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Ex-Afghan minister returns to Kabul

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KABUL: A former Afghan minister who fled as the Taliban took over Afghanistan last year, returned on Wednesday, following security assurances given as part of the hardline group’s initiative to woo back high-profile individuals.

Ghulam Farooq Wardak, a member of the cabinets of former presidents Hamid Karzai and Ashraf Ghani, is the latest in a string of returning officials, said Taliban officials looking to shore up a government yet to win international recognition.

Wardak had returned from Turkiye, said Ahmad Wasiq, spokesman for a body set up by the Taliban to negotiate the return of high-profile Afghans abroad.

Other officials to return included a former spokesman for the defence ministry, the former head of Afghanistan’s national power company, and some military officials, he said.

Farooq Wardak spoke to state-run media after landing in Afghanistan. “Most authorities are thinking about returning,” the former education minister said, adding that he felt respect and happiness in his home, although he cautioned that a small group might not want to come back.

Most high-profile officials fled Afghanistan as the Taliban took over last August, including Ashraf Ghani, the president at the time, who is now in the United Arab Emirates. Hamid Karzai remains in Kabul.

The Taliban set up the high-powered panel a few weeks ago to negotiate the returns, with nine members, including the intelligence and military chiefs.

Published in Dawn, June 9th, 2022

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