Don’t forget us, Afghan women tell Khar

KABUL: A leading Afghan women’s group urged the deputy foreign minister of Pakistan not to forget their plight as she visited Kabul on Tuesday to discuss relations with the nation’s Taliban rulers.

The trip by Hina Rabbani Khar, Islamabad’s first woman foreign minister in 2011 but now a minister of state, comes weeks after the Taliban imposed new restrictions on Afghan women, barring them from parks, fun fairs, gyms and public baths.

The UN special rapporteur on human rights in Afghanistan said Friday that Taliban restrictions on women and girls could amount to a “crime against humanity”.

“You serve as an example of the status of women in our neighbouring country,” the Afghan Women’s Network (AWN), representing several activist groups, said in an open letter to Khar.

“We call on you to use your visit not only as a minister but as a woman and as a Muslim woman leader to support the women of Afghanistan and strengthen our solidarity.”

Meanwhile, quoting the minister, the Associated Press of Pakistan reported that Pakistan, while importing from the neighbouring nation, would give preference to products from women-run businesses.

According to APP, Khar, who was addressing a luncheon hosted by the Afghanistan Women’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry, underlined the important role of women in society and expressed Islamabad’s keen interest in strengthening the relationship between the women entrepreneurs in the two nations.

Pakistan has complicated relations with the Taliban, with Islamabad long accused of supporting the hardline group.

Pakistan is home to over a million Afghan refugees, and the porous border they share is frequently the scene of clashes.

On Monday, proscribed Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) — whose leaders and fighters have long operated from Afghanistan — said they were ending a shaky ceasefire with Islamabad.

Since returning to power in August last year, the Afghan Taliban have insisted they would not allow foreign militant groups to operate from home soil.

No country has recognised the Taliban government and visits by foreign diplomats — let alone high-profile women — are rare.

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