with a senior leader of a powerful Taliban faction who was once jailed and whose group has been listed by the US as a terrorist network.
Former President Hamid Karzai and Abdullah Abdullah, a senior official in the ousted government, met with Anas Haqqani as part of preliminary meetings that a spokesman for Karzai said would would facilitate eventual negotiations with Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the top Taliban political leader.
The US branded the Haqqani network a terrorist group in 2012, and its involvement in a future government could trigger international sanctions.
The Taliban have pledged to form an “inclusive, Islamic government,” although skeptics point to its past record of intolerance for those not adhering to its extreme interpretations of Islam.
China to wait before recognizing government
China on Wednesday said it is waiting for the establishment of an “open, inclusive, and widely representative” government in Afghanistan before it decides on the issue of recognition.
“If we are going to recognize a government, we will have to wait till the government is formed … only after that, will we come to the question of diplomatic recognition,” foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said on Wednesday.
China has sought good relations with both the former Afghan government and the Taliban. It hosted the group’s top political leader, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, for talks with foreign minister Wang Yi late last month.
Taliban stoke fear over their rule
Meanwhile, the Taliban have blown up the statue of Abdul Ali Mazari, a Shia militia leader who fought against them during Afghanistan’s civil war in the 1990s, according to photos circulating on Wednesday.
Mazari was a champion of Afghanistan’s ethnic Hazara minority, Shias who were persecuted under the Sunni Taliban’s earlier rule.
The statue stood in the central Bamyan province, where the Taliban infamously blew up two massive 1,500-year-old statues of Buddha carved into a mountain in 2001.
Elsewhere, there were reports that Taliban fighterss opened fire on people rallying in support of the Afghan national flag in the eastern Nangarhar province.
Some people were killed and others were injured, according to sources.
Afghan news agency Pajhwok also reported that Taliban militants had beaten journalists working for it and the Ariana News broadcaster who were covering the rally.
The insurgents have raised their own flag — a white banner with Islamic inscriptions — in the territories they have seized.
‘Afghanistan has $9 billion in reserves abroad’
Afghanistan’s central bank governor said that the country has some $9 billion in reserves abroad and not in physical cash inside the country.
Ajmal Ahmady, the head of Afghanistan’s Central Bank, wrote on Twitter on Wednesday that the majority of that — some $7 billion — is being held in US Federal Reserve bonds, assets and gold.
Ahmady says Afghanistan’s holding of physical US dollars “is close to zero” as the country did not receive a planned cash shipment amid the Taliban offensive that swept the country last week.
PM Modi reviews Afghan situation
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday reviewed the government’s strategy to evacuate Indian citizens in the next few days and ensure safety of the Hindu and Sikh communities in Afghanistan.
This is the second meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) within 24 hours amid the fast changing situation in Afghanistan.
PM Modi chaired the first CCS meeting on Tuesday evening and directed the officials for speedy evacuation of Indians who are still in the war-torn country.
Separately, external affairs minister S Jaishankar discussed the situation in Afghanistan in his bilateral meetings, including with UN secretary general Antonio Guterres.
Jaishankar arrived in New York on Monday as the UN Security Council held an emergency meeting on the situation in Afghanistan, the second time in just over the 10 days that the powerful UN body met under India’s Presidency for the month of August to discuss the unravelling situation in the war-torn country.
Evacuations continue
More than 2,200 diplomats and other civilians have been evacuated from Afghanistan on military flights as efforts gathered pace to get people out after the Taliban seized the capital Kabul.
A European Union diplomat said that it is necessary to talk with the Taliban to secure the evacuation of foreign nationals and those Afghans who have worked with Nato forces.
Australia has evacuated the first 26 people, including Australian and Afghan citizens, from Kabul since the Taliban overran the Afghan capital, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Wednesday.
An Air Force C-130 Hercules transport aircraft landed at an Australian military base in the United Arab Emirates with the 26 who included a foreign official working for an international agency, Morrison said. The remainder were Australians and Afghans.
Germany will send up to 600 army personnel to Kabul to help evacuate German citizens and former Afghan local embassy staff.
Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Cabinet on Wednesday okayed the mission which started Monday.
The British government said it will welcome up to 5,000 Afghan refugees this year, and a total of 20,000 Afghans will be offered a way to settle in the UK in the coming years.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said late Tuesday: “We owe a debt of gratitude to all those who have worked with us to make Afghanistan a better place over the last 20 years.”
(With inputs from agencies)

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