Kabul: The Taliban said on Tuesday Afghan girls will be allowed to return to school “as soon as possible”. They said this after their movement faced shock and fury over their effective exclusion of women and girls from public life. The hardliners’ spokesman meanwhile announced the remaining members of Afghanistan’s new all-male government. He revealed weeks after the militants seized Kabul in an offensive that shocked the world. The Taliban were notorious for their brutal, oppressive rule from 1996 to 2001. They exempted women from work and school, and banned them from leaving their homes unless accompanied by a male relative. After seizing power and pledging a softer version of their previous regime, the Islamists have incrementally stripped away Afghans’ freedoms. During the weekend, the education ministry issued a diktat ordering male teachers and students back to secondary school. But made no mention of the country’s women educators and girl pupils. Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid briefed about the return of girls to school. He said “we are finalising things, it will happen as soon as possible.” He added that “a safe learning environment” should to be established beforehand. No female ministers The Taliban announced their new leadership earlier in September, drawn up exclusively from loyalist ranks. Announcing the final line-up on Tuesday, Mujahid made no reference to the now closed women’s affairs ministry. He named no female ministers. The Taliban now face the colossal task of ruling Afghanistan. And an aid-dependent country whose economic troubles have only deepened since the Islamists seized power and outside funding was frozen. Many government employees remain unpaid paid for months, with food prices soaring. “We have the funds but need time to get the process working,” Mujahid said. The Taliban have also slashed women’s access to work. Officials previously told them to stay at home for their own security. At least until the Taliban implement upon the segregation under the group’s restrictive interpretation of sharia law. While the country’s new rulers have not issued a formal policy outright banning women from working. Directives by individual officials have amounted to their exclusion from the workplace. The acting mayor of the capital Kabul said that women occupying the municipal jobs will be replaced by men. Although still marginalised, Afghan women have fought for and gained basic rights in the past 20 years. They became lawmakers, judges, pilots and police officers, though mostly limited to large cities. Under the ousted US-backed government, hundreds of thousands of women entered the workforce. Many women became their families’ sole breadwinners after becoming widowed and when their husbands got killed during decades of conflict.