Politics of Afghanistan

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The politics of Afghanistan are based on a totalitarian emirate within the Islamic theocracy in which the Taliban Movement holds a monopoly on power.[1][2] Dissent is not permitted, and politics are mostly limited to internal Taliban policy debates and power struggles.[3][4] As the government is provisional, there is no constitution or other basis for the rule of law. The structure is autocratic, with all power concentrated in the hands of the supreme leader and his clerical advisors.[5]

Afghanistan has been unstable for decades, with frequent coups, civil wars, and violent transfers of power. Most recently, the Taliban seized power in 2021 from the Western-backed Islamic Republic, and re-formed the government to implement a far stricter interpretation of Sharia law according to the Hanafi school.


Government operation in Afghanistan historically has consisted of power struggles, coups and unstable transfers of power. The country has been governed by various systems of government, including a monarchy, republic, theocracy, dictatorship, and a pro-communist state.


Afghanistan currently functions without a clear constitution or any basis for the rule of law. The government is self-described as "interim". Taliban leadership rules by decree and judges and Taliban fighters decide how to apply the law on the spot based on their interpretation of Sharia. However, some guidelines have been put forth and there is a history of constitutional discourse within the Taliban that provides insight into their current governance.[7][8]

The Taliban has historically viewed the Quran as its constitution. An ulema (scholars) council drafted a dastur (basic law), which was approved by the Supreme Court in 1998 and re-authorized for the insurgency in July 2005 in response to the promulgation of the 2004 Constitution of the Islamic Republic. The dastur is vague; it named Mullah Omar Supreme Leader and places the highest authority in that position but does not outline a selection process or the constraints of the office. However, it does state that the supreme leader must be a male Sunni Muslim and an adherent of the Hanafi school of Islamic jurisprudence. The dastur also establishes a unicameral shura council as the highest legislative body, with all members appointed by the supreme leader, and allows for a Council of Ministers, headed by a Chairman, whose role is to implement policy.[9][10][7] Following the Taliban's return to power, the group announced the enactment of parts of the 1964 monarchy constitution that are "not in conflict with Sharia" to govern the country in the interim. Observers have noted that the dastur is being followed, though there are in fact few conflicts between it and the 1964 Constitution, which granted immense powers to the King.[11][12] In August 2022, Parwan Governor Obaidullah Aminzada stated that Supreme Leader Hibatullah Akhundzada had declared the 2004 Constitution abolished and ordered the government not to use the 1964 Constitution as a replacement, ruling neither is compatible with Sharia.[13]

Taliban views on a new constitution[edit]

Influential Taliban interviewees, including members of the Political Commission, have suggested that the dastur was never intended to be a permanent constitution, but rather a document outlining the Taliban's vision for a transitional state. Around 2010 the dastur appeared to fade from Taliban discourse, and interviewees in the Political Commission suggested there would be room for drafting a new political framework post-U.S. withdrawal. They have consistently stated that a new constitution would be drafted only through an open consultative process rather than being imposed on the country unilaterally. However, they have invariably stated it would outline an Islamic state and the constituent assembly would in large part be made up of ulema knowledgeable in Sharia law. Some interviewees stated the 2004 Constitution was sufficiently Islamic, and that the Islamic Republic suffered political—rather than religious— illegitimacy, due to the influence of foreign powers. Therefore, they left the door open to a constitution substantially similar to the 2004 Constitution.[9]

An exploratory committee on the drafting of a constitution was formed in early 2022, however no updates have since been given.[8] In September 2022, Acting Deputy Minister of Justice Maulvi Abdul Karim stated that the Quran essentially functions as the constitution and all issues can be handled through the application of Hanafi law without a written constitution. However, he added that the ministry would prepare a constitution based on the Quran and Hanafi law if the supreme leader directs it.[14]


Supreme Leader[edit]

Hibatullah Akhundzada is the supreme leader of Afghanistan, having authority on all political, military, religious decisions, and government appointments. As supreme leader, much of his work is done alongside the Rahbari Shura (Leadership Council) which oversees the Cabinet and Prime Minister of Afghanistan. The Rahbari Shura in conjunction with Akhundzada appoints individuals to key positions within the cabinet; which includes the positions of Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Foreign Affairs, and Minister of the Interior.[15]

Currently, the supreme leader is also responsible for determining the overall aims of the Cabinet of Afghanistan, serving as a point of unity and leadership among the various factions of the Taliban. Because of Hibatullah Akhundzada's credentials as Mawlawi and knowledge of Fiqh, he is broadly respected among the Taliban and thus seen as a unifying figure.[16]

Leadership Council[edit]

The Rahbari Shura (Leadership Council) is a 26 member council assisting the supreme leader with the governance of Afghanistan. According to now-Deputy Minister of Information and government spokesperson; Zabiullah Mujahid, the Rahbari Shura will oversee the Council of Ministers and determine key governmental decisions.[17] The council was also responsible for appointing a new supreme leader after the death of their predecessor, however it is not yet known if the council will exercise this power after the Fall of Kabul in 2021.

