Some Afghans live under Taliban rule – and prefer it
In provinces just south of Kabul, the insurgents have a shadow government that polices roads and runs courts.
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In neighboring Ghazni Province, the Taliban is in full control of 13 of the 18 districts, according to locals. Similarly, in Wardak, which neighbors Kabul, the insurgents have control of six of eight districts. None of the six districts in either province dominated by ethnic Hazaras, however, are run by the Taliban.Skip to next paragraph
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In areas under their control, the Taliban has set up their own government, complete with police chiefs, judges, and even education committees.
An Islamic scholar heads the judicial committee of each district under Taliban control and usually appoints two judges to try cases using a strict interpretation of sharia law, according to locals and Taliban members. "We prefer these courts to the government courts," says Fazel Wali of Ghazni city, an NGO worker. Taliban courts have a reputation of working much faster than government ones, which often take months to decide cases and are saddled with corruption, he says.
The Taliban's parallel government is also involved in local education. Employees with Coordination for Afghan Relief, an Afghan NGO that works in Ghazni city and trains teachers, say Taliban authorities recently gave them a letter detailing the "allowed curriculum" in local schools.
Abdul Hakim, a Taliban "Emir of Education and Culture" in Ghazni Province, says his group checks all schoolbooks to ensure that they adhere to their version of sharia law. "We want to ensure that our youth are trained in Islamic education," he explains. "First, they should learn sharia law and religious studies. Then comes science and other subjects.... But we don't burn or close down schools if they are in accord with Islam."
However, locals say that the number of schools in Taliban-controlled territory is dwindling fast. Of the 1,100 schools operating three years ago in Ghazni, only 100 are left, according to the Ministry of Education. Almost no girls' schools remain, except nearly a dozen in the government-controlled provincial center.
The group also brings its austere interpretation of Islam to the areas they control, banning nonreligious music and flashy wedding parties. In Logar, guards at Taliban checkpoints regularly stop vehicles and beat drivers playing music.
The government police often refuse to enter Taliban territory. In Logar Province, when the Taliban set ablaze the homes of suspected government sympathizers during the middle of the night a few months ago, the locals called the police, desperate. "But the police actually told us to wait until morning, since they don't like to come out at night," recalls one resident. The houses burned to the ground.
Mozafaradeen Wardak, chief of police in Wardak Province, denies the allegations and says that, while the insurgents may have control in places like Logar and Ghazni, the police still regularly patrol.
Independent political analyst Waheed Muzhda says the Taliban's advance from the south toward Kabul resembles their progression when they first took power 12 years ago. In both cases, he says, they won support by bringing law and order.
"We have no TV. We can't listen to music. We don't have parties," says Abdul Halim of Ghazni Province, who, like others in the area, is a Taliban supporter. "But at least we have security and justice."