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Afghan diplomat Zakia Wardak resigns after being accused of smuggling almost $2 million worth of gold into India

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New Delhi  —Afghanistan's top diplomat in India resigned days after she was reportedly caught by airport authorities smuggling nearly $2 million worth of gold into the country. Zakia Wardak, the Afghan Consul-General in India's financial capital Mumbai, posted a statement on social media announcing her resignation.

Afghanistan's embassy in New Delhi shut down in November, more than two years after the Taliban returned to power in Kabul following the collapse of the Western-backed government, leaving Wardak as the country's most senior representative in India.

"It is with great regret that I announce my decision to step away from my role at the Consulate and Embassy in India, effective May 5, 2024," Wardak said Saturday.

A file photo posted to her X account in 2018 shows Afghan diplomat Zakia Wardak, who resigned on May 5, 2024 from her role as Afghanistan's top diplomat in India after reports claimed she had been caught smuggling almost $2 million worth of gold into the country. Zakia Wardak/X

Indian media reports said Wardak was stopped last month by financial intelligence authorities at Mumbai airport on arrival from Dubai, along with her son, carrying about 55 pounds of gold. She was not arrested because of her diplomatic immunity, the reports said, but the gold — worth around $1.9 million — was confiscated.

Wardak's resignation leaves thousands of Afghan nationals, including students and businessmen, without any consular representation in India. Most foreign nations, including India, do not officially recognize Afghanistan's Taliban government, but acknowledge it as the de facto ruling authority.

In many Afghan missions, diplomats appointed by the former government have refused to cede control of embassy buildings and property to representatives of the Taliban authorities.

Wardak said in the statement that 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 added, making no explicit reference to the gold allegations.

The Taliban has asserted full control over around a dozen Afghan embassies abroad — including in Pakistan, China, Turkey and Iran.

Others operate on a hybrid system, with the ambassador gone but embassy staff still carrying out routine consular work such as issuing visas and other documents.

Most countries evacuated their missions from Kabul as the Taliban closed in on the Afghan capital in August 2021, although a handful of embassies — including Pakistan, China and Russia — never shut and still have ambassadors in Kabul.

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