This setup is reminiscent of how the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan was governed from 1996 to 2001 with Mohammad Omar being Head of the Supreme Council. However, the system has also been compared to the Supreme Leader of Iran and its clerical system of rule.[18] The council itself was also the executive body of the Taliban during the War in Afghanistan, determining the overall direction of the group as an insurgency.

According to an Al Jazeera report, the Council of Ministers is powerless in practice, with all political power actually being vested with Akhundzada and the Rahbari Shura,[19] which is based out of Kandahar.[20]


Acting Prime Minister Hasan Akhund

The current caretaker cabinet was presented in an announcement on 7 September 2021.[21] The country as a whole is headed by Hibatullah Akhundzada, who became head of the Taliban in 2016. The Prime Minister, Mohammad Hassan Akhund, was selected as a compromise candidate between moderate and hardline factions of the Taliban. There are two Deputy Prime Ministers, Abdul Ghani Baradar and Abdul Salam Hanafi.[22]

In total, the cabinet (not including Hibatulla Akhundzada) included 33 ministers. All of the ministers named were men. Two ministers were Tajik, and one (Abdul Salam Hanafi) was Uzbek.[23] All other ministers, as well as Hibatullah Akhundzada, are from the Pashtun ethnic group. As the country's largest ethnicity, Pashtuns have long dominated both the Taliban and non-Taliban politics.[24] Some members of the government served as ministers during the previous period of Taliban rule which lasted from 1996 to 2001.[25]

The government was announced by the Taliban's chief spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid,[21] who stated that this cabinet was not complete, with further appointments intended to be made.[23] While the Taliban had previously stated that they wanted to form an inclusive government, all ministers were long-standing members of the Taliban.[22]

On 21 September 2021, Mujahid announced the expansion of the Taliban's interim cabinet by naming deputy ministers.[26] Mujdahid defended the all-male additional members, saying it included members of ethnic minorities, such as the Hazaras, and women might be added later. The appointment included figures from Panjshir and Baghlan.[citation needed]


The full name of the state is the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan.[25] As an Islamic state, Taliban policy is to implement Sharia law.[22]

Unapproved protests were banned on 9 September 2021 following large-scale women-led protests.[27] The policies regarding women include a ban on participation in sports.[28]


In September 2021, the government ordered primary schools to reopen for both sexes and announced plans to reopen secondary schools for male students, without committing to do the same for female students.[29] While the Taliban states that female college students will be able to resume higher education provided that they are segregated from male students (and professors, when possible),[30] The Guardian notes that "if the high schools do not reopen for girls, the commitments to allow university education would become meaningless once the current cohort of students graduated."[29] Higher Education Minister Abdul Baqi Haqqani said that female university students will be required to observe proper hijab, but did not specify if this required covering the face.[30]

Kabul University reopened in February 2022, with female students attending in the morning and males in the afternoon. Other than the closure of the music department, few changes to the curriculum were reported.[31] Female students were officially required to wear an abaya and a hijab to attend, although some wore a shawl instead. Attendance was reportedly low on the first day.[32]

In March 2022, the Taliban abruptly reversed plans to allow girls to resume secondary school education (defined as grade seven and up in Afghanistan). With the exception of the current cohort of university students, this decision leaves graduating from sixth grade as the highest level of educational attainment possible for Afghan women. Secondary schools for boys reopened on schedule. A statement from the ministry of education cited the lack of an acceptable school uniform for female high school students.[33]

Recognition and relations[edit]

Afghanistan's envoy to the United Nations has requested that the international community not recognise the new government.[34] The Taliban seeks such recognition, and it has not yet received this, other governments are engaging with it to an extent.[35]


