Taliban leader warns foreigners not to interfere in Afghanistan

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Taliban leader Mawlawi Haibatullah Akhundzada once again warned foreigners not to interfere in Afghanistan during a rare speech at a meeting of Islamic clerics in Kabul on Friday, according to state media.

The reclusive leader told the conference that Afghanistan “cannot develop without being independent”, according to state news agency Bakhtar.

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“Thank God, we are now an independent country. (Foreigners) shouldn’t give us their orders, it’s our system and we have our own decisions,” added Akhundzada.

In the speech, Akhundzada praised the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan last August, nearly two decades after they were driven from Kabul by US troops, saying: “The success of the Afghan jihad is not only a source of pride for Afghans, but also for all Muslims around the world”.

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The speed of the seizure of power, just weeks after the start of the withdrawal of US troops, took the world by surprise and led to the dissolution of the government of Ashraf Ghani, backed by foreigners, who had fled the country.

Akhundzada made the comments in an audio recording during a three-day religious meeting with 3,000 participants – all male, according to state media. The meeting was not open to the media, but the CNN listened to the recording of Akhundzada’s speech.

The meeting in Kabul began on Thursday (30). Akhundzada is based in Kandahar, birthplace of the Taliban and spiritual heart, and is rarely photographed in public, a fact that has fueled rumors over the years that he was ill or possibly dead. No photographs of Akhundzada attending the meeting, which began in Kabul on Thursday, have been released.

A senior religious cleric of the Taliban’s founding generation, Akhundzada, was named Taliban leader in 2016 after the group’s previous leader, Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansour, was killed in a US airstrike in Pakistan.

He retained the post when the group announced its interim government in September.

Akhundzada ruled out including past administrations in the formation of any future government, although he said he “forgave” them.

“I have forgiven the oppressors of the old regime. I do not hold them responsible for their past actions, if someone has made them trouble without committing new crimes, I will punish them. However, pardon does not mean bringing them into the government,” he said. Akhundzada said in the audio recording.

The message appeared to contradict statements made by other members of the Taliban leadership in recent months, who expressed an openness to a more inclusive government to garner international support.

The international community has repeatedly called on the Taliban to broaden the ranks of its government and restore the rights of women and girls, which have been stripped away since the group took power, if they are to be officially recognized. The World Bank has frozen projects worth hundreds of millions of dollars on the matter.

Women in Afghanistan are no longer able to work in most sectors and need a male tutor for long-distance travel, while girls have been prevented from returning to secondary school.

Sirajuddin Haqqani, Afghanistan’s interim interior minister and deputy Taliban leader since 2016, told CNN in May that there would be “good news soon” about the Taliban’s as-yet-unfulfilled promise to allow girls to return to school, but suggested that women who protested the regime’s restrictions on women’s rights should stay at home.

During an urgent meeting held in Geneva on Friday, UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet warned that “women and girls in Afghanistan are experiencing the most significant and rapid setback in the enjoyment of their rights in decades”.

Speaking to clerics, Akhundzada reaffirmed his commitment to the implementation of Sharia law, Islam’s legal system derived from the Quran, while expressing his opposition to “the way of life of non-believers”.

The Taliban’s harsh interpretation of Sharia law when in power led to dozens of violent punishments, including the stoning of alleged adulterers, public executions and amputations.

Source: CNN Brasil

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