Kabul, Afghanistan – For the past three weeks, Ahmed Masood, son of the late anti-Taliban commander Ahmed Shah Masood, has been leading an armed resistance against Taliban rule in Panjshir. Panjshir is the only one to escape the Taliban It quickly took over the provinces of Afghanistan last month.
The 32-year-old young man had received training at the Sandhurst Military Academy in the United Kingdom. He is following in his father’s footsteps. Masood also led an armed resistance against Taliban rule in the 1990s.
However, despite the father’s resistance organization being able to continuously deliver updates in multiple languages, since the Taliban cut off telephone and Internet access last week, Ahmed’s National Resistance Front (NRF) has faced challenges in sending information from the northeastern provinces. Great difficulty.
This kind of virtual media blackout has led to an imbalance of information on the front lines of Panjshir’s battle with the Taliban. In recent days, Panjsheris in Kabul and abroad have encountered great difficulties in getting the latest news from their families.
A Panjshiri civilian in his 20s did not want to reveal his identity for security reasons. He told Al Jazeera by phone that the situation in the province was “terrible” and “disturbing” for the 130,000 people trapped there.
He said that Panjshir is currently facing a severe shortage of basic necessities. Last week, the Taliban blocked the road from Kabul to Panjshir, which made it almost impossible for goods to enter the valley.
“No matter what people eat at home, this is what they have been eating for weeks. Now, the shops and markets are empty,” he said.
With the advancement of Taliban forces in recent days, this young man, like thousands of others, fled from the center of the province to the mountains. He said that Panjshir’s medical facilities were also in short supply.
“I have patients in my family, and I can’t help them,” he said.
At a press conference on Monday, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid stated that the province is now completely under the control of the Islamic Emirate, as the organization claims.
“The people living in the proud Panjshir Valley are an integral part of the state institutions. They are our brothers. There is no prejudice against them. All the rights that our other compatriots have, the people of Panjshir also have,” Mujahid Say.
Kaweh Kerami, a PhD researcher at SOAS University in London, said that the Taliban’s claim to victory in the province was mainly based on residents fleeing to the mountains. He said that when so many institutions are vacant, the organization’s claims are not so much a reflection of reality as a political strategy.
“It is problematic to reduce the province’s’control’ to some government buildings, police stations and regional centers,” he said, when most people moved to higher places because of fear of the arrival of the Taliban.
Young people in Panjshir said that Taliban members, mainly from Badakhshan, Helmand and Laghman provinces, operate in very different ways.
He said that some people treat residents well and encourage them to return to normal life. But he said that many Panjshiris are still unwilling to believe in the Taliban.
He also described the “violent and aggressive” behavior of the “second” Taliban force. He said that these forces went door-to-door, “doing whatever they want and torturing the people.”
Mujahid said at a press conference on Monday that all Taliban officials in Panjshir are from the province.
“All Panjshir officials are from that province. The governor and his deputy are residents of Panjshir. All other officials are also appointed from here,” he said.
At the same time, in recent days, unconfirmed voice messages and posts have been circulating on social media, detailing warnings about the “holocaust” and possible “genocide”. Al Jazeera cannot independently verify any claims that have caused panjshiris outside the province to panic.
Adding to people’s fear is the Taliban’s own massacre legacy during the five-year rule of the 1990s. At that time, human rights organizations accused the Taliban of carrying out massacres in Bamyan and Balkh provinces.
In the latest news distributed to his supporters via Whatsapp on Monday, the unaccounted NRF leader Masood repeatedly mentioned the “strangers” who attacked Panjshir in recent days, but did not elaborate.
For many Afghans, the term clearly implies Pakistan, which has been repeatedly accused of aiding and abetting the Taliban. Pakistan denied supporting the armed group.
The current President Ashraf Ghani fled the country. When the Taliban took over the capital Kabul on August 15, the Taliban inherited most of the military power that the former national army could control.
Zalmai Nishat, a senior policy expert at the German development agency GIZ, said it is important to find accurate information about what happened in Panjshir in the past three weeks.
“Now, Panjshir is a black box, someone has to open it to know what happened,” Nishat told Al Jazeera. However, he said that the Taliban made it difficult for journalists and activists to obtain any accurate information.
“The road through Parvão has been closed and no one can pass.”
He said that at present, if anyone wants to go to Panjshir, they have to walk a long way through the mountains in the neighboring province of Cabisa.
Kaweh Kerami, a PhD researcher at the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London, said that the Taliban’s cut off Panjshir’s telecommunications network “provides fertile ground for the spread of false stories and propaganda”.
In one example, a granular video showing fierce fighting in the mountains circulated on the Internet allegedly came from the recent battle in Panjshir. However, it was later discovered that the video was shot in Yemen in 2019.
He said that the spread of misinformation caused panic, anger, and in some cases, incited further violence and “strangled” a province that relied heavily on the road to Kabul.
He said that because people were unable to verify or refute claims of mass killings, the lack of reliable communication tools and the ability to share verified images and videos led to increased panic and anger.
Klamy said: “We need more information to charge whether there have been crimes against humanity such as ethnic cleansing or even genocide.”
At a press conference on Monday, Taliban spokesman Mujahid talked about the disconnection of roads and telecommunications networks.
“If the people of Panjshir have been harmed by telephone service interruptions and road closures in the past few days, we apologize.”
He said this was done to discourage “those who want to turn Panjshir into a hotbed of sedition.”
However, Kerami stated that this is part of the siege, “no doubt to bring pain and suffering to people who are unable to obtain food and medical supplies.”
He said that young people who frequently travel between Kabul and Panjshir in recent weeks, including Panjshir, have been banned from entering the valley.
The Taliban have now stated that they will announce their new government in the next few days. All eyes are on the people of Masood and Panjshir, and they promise to continue fighting.