Since coming to power, there have been reports of factionalism and infighting among various camps of the Taliban concerning areas such as spoils of war, contributions to the Taliban insurgency, and political appointments in the new government. Factions involved include both political moderates, religious fundamentalists, jihadists, and the Haqqani network.[20]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ *Sakhi, Nilofar (December 2022). "The Taliban Takeover in Afghanistan and Security Paradox". Journal of Asian Security and International Affairs. 9 (3): 383–401. doi:10.1177/23477970221130882. S2CID 253945821. Afghanistan is now controlled by a militant group that operates out of a totalitarian ideology.
  2. ^ Rahimi, Haroun; Shirvani, Ali (2021-10-25). "Is Taliban Story Going to be the Iranian Story? The Islamic Emirate v. the Guardianship of the Jurist (Wilayat Faqih)". Rochester, NY.
  3. ^ Mohammad Farshad Daryosh (22 July 2022). "Islamic Emirate Leader Bans 'Unproven Allegations' Against Members". TOLOnews. Archived from the original on 2 December 2022. Retrieved 2 December 2022.
  4. ^ Mehran, Weeda (16 August 2022). "The Taliban's Islamic Emirate: An Exclusive Mullah Government". The Diplomat. Archived from the original on 2 December 2022. Retrieved 2 December 2022.
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  6. ^ "Afghanistan's turbulent history". BBC News. 21 November 2008. Archived from the original on 2 August 2019. Retrieved 11 July 2009.
  7. ^ a b Bezhan, Frud (26 April 2020). "Taliban Constitution Offers Glimpse Into Militant Group's Vision For Afghanistan". Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Archived from the original on 26 April 2020. Retrieved 26 November 2022.
  8. ^ a b Watkins, Andrew (17 August 2022). "One Year Later: Taliban Reprise Repressive Rule, but Struggle to Build a State". United States Institute of Peace. Archived from the original on 26 November 2022. Retrieved 26 November 2022.
  9. ^ a b Osman, Borhan; Gopal, Anand (July 2016). "Taliban Views on a Future State" (PDF). Center on International Cooperation. Archived from the original (PDF) on 16 August 2021. Retrieved 26 November 2022.
  10. ^ Ahmad, Javid (26 January 2022). "The Taliban's religious roadmap for Afghanistan". Middle East Institute. Archived from the original on 26 November 2022. Retrieved 26 November 2022.
  11. ^ Gul, Ayaz (28 September 2021). "Taliban Say They Will Use Parts of Monarchy Constitution to Run Afghanistan for Now". Voice of America. Islamabad, Pakistan. Archived from the original on 20 December 2021. Retrieved 26 November 2022.
  12. ^ Kamil, Ikramuddin (26 January 2022). "What the Taliban's Constitution Means for Afghanistan". Fair Observer. Archived from the original on 12 February 2022. Retrieved 26 November 2022.
  13. ^ Abdul Ghafoor Saboori (4 August 2022). "Parwan Governor, Citing Supreme Leader, Says Previous Constitution Invalid". TOLOnews. Archived from the original on 29 January 2023. Retrieved 29 January 2023.
  14. ^ Ziaei, Hadia (4 September 2022). "Officials: Afghanistan Does Not Need a Constitution". TOLOnews. Archived from the original on 26 November 2022. Retrieved 26 November 2022.
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  19. ^ Latifi, Ali M. "Taliban divisions deepen as hardliners seek spoils of war". www.aljazeera.com. Archived from the original on 2021-09-23. Retrieved 2021-09-24.
  20. ^ a b "Taliban Cabinet has no 'actual' power and that's why they are fighting: Report". Hindustan Times. 2021-09-23. Archived from the original on 2021-10-09. Retrieved 2021-09-24.
  21. ^ a b "Taliban announces new government in Afghanistan". Aljazeera. 7 September 2021. Archived from the original on 4 November 2021. Retrieved 9 September 2021.
  22. ^ a b c "Hardliners get key posts in new Taliban government". BBC News. 8 September 2021. Archived from the original on 24 October 2021. Retrieved 9 September 2021.
  23. ^ a b "Taliban forms 33-member cabinet in Afghanistan: Full list". HindustanTimes. 8 September 2021. Archived from the original on 8 September 2021. Retrieved 9 September 2021.
  24. ^ "From Taliban-led military rule to West-backed democracy, Pashtuns have always dominated Afghanistan's politics". Firstpost. 8 September 2021. Archived from the original on 8 September 2021. Retrieved 9 September 2021.
  25. ^ a b "Afghanistan: Who's who in the Taliban leadership". BBC. 8 September 2021. Archived from the original on 17 January 2022. Retrieved 9 September 2021.
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  29. ^ a b Graham-Harrison, Emma (17 September 2021). "Taliban ban girls from secondary education in Afghanistan". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 17 September 2021. Retrieved 18 September 2021.
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  31. ^ Kullab, Samya (2022-02-26). "Afghan students return to Kabul U, but with restrictions". Associated Press. Archived from the original on 2022-07-04. Retrieved 2022-03-23.
  32. ^ Wali, Qubad (2022-02-26). "Afghan universities reopen, but few women return". Agence France-Presse. Archived from the original on 2022-03-20. Retrieved 2022-02-27.
  33. ^ George, Susannah (2022-03-23). "Taliban reopens Afghan schools—except for girls after sixth grade". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2022-03-23.
  34. ^ "'Taliban Govt Anything But Inclusive': Afghan Envoy Asks UN To Reject Reinstatement Of Islamic Emirate". ABP. 8 September 2021. Archived from the original on 9 September 2021. Retrieved 9 September 2021.
  35. ^ Trofimov, Yaroslav (2021-09-13). "As Taliban Seek International Acceptance, Countries Seek to Engage—but Stop Short of Recognition". Wall Street Journal. ISSN 0099-9660. Archived from the original on 2021-09-21. Retrieved 2021-09-20.

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