Will Afghan Taliban’s decree against foreign attacks impact Pakistan?

Afghan Taliban

By Tahir Khan

ISLAMABAD: In recent days, both mainstream and social media have been rife with discussions about whether the Taliban’s supreme leader has prohibited his followers from engaging in ‘war’ abroad. The debate also centres on the specifics of the directive of Taliban’s ‘Darul Iftah” issued on this matter.

Senior Taliban figures in Afghanistan have been visiting provincial capitals to clarify the supreme leader Haibatullah Akhunzada’s order, which prevents the Taliban from participating in wars outside Afghanistan without the Emir’s consent. This information comes from high-ranking officials of Afghanistan’s interim administration.

The directives, authored in a Pashto-language pamphlet available to HUM News English, gained significant attention in light of recent comments from leading Pakistani civil and military figures, claiming that attacks on Pakistani territory are being executed by Afghan individuals.

While the booklet doesn’t explicitly mention the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan or directly allude to its operations, it states, “If anyone goes [outside of Afghanistan] for this purpose [of fighting], his action will not be seen not as Jihad but as a war.” It further notes that only in the event of an invasion does the ‘Emir’s’ permission become redundant.

Afghan attackers

Following the July 12 assault on a military base in Zhob, Balochistan, security authorities in Quetta verified that three of the five attackers were Afghan citizens. Foreign Office representative Mumtaz Zehra Baloch also confirmed involvement of Afghan nationals in the incident.

She also requested the Taliban-run Afghan embassy in Islamabad to retrieve the attackers’ remains, but no reply was given.

A senior Taliban official informed Hum News English that they’ve identified “certain elements” attempting to motivate and enlist members from the Afghan Taliban to combat outside Afghanistan. He mentioned, “The primary areas for these recruitments are provinces neighbouring Pakistan like Kunar and Paktika. The Emirate has attempted to halt these individuals,” Hum News English was told off-record.

Subsequently, the booklet was produced and distributed by the central Daral Iftah, responsible for issuing religious decrees on major topics.

Named “Effects of obedience in the stability of Sharia System,” a senior Taliban representative stated that this booklet is now a formal part of the curriculum for Taliban officials and military leaders.

The document asserts, “If the Amir prohibits the mujahideen from combat, his orders are binding on all. Mujahideen will abstain from fighting when instructed. Severe repercussions await those who act otherwise.”

Another Taliban figure mentioned that the booklet was released in late July, during a period of heightened attacks by the TTP, primarily in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Apart from the TTP, the Islamic State Khorasan (ISK) faction claimed responsibility for the devastating bombing of a Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) event in the Bajaur district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, resulting in over 60 casualties.

According to sources, top Taliban leadership, including their interim interior minister Sirajuddin Haqqani, interim defence minister Mullah Yaqoob (son of former leader Mullah Umar), and other officials are travelling to various cities to present the booklet’s contents to Taliban members.

It is pertinent to note that while the Darul Iftah is a paramount institution within the Taliban, the booklet doesn’t directly quote Akhunzada. Instead, it’s penned by the institute members. However, this body would not publish anything without Akhunzada’s knowledge.

Low expectations

In Pakistan, defence specialists speculate that these directives might have minimal influence on Pakistan’s internal security landscape. They believe that the key is not merely preventing Afghans from operating in Pakistan but also ensuring the TTP doesn’t receive support in Afghanistan.

Retired Brigadier Muhammad Ishaq told Hum News English, “If the Afghan Taliban curtail TTP activities in Afghanistan, it could significantly enhance Pakistan’s security situation.” 

Despite the Afghan Taliban’s denial of TTP’s presence in Afghanistan, Ishaq, who has also served in Afghanistan, believes that Mullah Yaqoob and Sirajuddin Haqqani play a crucial role. Their discussions with TTP leaders could potentially halt attacks in Pakistan, a sentiment echoed by many in Islamabad.

Following the Zhob incident, Pakistan’s army chief also expressed grave concerns about the TTP’s freedom of operation in Afghanistan during a visit to the wounded in Quetta.

Taliban clarification

A clarification from Afghan Taliban spokesperson Zabiullah Mujahid, as reported by Tolo News, sheds light on why individuals like Brigadier Ishaq have limited expectations from the directives issued in Afghanistan. Mujahid clarified that no instructions have been given by Haibatullah Akhunzada concerning the TTP’s warfare in Pakistan. Instead, the Taliban Darul Iftah issued guidelines as an internal document for the Afghan Taliban’s consumption.

The TTP also declared that the booklet doesn’t pertain to their operations.

While Siraj Haqqani mentioned in a gathering in Laghman province that seminars are being held “on the Emir’s special instructions”, it was Mullah Yaqoob who recently told his military commanders in Kabul that those leaving the country without the Emir’s consent would be deemed to be engaging in warfare.

COAS Statement

Given the TTP’s claim of 40 attacks in the first half of August, Pakistan’s Chief of Army Staff clarified last week that Pakistan would now only engage with Afghanistan’s interim administration, not ‘mobs’. 

He stated, “Pakistan is concerned about the sanctuaries available to banned groups and the freedom they enjoy on Afghan territory. Pakistan will leave no stone unturned to dismantle terrorist networks and safeguard its citizens at all costs.”

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