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The Azadi Briefing: Afghans Protest Taliban's Decision To Abolish Pension System

Afghan retirees protest in Kabul. (file photo)
Afghan retirees protest in Kabul. (file photo)

Welcome to The Azadi Briefing, an RFE/RL newsletter that unpacks the key issues in Afghanistan. To subscribe, click here.

I'm Abubakar Siddique, senior correspondent at RFE/RL's Radio Azadi. Here's what I've been tracking and what I'm keeping an eye on in the days ahead.

The Key Issue

The Taliban has abolished the pension system in Afghanistan, which is gripped by a devastating economic and humanitarian crisis.

The move has triggered protests by retirees who say they cannot survive without state assistance.

Scores of retired civil servants and retired members of the armed forces staged a rally in Kabul on April 20. The protest was dispersed by the Taliban.

"We are just trying to claim our rights," Aafandi Sangar, the head of the Afghan Pensioners Association, told RFE/RL's Radio Azadi. "We are miserable because we have not received any payments for nearly three years."

An estimated 150,000 pensioners received a monthly payment of around $100 from the state before the Taliban seized power in 2021. Retirees say they have not been paid their pensions since then. Many of the pensioners served governments that had fought against the Taliban.

In early April, the Taliban's spiritual leader, Mullah Haibatullah Akhundzada, ordered his government to stop deducting retirement contributions from the salaries of civil servants, effectively dismantling the pension system. Akhundzada suggested that the system was "un-Islamic."

Why It's Important: The Taliban's decision to scrap pensions threatens the future of tens of thousands of current government employees.

The group's refusal to pay pensions since 2021 has also pushed many retirees and their families deeper into poverty. The decision this month dashed their hopes.

"How will we live now?" asked one retiree, speaking to Radio Azadi. "We used our pensions to provide for our families."

The Taliban has repeatedly promised to build a welfare state in Afghanistan. But the group's decision to scrap pensions suggests that it is unlikely to fulfil its pledges.

What's Next: The Taliban leadership has vowed to create a "pure" Islamic system in Afghanistan.

The group has used religious justification to scrap the pension system. Pensions involve interest, which the Taliban has said is forbidden under Islam.

The group's extremist interpretation of Islamic law is likely to continue shaping the decisions of its government.

What To Keep An Eye On

A senior cleric who was believed to be a close aide of the Taliban's spiritual leader has been killed in neighboring Pakistan.

Mullah Mohammad Omar Jan Akhundzada was shot dead in Quetta, the capital of Pakistan's southwestern Balochistan Province, on April 18.

The chief Taliban spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, said his death was an "irreparable loss."

Local police said the cleric possessed Pakistani citizenship and had lived in Quetta for many years.

Many Taliban leaders were believed to have lived in Quetta, near the Afghan border, during the group's nearly 20-year insurgency against Afghan government forces and international troops.

Why It's Important: Akhundzada's mysterious killing has raised questions.

Some have speculated that the Pakistani authorities could have been behind it.

Islamabad and the Taliban were close allies for decades. But the sides have fallen out in recent years, with Pakistan accusing the Taliban of sheltering the Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan, an extremist group that has waged a deadly insurgency against Islamabad for years.

Islamabad has tried to use pressure tactics, including the mass deportation of Afghan refugees from Pakistan, to change Taliban policy, according to observers.

That's all from me for now. Don't forget to send me any questions, comments, or tips that you have. You can always reach us at

Until next time,

Abubakar Siddique

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    Abubakar Siddique

    Abubakar Siddique, a journalist for RFE/RL's Radio Azadi, specializes in the coverage of Afghanistan and Pakistan. He is the author of The Pashtun Question: The Unresolved Key To The Future Of Pakistan And Afghanistan. He is also one of the authors of the Azadi Briefing, a weekly newsletter that unpacks the key issues in Afghanistan.

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Radio Azadi is RFE/RL's Dari- and Pashto-language public service news outlet for Afghanistan. Every Friday, in our newsletter, Azadi Briefing, one of our journalists will share their analysis of the week’s most important issues and explain why they matter.

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