Afghanistan’s only female diplomat resigns amid smuggling allegations

ISLAMABAD — An Afghan diplomat in India, who was appointed before the Taliban seized power in 2021 and said she was the only woman in the country’s diplomatic service, has resigned after reports emerged of her being detained for allegedly smuggling gold.

Zakia Wardak, the Afghan consul-general for Mumbai, announced her resignation on her official account on the social media platform X on Saturday after Indian media reported last week that she was briefly detained at the city’s airport on allegations of smuggling 25 bricks of gold, each weighing 1 kilogram (2.2 pounds), from Dubai.

According to Indian media reports, she has not been arrested because of her diplomatic immunity.

In a statement, Wardak made no mention of her reported detention or gold smuggling allegations but said, “I am deeply sorry that as the only woman present in Afghanistan’s diplomatic apparatus, instead of receiving constructive support to maintain this position, I faced waves of organized attacks aimed at destroying me.”

“Over the past year, I have encountered numerous personal attacks and defamation not only directed towards myself but also towards … close family and extended relatives,” she said.

Wardak said the attacks have “severely impacted my ability to effectively operate in my role and have demonstrated the challenges faced by women in Afghan society.”

The Taliban Foreign Ministry did not immediately return calls for comment on Wardak’s resignation. It wasn’t immediately possible to confirm whether she was the country’s only female diplomat.

She was appointed consul-general of Afghanistan in Mumbai during the former government and was the first Afghan female diplomat to collaborate with the Taliban.

The Taliban — who took over Afghanistan in 2021 during the final weeks of U.S. and NATO withdrawal from the country — have barred women from most areas of public life and stopped girls from going to school beyond the sixth grade as part of harsh measures they imposed despite initial promises of a more moderate rule.

They are also restricting women’s access to work, travel and health care if they are unmarried or don’t have a male guardian, and arresting those who don’t comply with the Taliban’s interpretation of hijab, or Islamic headscarf.

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