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Gandhara Briefing: Pakistan-Taliban Tensions, Deadly Floods, Morality Police

Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar (center right), acting deputy prime minister of the Afghan Taliban-led government, joins other Taliban officials in Kabul. The Afghan Taliban helped facilitate talks between Islamabad and Tehrik-e Taliban earlier this year.

Welcome to Gandhara's weekly newsletter. This briefing brings you the best of our reporting from Afghanistan and Pakistan.

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This week's Gandhara Briefing highlights our reporting on the devastation caused by the floods in Afghanistan, an Afghan woman accusing a Taliban official of rape, and the militants holding their first film festival.

Pakistan's Taliban Ties Take A Nosedive

I write about tensions increasing between Pakistan and the Afghan Taliban, longtime allies who appear to have fallen out.

In recent weeks, the Taliban has accused Islamabad of permitting its airspace to be used by U.S. drones to strike targets in Afghanistan. In turn, Pakistan has accused the Taliban of harboring terrorists.

"The Taliban may have accepted Pakistani support for years but do not wish to be Pakistani proxies forever," Husain Haqqani of the Washington-based Hudson Institute told me.

Graeme Smith, a senior consultant for the International Crisis Group, says the sides have no option but to cooperate.

"The relationship will remain very fractious," he noted. "It's worth monitoring the flare-ups of violence, but the incentives for cooperation are overwhelming."

Pakistan Reels From Effects Of Climate Change

Majeed Babar reports on how the residents of the picturesque Swat Valley are grappling with the impact of climate change, which has been blamed for torrential rains and widespread flooding across Pakistan.

The floods have damaged key infrastructure, destroyed hundreds of homes, and displaced thousands of people in Swat.

Local resident Khayal Muhammad said his 75-year-old father died after learning the floods washed away their home.

"None of our elders have any memories of such destruction," said Shah Faisal, a lawyer.

University student Shahab Shaheen expressed the anger and bewilderment felt by many locals. "We didn't do anything wrong to the climate, so why are we getting slapped back?" he asked.

Taliban Harasses Diners

Radio Azadi reports on how Afghans are no longer visiting restaurants because of Taliban harassment. The Taliban's morality police often target couples, demanding they prove they are married.

"They asked my husband, 'Who is she, and why have you brought her here?'" Maryam Hotak, a housewife in Kabul, said of her treatment. "When we told them we were married, they asked us to prove it."

Idrees, a manager at an upscale Kabul restaurant, says the Taliban’s harassment of his customers has affected his earnings.

"The Taliban ask [people] why they are sitting together," he said. "This is why people are avoiding restaurants, which has ruined our business."

Another Unexplained Disappearance

Radio Azadi reports on the mysterious disappearance of a former senior Afghan aviation official.

The family of Mahmood Shah Habibi says the Taliban detained him in early August. But the militants claim to not know of his whereabouts.

"He never committed any crimes, so why did the Taliban detain him?" his brother Ahmad Shah Habibi asked. "Why are they keeping him for so long?"

The Taliban declared a general amnesty soon after seizing power last year. But rights groups have accused the militants of killing, torturing, and arbitrarily detaining former members of the toppled Afghan government and its armed forces.

"His arrest and unknown fate are extremely worrying," said Qasim Wafaizadeh, Habibi's former colleague. "It does not leave any confidence in the general amnesty the Taliban declared."

That's all from me this week.

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