There are no requests from the UN Security Council Permanent members for the delisting of the Taliban’s top leadership from sanctions thus far, officials said here. They also refuted reports that the next meeting of UN’s 1988 Sanctions Committee, due next month, would lift restrictions on designated terrorists like Sirajuddin Haqqani and Mullah Baradar .
Sources told The Hindu that the next meeting of the Taliban Sanctions Committee, as the resolution 1988 committee is referred to, is due to be held in “mid-September”, ahead of an important meeting to discuss the renewal of the mandate of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), which expires on September 17.
India’s Permanent Representative to the UN (UNPR), T.S. Tirumurti is the Chairman of the committee until December 31 this year, and is key to deciding the date of the meetings, and scrutinising requests to delist the Taliban leaders.
While diplomats from at least three countries, as well as MEA officials confirmed that there were no requests to de-designate or delist any of the sanctioned 135 individuals and 5 entities, they said a decision was likely to be taken on whether to extend the special travel exemptions given to 14 Taliban members to participate in the “peace and reconciliation efforts”. The meeting could also discuss whether to include other Taliban leaders in the exemptions, giving them permission to travel and access some funds, which are frozen at the moment.
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The reports concerning Sirajuddin Haqqani are significant for India as he and the Haqqani group, founded by his father Jalaluddin Haqqani, are wanted for the Indian Embassy bombings in Kabul in 2008 and 2009 . Around 70 people, including the Indian defence attaché Brig. Ravi Datt Mehta and press counsellor V. Venkateswara Rao, were killed in the attacks.
In November 2012, India was instrumental, as the then-President of the UN Security Council, in ensuring that the Haqqani group was designated as a terror entity. India had worked with several countries to ensure the group was banned, both in the UN’s 1988 sanctions committee list as well as the U.S., which designated it a Foreign Terrorist Organisation at the same time.
Sirajuddin Haqqani, deputy to Taliban chief Haibatullah Akhundzada, is now likely to have considerable influence in the next government in Afghanistan. His brother Anas Haqqani, who was arrested in 2014 for financing the group’s terror attacks, and was released as part of a hostage swap in 2019 from Bagram prison, is now one of the chief negotiators in government formation talks in Kabul.
This is the first time the Committees would meet after the Taliban takeover of Kabul on August 15, and after the tentative August 31 deadline for the U.S. troops pull-out. The stand taken by the UNSC members, particularly the P-5 — U.S., Russia, China, France and UK — would indicate how they intend to approach a future Taliban-led regime in Afghanistan.
“The challenge will be to reconcile the ground reality of a Taliban dominated regime with a new mandate for UNAMA,” explained India’s former UNPR Asoke Mukerji, listing a number of issues at the UN which need special attention in the aftermath of the Taliban takeover.
Apart from the 1988 Sanctions Committee and UNAMA mandate renewal next month, which also marks 20 years since the 9/11 attacks in the U.S., statements by world leaders at the UN General Assembly, as well a possible UN meeting on accreditation, or recognition for the new regime are expected to be the highlights on Afghanistan.
In 1996, the last time the Taliban took power in Kabul, the UN had refused to recognise the regime, and had continued the Ambassador nominated by the previous Rabbani government. This time around, the UN would have to decide on continuing the accreditation with Ambassador Ghulam Isaczai who was appointed by the ‘Islamic Republic of Afghanistan’, given the Taliban control of Kabul, and its insistence on changing the country’s flag, and name to the ‘Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan’.
Officials point out that if the UN were to accept the new regime, which seems unlikely at present, it would give the Taliban the mandate to propose the delisting of its own members, as the Afghanistan UNPR is the “focal point” for the Sanctions list. Such a proposal would also run counter to the UN Security Council’s own statement on August 3 that firmly said that members “do not support the restoration of the Islamic Emirate”.