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Afghan Leader Questions Pakistani Antiterror Fatwa

Afghan President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani (file photo)
Afghan President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani (file photo)

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has questioned a recent Pakistani religious ruling declaring suicide bombings un-Islamic.

Speaking at a gathering in the capital, Kabul, on January 17, Ghani asked how the January 16 antiterror edict could only be limited to Pakistan.

" Aren't Islamic religious principles universal for all Islamic countries? Or can they be limited to one country?” he asked. “Unlike [Joseph] Stalin’s socialism, Islamic teachings cannot be limited to one country because they are universal.”

Repeating his government’s longstanding stance that the insecurity in Afghanistan is prompted by Islamabad’s support for the Afghan Taliban and its military wing, the Haqqani network, he added, “This is why this fatwa first needs to be implemented in relation to Afghanistan.”

In a book titled Pakistan’s Message published by the government, more than 1,800 Pakistani clerics representing various Islamic sects declared suicide bombings to be forbidden or "haram" under Islamic principles. They also called for a complete ban on violence in the name of jihad by non-state groups.

"This fatwa provides a strong base for the stability of a moderate Islamic society," Pakistani President Mamnoon Hussain wrote in the book, adding that Pakistanis can "seek guidance" from the fatwa "for building a national narrative in order to curb extremism in keeping with the golden principles of Islam."

Ghani, however, said that by supporting groups such as the Afghan Taliban Islamabad is undermining the stability of its neighboring Islamic country.

“Supporting terrorism is similar to rearing snakes,” he noted. “Those who raise snakes in their backyard are ultimately bitten by them.”

For decades, Afghans have blamed Pakistan for acting to undermine their country’s stability. In the 1970s, Islamabad began training Afghan Islamist guerrillas long before the communist coup and subsequent Soviet invasion of the country.

For many Afghans, the Soviet withdrawal in 1989 didn’t change Islamabad’s calculus when it continued supporting hard-line Islamists, which ultimately led to the Taliban controlling most of Afghanistan by the turn of the century.

Islamabad supported the U.S. war on terror in ending the Taliban regime in late 2001 for hosting Al-Qaeda and affiliated groups. But months after the demise of the Taliban, U.S. and Afghan officials accused Islamabad of allowing the hard-line movement and its international allies to retreat into Pakistan.

For the next 16 years, Washington celebrated Islamabad as an ally while frequently criticizing its counterterrorism efforts. It gave Pakistan billions of dollars in military and development assistance but also conducted hundreds of drone strikes inside the country. The United States also claimed credit for killing Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in 2011 and Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansur in 2016, both inside Pakistan.

Washington’s frustration with Islamabad appeared to reach a tipping point when U.S. President Donald Trump accused Islamabad of giving “safe haven to terrorists we hunt in Afghanistan.” In a January 1 post on Twitter, he also accused of Pakistan of taking $33 billion in aid over the past 15 years while offering back "nothing but lies and deceit."

In Kabul, Mawlawi Abdul Basir Haqqani, the head of a clerical association, says the Pakistani religious ruling or fatwa is connected to the latest warning from Trump.

“Why didn’t they issue the fatwa a few years ago?” he asked in an apparent reference to a decade of violent attacks by militant groups that killed more than 60,000 Pakistani civilians and soldiers. “It is also important to note that the religious scholars of other Muslim countries, including Afghanistan, had no role in framing this fatwa.”

In a hint at how Ghani wants to end the war in his country, he called on the Taliban to make peace with his government.

“If you are Afghan, do not allow a neighboring country to decide on your behalf,” he said. “Do they want peace to return to this country?”

The Pakistani religious edict is unlikely to placate domestic and international critics who frequently accuse the country’s security services of covertly supporting Islamic militants to utilize their irregular warfare expertise and act as proxy forces to achieve Islamabad's goals in Afghanistan and India.

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