Taleban stops Afghan government employees from returning to work

People go about their business at a market in central Kabul on Aug. 18, 2021. PHOTO: NYTIMES

KABUL (AFP) - Government employees in Kabul were blocked by Taleban militants from returning to their offices on Saturday (Aug 21), the first day of the Afghan working week.

Since the hardline Islamist group seized power six days ago, government buildings, banks, schools and universities have remained largely closed.

Only a few private firms, including telecom companies, have been operating since the Taleban swept back to power - although there have also been two public holidays since then.

The blocking of employees from entering their offices came despite the Taleban announcing they would allow government staff to continue working.

"I went to the office this morning, but the Taleban who were at the gate told us they have not received any orders to reopen government offices," said Hamdullah. "They told us to watch TV or listen to the radio for an announcement about when to resume work."

The Taleban has yet to form a government and in the chaos of a collapsed administration, one of the top concerns among Afghans is continuing to earn a salary.

Two days after seizing power the Taleban announced a general amnesty, and said everyone should return to work.

Spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid has said the group's new government would be "positively different" from their 1996-2001 regime, infamous for barring women from almost all aspects of public life.

He also announced a general amnesty.

"All those in the opposite side are pardoned from A to Z," he said. "We will not seek revenge."

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On Saturday, most roads in the capital were largely deserted save for the route to the airport, which was choked with people scrambling to join a US-led evacuation.

Roads leading to the foreign ministry in central Kabul were also closed, an employee told AFP.

"They aren't allowing anyone to enter," he said on condition of anonymity.

"One of them even told me to wait until the new minister and directors are appointed."

The foreign exchange market was also shut as it awaited instructions from the central bank, traders said.

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Another employee at the Kabul municipality said he was disappointed that the Taleban was not yet re-opening offices.

"I came with a lot of hope but left disappointed," he said.

Workers at the offices of the Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation in Kabul, however, were allowed to enter after showing their ID cards, an employee there said.

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