For years, Afghanistan was at the heart of India-Pakistan ties, with India donating generously from the mid-2000s to aid the reconstruction of Afghanistan, mainly to keep an errant neighbour in check. India built roads, a children’s hospital, a dam and the parliament too, all of which fostered a sense of camaraderie between the two nations and their people.
However, the rise of the Taliban and their swift takeover, stunning even US security forces, has pushed India into a quandary. As it mulls its roadmap with the hardliners who have vowed to be a moderate version of themselves this time around, the Taliban — in a first — extended what seemed like an olive branch, asking India to complete its pending projects which were meant for the “benefit” of the Afghan people.
In an exclusive interview with CNN-News18, Taliban spokesperson Suhail Shaheen said the hardliners were only opposed to India’s support to Ashraf Ghani’s “puppet” government but his remarks on the Afghanistan Parliament, considered India’s gift to the country, may not go down too well with India.
Asked about the future of the Parliament building, considering that Taliban has rebuffed a “western-style” democracy, Shaheen said: “That building will be used for some purpose. People Shura or Islamic Shura, the building can be used for that.”
‘Shura’ is Arabic for consultation or council. The word provides the title of the 42nd surah of the Qurʾān, in which believers are exhorted to conduct their affairs “by mutual consultation.”
So, what does that mean for the future of India’s gift? Let’s start by looking at the history of the parliament building.
The foundation stone of the building was laid on August 29, 2005, by King Mohammad Zahir Shah, former president Hamid Karzai and then Indian prime minister Manmohan Singh.
It was inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2015, who credited Atal Bihari Vajpayee with conceiving the project. The inauguration coincided with Vajpayee’s 91st birthday, also marked as Good Governance Day in India.
The large complex, built over 100 acres of land, with a gleaming copper roof stands in the Dar-ul-Aman Palace complex of the capital.
The building has two session halls for the Wolesi Jirga (House of the People) and Meshrano Jirga (House of Elders), with capacities of 294 and 190 seats, respectively, Pajhwok Afghanistan News reported. It it also has a lobby, offices for Parliamentarians, conference rooms, a library, dining halls, and Press rooms, among other facilities.
Viral videos showed Taliban forces taking over the Afghan Parliament, weilding weapons inside the building.
The video showed that a few Afghan fighters were sitting on the chairs where the Afghan leaders sat just a few weeks back when Arshaf Ghani held a joint session.