Taliban name caretaker Cabinet that pays homage to old guard

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Taliban gunmen opened fire to disperse protesters on the streets of Kabul on Tuesday as the militants finally named a government more than three weeks after sweeping to power in Afghanistan.

Mullah Hasan Akhund, an associate of Taliban founder Mullah Omar, was appointed prime minister, with Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, head of the group’s political office, as first deputy.

The interior minister will be Sirajuddin Haqqani, son of the founder of the Haqqani network, which is designated a terrorist organization by the US. Mullah Mohammad Yaqoob, son of Mullah Omar, was named defense minister.

All the appointments are in an acting capacity, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said.

It is not known what role will be played by Mullah Haibatullah Akhundzada, the Taliban’s supreme leader. He has not been seen in public since the collapse of the Ashraf Ghani government and the Taliban’s seizure of Kabul on Aug. 15.

The Cabinet appointments — all men — gave no indication of any concession to protests in Kabul earlier in the day.

Hundreds of men and women shouting “Long live the resistance” marched in the streets to protest against the Taliban takeover, and Taliban gunmen fired in the air to scatter them.

At least three rallies were held across Kabul in a show of resistance that would have been unthinkable during the Taliban’s last stint in power — when people were publicly executed and thieves had their hands chopped off.

Afghan women shout slogans next to a Taliban fighter during a demonstration near the Pakistan embassy in Kabul. (AFP)
“Afghan women want their country to be free. They want their country to be rebuilt. We are tired,” said protester Sarah Fahim, 25.

“We want that all our people have normal lives. How long shall we live in this situation?” Another protester, Zahra Mohammadi, a doctor said: “We want Afghanistan to become free. We want freedom.”

The crowd held up banners and chanted about their frustrations with security, free passage out of the country and alleged meddling by Pakistan, which historically has had close ties with the Taliban leadership.

A Taliban official in charge of security in the capital said he had been called to the scene by Taliban guards who said that “women were creating a disruption.” The official said: “These protesters are gathered based only on the conspiracy of foreign intelligence.” The protests targeting Pakistan followed reports in Indian media of a “full-fledged Pakistani invasion” of Afghanistan.

Several news channels broadcast footage claiming to be Pakistani fighter jets in the skies above the Panjshir Valley, which turned out to be from a video game.

“The Taliban had the capability to conquer Panjshir, and there was no need for any airpower, we deny such allegations,” Enamullah Samangani of the Taliban’s cultural commission told Arab News.

Pakistan military spokesperson Maj. Gen. Babar Iftikhar described reports of the country’s involvement in Panjshir as “completely false and irrational propaganda.” He said: “Whatever is happening inside Afghanistan, Pakistan has nothing to do with it.”

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