Afghanistan’s only female diplomat quits ‘after being caught smuggling gold worth £1.6m’

Zakia Wardak
Zakia Wardak made no mention of the gold in her resignation statement

Afghanistan’s only female diplomat has resigned days after she was caught by airport authorities allegedly smuggling nearly £1.6 million of gold into India.

Zakia Wardak announced her resignation on social media after Indian media reported that she and her son had been stopped last month on arrival in Mumbai from Dubai carrying 25kg of gold.

Ms Wardak is understood to have been appointed to India before the Taliban took control of Afghanistan in 2021 and was the Afghan Consul-General in Mumbai.

She had been acting as the country’s most senior representative in India since Afghanistan’s embassy in New Delhi shut down in November.

Ms Wardak was reportedly not arrested when she was stopped because of her diplomatic immunity, but the gold was confiscated by India’s Directorate of Revenue Intelligence.

She made no reference to the gold in her resignation statement, but said she had “encountered numerous personal attacks and defamation” over the past year.

Such incidents “have demonstrated the challenges faced by women in Afghan society”, she said, adding: “It has become increasingly clear that the public narrative is unfairly targeting the only female representative within this system, rather than focusing on constructive assistance and support.”

Many Afghan diplomats remained loyal to the internationally-backed government when Kabul fell despite their administration having been swept away.

They have refused to cede official buildings and positions to the new Taliban emirate and have remained in post issuing visas and paperwork.

The Taliban authorities have full control of only around a dozen Afghan embassies abroad – including in Pakistan, China, Turkey and Iran.

Ashraf Ghani’s government was notorious for corruption before it was swept away by the Taliban and public disgust at thieving officials proved a powerful recruiting tool for the insurgents.

No nation has yet formally recognised the Taliban’s new government, but many acknowledge them as the de facto ruling authority.

Since the Taliban took control in August 2021, they have barred women from most spheres of public life and employment. Girls are stopped from going to classes beyond primary school age.

They have also restricted women’s access to work, travel and health care if they are unmarried or do not have a male guardian, while those who do not cover their heads and faces risk arrest.