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TIME lists Taliban leader among ‘100 Most Influential People of 2021’

Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi meets with Taliban co-founder Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar in Tianjin. (Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs photo)
September 16, 2021

Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, one of the founders of the Taliban and current military leader of the militant group, was included in TIME’s list of “The 100 Most Influential People of 2021” released Wednesday.

Characterized by the outlet as a “charismatic military leader and a deeply pious figure,” TIME wrote that Baradar “now stands as the fulcrum for the future of Afghanistan” following President Joe Biden’s disastrous withdrawal and evacuation from the Middle Eastern nation.

“When the Taliban swept to victory in August in Afghanistan, it was on the terms Baradar negotiated,” TIME wrote. “He was said to be making all the major decisions, including the amnesty offered to members of the former regime, the lack of bloodshed when the Taliban entered Kabul and the regime’s contacts and visits with neighboring states, especially China and Pakistan.”

“Now he stands as the fulcrum for the future of Afghanistan,” the outlet continued. “In the interim Taliban government, he was made a Deputy Prime Minister, the top role given to another leader more acceptable to the younger, more hard-line generation of Taliban commanders.”

TIME described Baradar as a “quiet, secretive man” who seldom gives interviews or public statements. The publication said the militant group leader “represents a more moderate current within the Taliban” that will be the focus of international relations as the group seeks to “win Western support and desperately needed financial aid.”

Despite TIME’s assertion that Baradar will lead a “more moderate” Taliban, the group immediately implemented harsh restrictions on Afghan women in the wake of Biden’s withdrawal, including being told to stay home and avoid work for their own safety, CNN reported.  

“We are happy for them to enter the buildings but we want to make sure they do not face any worries,” Taliban spokesperson Zabiullah Mujahid said late last month, assuring reporters that the rules would be temporary. “Therefore, we have asked them to take time off from work until the situation gets back to a normal order and women related procedures are in place, then they can return to their jobs once it’s announced.”

Several weeks after Mujahid’s remarks, Waheedullah Hashimi, a top member of the Taliban who is close to the group’s leadership, told Reuters that the Taliban plans to fully commit to its version of sharia law, regardless of international pressure regarding women’s rights.   

“We have fought for almost 40 years to bring (the) sharia law system to Afghanistan,” Hashimi said. “Sharia … does not allow men and women to get together or sit together under one roof.”

“Men and women cannot work together. That is clear,” Hashimi continued. “They are not allowed to come to our offices and work in our ministries.”