Malaysia in no rush to endorse Taliban-led Afghanistan

Just as Foreign Minister Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah ended his speech during the United Nations (UN) high-ministerial meeting on the humanitarian situation in Afghanistan on Monday night, one thing stood out.

It wasn’t the fact that Saifuddin was mistakenly introduced as Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein – his predecessor. And it wasn’t his bright red G-Shock, either.

What was glaring was that Malaysia neither acknowledged nor endorsed the Taliban-led government.

During the allocated three-minute “intervention”, Saifuddin spoke about the government’s commitment to helping the UN in its humanitarian efforts. He even revealed the US$100,000 allocation by the Malaysian government for such a cause.

Saifuddin also mentioned that 469 Afghan students were studying in Malaysian institutions of higher learning, promising that the younger generation would not be deprived of education.

It was clear that the Malaysian government was adopting a “wait-and-see” approach. Afghanistan’s neighbours – China and Pakistan – endorsed the Taliban and even supplied aid to the troubled nation. Clearly, the move was to ease any security tensions that could arise at the borders.

But other nations were treading cautiously. Singapore’s Law and Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam had, on Sept 10, said that following the takeover by the Taliban, there was the prospect of increased terrorism in the region.

The Japanese embassy in Kuala Lumpur confirmed it had issued a warning to Japanese citizens in Malaysia over a possible terrorist threat in Southeast Asia. It remained unclear if the terror threat was linked to the situation that was unfolding in Afghanistan. Japan was also monitoring the situation in Kabul and had yet to make an official stand over the transition.

Hishammuddin, yesterday said that claims regarding possible terrorist attacks in Malaysia were “completely baseless” and would check with Wisma Putra on why Japan had issued the statement.

The Taliban are finding it difficult to ditch their old image as an extremist, radical group, which marginalised women and the minorities.

Despite assurances that it had adopted a “new approach”, it was reported that university students in Afghanistan would be segregated by gender, and that a new dress code would be imposed by the Taliban.

Its Higher Education Minister, Abdul Baqi Haqqani, was reported to have said that there would also be a review of the subjects that would be taught to students.

For the record, women and girls were prohibited from schools and universities when the Taliban ruled from 1996 to 2001.

It was also reported that women may not be allowed to play sports.

The position of Afghanistan’s ambassador to Malaysia, Dr Moheb Rahman Spinghar remained unclear. Last week, Moheb was quoted by a Malay-language daily, saying that he was disappointed that Malaysia had not set up an embassy in Kabul and “does not seem to be interested in investing in the country, compared to Indonesia.”

This news website reached out to Moheb on Monday regarding his remarks and his position in Malaysia but has yet to receive a reply.

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