Kabul, Afghanistan – For the final three weeks, Ahmad Massoud, the son of the late anti-Taliban commander Ahmad Shah Massoud, has been main the armed resistance towards Taliban rule in Panjshir, the one province to evade the Taliban’s speedy takeover of Afghanistan final month.
The 32-year-old, who was educated on the British navy academy Sandhurst, is following in his father’s footsteps – the elder Massoud additionally led an armed resistance towards Taliban rule within the Nineteen Nineties.
But whereas the daddy’s resistance was in a position to relay fixed updates in a number of languages, Ahmad’s National Resistance Front (NRF) has confronted nice issue in sending out info from the northeastern province because the Taliban lower off telephone and Internet entry final week.
This digital media blackout has led to an imbalance in info from the entrance traces of the battle towards the Taliban in Panjshir. In current days, Panjsheris in Kabul and overseas have confronted nice issue in getting updates from their households again house.
One Panjshiri civilian in his twenties, who didn’t wish to reveal his id for security causes, informed Al Jazeera by phone that the state of affairs within the province was “dire” and “troubling” for the 130,000 individuals trapped there.
He mentioned that Panjshir is presently dealing with a large scarcity of primary requirements. For the final week, the Taliban have blocked the highway from Kabul to Panjshir, which makes it almost not possible for items to get into the valley.
“Whatever food people had in their houses, that’s what they’ve been eating for weeks, now, the stores and bazaars are all empty,” he mentioned.
The younger man, who like 1000’s of others fled from districts within the coronary heart of the province to mountainous areas as Taliban forces superior in current days, mentioned medical amenities in Panjshir have additionally skilled shortages.
“I have sick people in my family and I have no way of helping them,” he mentioned.
At a information convention on Monday, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid mentioned that the province was now absolutely beneath the management of the Islamic Emirate, as the group refers to itself.
“The peoples living in the proud valley of Panjshir are an integral part of the national body. They are our brothers. There is no bias against them. All the rights that our other countrymen have, the people of Panjshir also have,” Mujahid mentioned.
Kaweh Kerami, a PhD Researcher at London’s SOAS University, mentioned the Taliban’s declare of victory within the province was based mostly largely on the flight of residents into the mountains. He mentioned the group’s declare at a time when so many establishments are left empty is extra a political ploy than a mirrored image of actuality.
“It is problematic to reduce ‘having control’ over the whole province to some government buildings, police stations and district centres,” he mentioned, when the general public have taken to increased floor in concern of the Taliban’s arrival.
The younger man in Panjshir mentioned the Taliban members, who largely come from the provinces of Badakhshan, Helmand and Laghman, function in starkly other ways.
He mentioned some have handled the residents nicely and inspired them to return to their regular lives. But he mentioned that many Panjshiris should not but snug trusting the Taliban.
He additionally described a “second” contingent of Taliban forces behaving in a “violent and aggressive” method. He mentioned these forces have gone house-to-house, “taking whatever they wish and abusing the people”.
During his Monday information convention, Mujahid mentioned all Taliban officers in Panjshir had been initially from the province.
“All the officials in Panjshir are from that province. The governor and his deputy are residents of Panjshir. All other officials are also appointed from here,” he mentioned.
Meanwhile, unverified voice messages and posts detailing claims of “massacres” and warning of a potential “genocide” have circulated on social media in current days. Al Jazeera was not in a position to independently confirm any of the claims, which have precipitated alarm amongst Panjshiris outdoors the province.
Adding to individuals’s fears is the Taliban’s personal legacy of massacres throughout their five-year rule within the Nineteen Nineties. At the time, rights teams accused the Taliban of finishing up massacres within the provinces of Bamiyan and Balkh.
In his most up-to-date message circulated to his supporters through Whatsapp on Monday, the NRF chief Massoud, whose whereabouts had been unclear, made a number of references to “strangers” staging assaults on Panjshir in current days, with out elaborating.
To many Afghans, the time period is a transparent allusion to Pakistan, which has been repeatedly accused of aiding and abetting the Taliban. Pakistan has denied supporting the armed group.
When former President Ashraf Ghani fled the nation and the Taliban took over the capital, Kabul on August 15, the Taliban inherited a lot of the navy would possibly on the disposal of the previous nationwide military.
Zalmai Nishat, senior coverage skilled on the German growth company, GIZ, mentioned discovering correct details about what has transpired in Panjshir over the last three weeks is of the utmost significance.
“Right now, Panjshir is a black box, someone has to go and open it to find out what has happened,” Nishat informed Al Jazeera. However, he mentioned the Taliban have made it extraordinarily troublesome for journalists and activists to acquire any correct info.
“The road through Parwan province is shut, no one can get through.”
He mentioned that presently, if somebody needs to go to Panjshir, they must go the good distance by means of the mountains of neighbouring Kapisa province,
Kaweh Kerami, a PhD researcher on the SOAS University of London, mentioned the Taliban’s severing of telecommunications networks in Panjshir “provided fertile ground for the dissemination of false stories and propaganda”.
In one instance, a grainy video displaying intense preventing in a mountainous space being circulating on-line presupposed to be from current battles in Panjshir. However, it later emerged that the video was filmed in Yemen in 2019.
He mentioned the unfold of misinformation has led to panic, anger and in some circumstances, incited additional violence and put a “choke-hold” on a province closely reliant on entry to the highway to Kabul.
He mentioned the shortage of entry to dependable communication instruments and the flexibility to share verified pictures and movies has led to elevated panic and anger as individuals are unable to confirm or refute claims of mass killings.
“We need more information to make an allegation of whether crimes against humanity, such as ethnic cleansing or even genocide” have taken place, mentioned Kerami.
At his Monday information convention, Mujahid, the Taliban spokesman, addressed the slicing off of roads and telecommunications networks.
“If the people of Panjshir have been harmed in the last few days due to the disruption of telephone services and road closures, we are very sorry.”
He mentioned it was achieved to dissuade “those who wanted to turn Panjshir into a hotbed of sedition”.
However, Kerami mentioned it was a part of a siege “undoubtedly meant to inflict human suffering and pain” on individuals who had no entry to meals and medical provides.
He mentioned younger males who routinely travelled between Kabul and Panjshir, together with Panjshiris, weren’t allowed to enter the valley in current weeks.
With the Taliban now saying it’ll announce its new authorities within the coming days, all eyes will likely be on Massoud and the individuals of Panjshir, who’ve pledged to proceed their battle.