VOA News / April 15, 2018
Focusing on Pakistani hardline religious scholars, Afghanistan is in the process of convening an international religious conference in a bid to find a peaceful solution to the conflict in the county, the Afghan High Peace Council (HPC) said.
The HPC told VOA it is very important that Pakistani scholars, who believe the Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan is legitimate, participate in the “Grand Religious Conference.”
“We are hoping that those Pakistani religious scholars like Maulana Fazal-ur-Rehman and Maulana Sami-ul-Haq, who see the war in Afghanistan as legitimate jihad, would participate in the conference,” Sayed Ehsan Taheri, Afghan High Peace Council spokesperson, told VOA.
Rehman, who is also a member of country’s National Assembly, linked the Afghan Taliban’s insurgency to the presence of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, in an effort to justify the Taliban’s continued violence in the country.
His Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam religious party is also accused of maintaining links with various militant groups.
Similarly, Haq, who is also known as “Father of the Taliban,” openly backs the Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan.
“Give them just one year, and they will make the whole of Afghanistan happy,” Haq said in a 2013 interview with Reuters.
It is believed that Taliban movement was initiated in Darul Uloom Haqqnia, a Pakistani religious school run by Maulana Sami-ul- Haq.
The international religious conference would give the Islamic religious clerics the chance to find common ground in terms of war and peace in Afghanistan.
“Counterterrorism in the region and Afghanistan, and peace and war in Afghanistan, would be the main topics of discussion, based on Islamic principles,” Taheri said. “It is not clear yet where the conference will be held.”
The Afghan peace council has doubled its efforts to earn Islamic countries’ votes to convince the Taliban and its supporters to end the war in Afghanistan after Afghan president Mohammad Ashraf Ghani offered unconditional peace talks to the insurgents.
Experts are not divided over whether religious scholars can play a constructive role.
“The so-called religious scholars of Islamic states have no authority, including Pakistan. Even if they do participate in such conferences, they will only follow the government’s policies,” Osman Kakar, a Pakistani politician and Afghanistan expert told VOA. “This problem will persist until countries stop intervention in Afghanistan,” he said.
Mohammad Rasool Taheri, a U.S.-based religious scholar, agrees that the Afghan war and peace issue cannot be solved by religious scholars. “I don’t think religious scholars can do anything in terms of bringing peace or ending the war in Afghanistan,” he added.
Waheed Muzhda, a former member of the insurgent group, said the issue of peace and war in Afghanistan cannot be solved, even by the Afghans, and requires a broader international platform.
“This problem [war and peace in Afghanistan] cannot be solved in Afghanistan until the world powers [involved in Afghanistan] solve their differences on the international level,” Muzhda told VOA.
Indonesia peace conference
Jakarta is preparing to host a trilateral conference, where religious scholars from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Indonesia would try to end more than 16 years of war in Afghanistan.
The Afghan High Peace Council said Indonesia and Afghanistan were ready to hold the conference and were waiting for Pakistan to confirm its participation.
The Afghan Taliban has urged scholars to boycott the conference.
On Saturday, during an opening ceremony of voter registration for the upcoming parliamentary election, Afghanistan’s President Ashraf Ghani once again called on the Taliban to join the political arena and participate in the election.
“President Ghani asked the Taliban to act as a political party and participate in the elections, while utilizing the prevailing opportunity and the peace offer,” an Afghan presidential palace statement states.
Pressure on Taliban
Gen. John Nicholson, the top U.S. military commander in Afghanistan, said last month in Kabul that a religious, diplomatic, military and social approach would be utilized to put pressure on the Taliban.
“There will be religious pressure applied to the Taliban with the ulemas (Islamic scholars) hosted in Indonesia and elsewhere to strip away the religious legitimacy for jihad in Afghanistan,” he told reporters in the capital city, Kabul.
Nicholson called the parliamentary election a tool that would socially pressure the Taliban when Afghans vote for leaders later this year.
The Afghan government and the U.S.-led Resolute Support Mission insist the Taliban will never achieve a victory on the battlefield. “So this really is probably their best time to attempt a negotiation, because it’s only going to get worse for them,” Nicholson added.
The Taliban has yet to respond to the Afghan peace offer.
While the peace offer is still on the table, the Afghan government and its international allies continue to target the Taliban, as the insurgents carry out attacks all over the country.