PESHAWAR: Taliban supreme leader Sheikh Haibatullah Akhunzada said they would not stay away from the Islamic Sharia, pledging to deal with the international community in line with this law.
Also, he was critical of the Taliban government for not paying attention to the problems of the Afghan people. The Taliban top leader was addressing a largely attended gathering of Afghan religious leaders and government officials in Afghanistan’s southern city of Kandahar on Friday.
The Taliban Information Ministry shared a recorded speech of their supreme leader with The News. It said around 3,000 tribal elders, religious scholars and government officials from all the 34 provinces participated in the Kandahar meeting which was the second such meeting after the Taliban took over the country last year on August 15.
A three-day similar meeting was earlier held in Kabul. Some of the Taliban leaders had great expectations from the Kandahar conference and believed that their supreme leader will announce the opening of girl schools in the country.
The Taliban had closed girls’ schools beyond 6th grade in the country, though many senior Taliban leaders are in favour of girls’ education and wanted equal opportunities for education for male and female students.
There are reportedly a few influential religious scholars who wanted to create a conducive environment and change the syllabus before opening girls’ schools. The Taliban supreme leader spoke about various issues but ignored girls’ education.
“We convened this meeting to think about the freedom that we achieved by the blessing of Allah. We achieved it from the blood of our mujahideen,” Sheikh Haibatullah said. He said all “mujahideen” were suicide bombers as they were fighting the foreign occupation forces.
“This is not a hired army. This is the army with belief and ideology. These people sacrificed their lives, properties and everything they possessed to liberate their country,” he said. He urged the religious leaders to portray a positive image of the Taliban, saying their enemies had spent billions of dollars to damage their reputation within and outside Afghanistan.
“The international community in their preaching and propaganda had presented the Taliban as terrorists and anthropophagous,” Sheikh Haibatullah Akhunzada told the participants. Taliban Foreign Minister Maulvi Amir Khan Muttaqi had been struggling hard but could not succeed in convincing any country so far to recognise them as a government.
They are suffering from a serious economic crisis due to strict enforcement of international sanctions and the cutting off of development aid. Sheikh Haibatullah’s speech didn’t indicate if they were having any major issues to compromise on their principles.
“We will deal with the international community as per Islamic Sharia. If the Sharia doesn’t allow it, we will not deal with any other country,” he said. Besides Afghanistan’s neighbours, the western nations want the Taliban to soften restrictions on women and to allow girls education.
The recent killing of al-Qaeda leader Dr Ayman al-Zawahiri in a US drone strike in Kabul has caused complications for the Taliban government as the United States had accused them of violating the Doha Accord by sheltering the al-Qaeda leader.
The Taliban had their own version of the story. They didn’t confirm the killing of al-Qaeda in the drone strike but termed it a violation of the Doha Agreement as well as an attack on their sovereignty.
The Taliban leader stressed the implementation of Sharia. “Whether they are women in their houses or men outside, they need to live according to the Islamic Sharia. The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan is of the people of Afghanistan, ”he explained.
He said he had personally advised his “mujahideen” to give extra favour to the people of Panjshir valley. “The mujahideen told me that the people of Panjshir used to escape when they saw them and when they asked them the reason, they told them that they were informed that the Taliban will take their properties and will insult them as they came from Pakistan. They said this because of 40 years of malicious propaganda against the Taliban in Panjshir valley,” he said.
“We are here to protect your respect and defend your lives and properties”. Sheikh Haibatullah in his speech also criticised his people in the government. “I don’t like the way people are being treated at checkpoints in Afghanistan. I was driving in a car and was stopped by the Taliban security personnel at a checkpoint and I didn’t like the way they treated us and other people. I then called the officials of the Police Department and informed them about the situation. They explained it to me but they didn’t satisfy me,” he said.
He directed the Taliban leaders to give proper training to their people before assigning them responsibilities of dealing with the people. He directed the security officials to make better security arrangements for the people not only in Kandahar, but everywhere in the country.
“I am receiving complaints from people that government and security officials are closing their doors to avoid people. Please open your doors and make sure to listen to the people and their problems and don’t disappoint them,” he advised them.
The recent rise in violence in Afghanistan hurt Sheikh Haibatullah Akhunzada as well and he seemed concerned about the growing influence of the Islamic State there. He said they were fighting against the foreign occupying forces in Afghanistan, saying he would like to ask people what they were fighting for now?
“Nobody is occupying our country right now then what they are fighting for. They are fighting against Islam and the Islamic Sharia now,” he said. “We assure them and all the Muslims that we are working for the implementation of the Islamic Sharia government in Afghanistan. Then why do they climb the mountains to fight against us? Why are you being misguided by others? Why are you damaging this country,” he added.
The Taliban leader said they were claiming to set up the Islamic Caliphate. “I ask these unfortunate people how they can set up the Islamic Caliphate by killing innocent people. Why did you launch your campaign against us as we are Muslims? I don’t understand how they justify the killing of innocent people in mosques,” Sheikh Haibatullah said.
According to Independent Urdu website, a resolution was presented in the gathering. The resolution, without naming any country, said the neighbouring country that allowed use of its air space for drone attack inside Afghanistan to target Ayman al-Zawahiri, “is also a part of this crime”, terming it against the norms of neghourhood and Islam. They (the neighbouring country) should understand the consequences of bargaining on Afghanistan and allowing use of land and air space against Afghanistan would be bad. The US has not identified the place from where the attack was launched, not the Taliban have named any country.
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