We've changed: Taliban
The house is at the top of a narrow, steep, dirt road in one of Kabul's dusty suburbs, a neighbourhood with few police and fewer international soldiers.world Updated: Jun 04, 2011 00:33 IST
The house is at the top of a narrow, steep, dirt road in one of Kabul's dusty suburbs, a neighbourhood with few police and fewer international soldiers.
It is home to Mohammed Qalamuddin, the former head of the Taliban's infamous religious police.
Captured in 2003, two years after the extremists' regime collapsed, and freed in 2005, the 60-year-old cleric has since been rehabilitated. Appointed to the High Peace Council, a 70-member body created last year to oversee the process of "reconciliation" with the insurgents in Afghanistan, Qalamuddin recently met General David Petraeus, the overall commander of Nato forces in Afghanistan, to discuss the treatment of Taliban prisoners in US-run jails.
For more than a decade Qalamuddin, who personally issued an edict banning make-up and high heels in the Afghan capital and whose men routinely beat women who broke the Taliban's strict laws on dress in the 1990s, has been among about 140 former Taliban and al Qaeda figures under United Nations sanctions preventing them travelling or holding bank accounts. Now he is on a list of 18 candidates submitted to the UN last month whom the Afghan government want to be freed from the sanctions.
The British and US governments will back the move to "delist" the 18 at a key meeting of the UN sanctions committee in two weeks.
Britain and the US believe the move will send a public message to active insurgents that, if conditions are met, their reintegration into normal Afghan life is possible.
For Qalamuddin's journey from outlaw to interlocutor is one which American and British officials hope many others will make - particularly senior leaders of the insurgency.
For more than two years there have been reports of talks between protagonists in the 10-year-old conflict in Afghanistan. Last month the first direct meetings between US officials and the Taliban were reported. Officials in Kabul confirmed that a man thought to be the personal secretary of Mullah Mohammed Omar, the Taliban's supreme leader, has taken part in three rounds of contacts in Qatar, Germany and again in Qatar. A US official refused to confirm the talks.