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Taliban Demands 'Elite Religious Council' To Select National Leader

Members of the Taliban delegation attend the opening session of peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban in the Qatari capital, Doha, on September 12.

The Taliban militant group on September 20 demanded the creation of an "elite religious council" to replace democratic means of selecting Afghanistan's leaders in a future Islamic system.

Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid told a Dutch broadcaster that the group is seeking to establish a powerful council of religious leaders to select the country's future rulers.

Such councils select the Caliph, or leader, of Muslim states and form central parts of political systems based on Sunni Islam. Taliban founder Mullah Omar was himself appointed Afghan leader by such a council after the group took power in 1996.

In the same interview, Mujahid rejected the Afghan Constitution -- which guarantees the rights of religious minorities and women, media, and freedom of expression -- saying the law was created with the help of occupying forces.

The comments come after a week of intra-Afghan peace talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government in the Qatari capital, Doha.

The Afghan government has repeatedly asked the Taliban to observe a cease-fire during the talks, but the militants say they will not stop the conflict until the root causes are resolved.

Responding to criticism that no women were included in the Taliban's negotiation team, Mujahid said women were not responsible or capable enough to participate.

However, in a slight softening of the group's position, Mujahid said women would be allowed to play a limited role in the country's judicial, education, and health sectors in the future "true Islamic system" sought by the group.

The Taliban rejected all rights for women and minorities during their reign in the 1990s.