The supreme leader of Afghanistan’s ruling Taliban has labeled cross-border attacks, including those on Pakistan, as “haram” or forbidden under Islam.
Senior Taliban leaders communicated the “diktat” or decree from Hibatullah Akhundzada to Pakistani officials during recent bilateral talks to underscore their determination not to allow anyone to threaten other countries from Afghan soil, highly placed official sources in Islamabad told VOA.
The issue figured prominently during the three-day meetings Asif Durrani, the special representative on Afghanistan, and his delegation held last month with Taliban Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi and Interior Minister Sirajuddin Haqqani, among others, in the capital, Kabul.
The visit took place amid a surge in deadly attacks on Pakistani security forces and civilians, with the outlawed Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, or TTP, claiming responsibility for plotting much of the violence.
A senior Pakistani official privy to the Kabul meetings told VOA that TTP bases and activities in Afghanistan had dominated the discussions. He spoke on the condition of anonymity as he was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly.
“Sheikh Hibatullah's diktats bind all groups pledging allegiance to him, and his diktat is that attacking Pakistan is haram,” the official quoted Taliban hosts as telling the delegates.
The Pakistani side urged the Taliban to make the diktat public to help deter TTP and its Afghan supporters from conducting activities that undermine relations between the two countries.
“We have circulated it among our people, among the [security] formations, and intelligence,” Taliban leaders responded, according to the Pakistani official who spoke to VOA.
The Taliban did not immediately comment on the reported Pakistani assertions.
The official Afghan television station aired audio of a speech Saturday by Taliban Defense Minister Muhammad Yaqoob, in which he revealed for the first time a few details about Hibatullah’s order regarding cross-border violence.
Yaqoob said, without naming any country, that the Taliban supreme leader had terminated the jihad or holy war, and “obedience” to his decree is mandatory” for all. Yaqoob was speaking to a gathering of Taliban commanders and security forces.
“If someone still leaves Afghanistan intending to wage jihad abroad, it cannot be considered jihad anymore. If Mujahideen [Taliban forces] continue to fight despite orders from the emir to stop, it is not jihad but rather hostility," Yaqoob said, using Hibatullah’s official title.
The Taliban call their two decadeslong insurgency against the United States and NATO forces a jihad against “the occupation” of Afghanistan and its supporters, citing their Islamic beliefs. Hibatullah announced the termination of the so-called jihad after his hardline group reclaimed power in August 2021 when all international forces departed the country.
Islamabad alleges that TTP leaders, known to have pledged allegiance to Hibatullah, and other insurgent groups have moved their operation bases to Afghanistan since the Taliban returned to power in Kabul and intensified terrorism in Pakistan, allegations the Taliban reject as unfounded.
Last week, a suicide bomber struck a political rally in the northwestern border town of Khar, killing 63 Pakistanis and injuring dozens more. Islamic State in Khorasan Province, or IS-K, an Afghan-based affiliate of the Islamic State terrorist group, claimed responsibility for that bombing.
Pakistani authorities have stated the TTP was behind a July 12 raid against a military base in the southwestern city of Zhob, saying three heavily armed fighters linked to the Afghan Taliban were among some five assailants. The attack killed at least nine Pakistani soldiers and all the assailants in the ensuing hourslong gun battles.
The Pakistani foreign ministry reported last week that investigators had identified the three slain Afghans as residents of the southern Kandahar province in Afghanistan, and it had asked the Afghan Embassy to receive their bodies.
The Taliban urged Pakistan during the recent meetings to restart talks with TTP to find a negotiated settlement to the militant violence. Pakistani officials declined the offer, saying previous negotiations, brokered and hosted by Kabul last year, “miserably failed” because the TTP had refused “to surrender their arms and owe allegiance” to the constitution of Pakistan.
“These are the conditions. Whether they [TTP] like it, they must fulfill them. We cannot allow non-state actors to dictate their agenda,” said the Pakistani official who shared details of the talks in Kabul.
Pakistani officials report a 70% increase in TTP-led terrorist attacks over the past two years. This year alone, the violence has killed more than 450 people, including security forces. The army has confirmed the deaths of more than 120 officers and soldiers in the first seven months of 2023.
The Taliban reportedly told the Pakistani delegation that they plan to move TTP members and families away from the Afghan border regions to address Islamabad’s counterterrorism concerns. They also reiterated that Kabul would need financial assistance for relocating and resettling the militants in other parts of Afghanistan.
A recent U.N. Security Council report has also confirmed the relocation of TTP by Kabul authorities.
In June, certain TTP elements were relocated away from the border area as part of the Taliban’s efforts to rein in the group under pressure from the government of Pakistan,” the report said. It noted that up to 6,000 TTP members operate out of Afghanistan, and the Taliban takeover has “emboldened” them.
The U.N. report warned that the TTP could become a regional threat if it continues to have a safe operating base in Afghanistan.