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Taliban leader urges officials to set aside differences

Saturday's written statement from Hibatullah Akhundzada was published ahead of the Eid al-Fitr holiday that marks the end of Ramadan.
Taliban leader urges officials to set aside differences
Posted at 9:42 PM, Apr 06, 2024

The Taliban's reclusive supreme leader Hibatullah Akhundzada urged his officials to set aside their differences and serve Afghanistan properly, according to a written statement released Saturday ahead of the Eid al-Fitr holiday marking the end of Ramadan.

Public dissent within the Taliban is rare, but some senior figures have expressed their disagreement with the leadership's decision making, especially the bans on female education.

Akhundzada, an Islamic scholar who almost never appears in public, rarely leaves the Taliban heartland in southern Kandahar province. He and his circle have been instrumental in imposing restrictions on women and girls that have sparked an international outcry and isolated the Taliban on the global stage.

His message was distributed in seven languages including Uzbek and Turkmen — the Taliban are courting cash-rich Central Asian countries for investment and legitimacy — and it touched on diplomatic relations, the economy, justice, charity, and the virtues of meritocracy.

Akhundzada said Taliban officials should "live a brotherly life among themselves, avoid disagreements and selfishness."

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He said the war against the Soviet invasion and communism failed due to disagreements within the Taliban and that they could not implement Shariah in Afghanistan as a result of these divisions.

While he mentioned education, he said nothing about reopening schools and universities for girls and women.

Nor did he refer to recent unconfirmed reports about him saying there would be a resumption of stoning Afghan women to death for adultery, a punishment previously carried out during the Taliban's first period of rule in the late 1990s.

Akhundzada in Saturday's message said security did not come from "being tough and killing more; rather, security is aligned with Shariah and justice."

Hassan Abbas, a professor at the National Defense University in Washington D.C. and author of the "Return of the Taliban," said Akhundzada's message sounded "largely reasonable" and was focused on governance and anti-corruption matters.

"I believe this message is carefully crafted to dispel the negative impression created by a recently released audio of his that gives a very dogmatic and regressive message, especially about public punishments and women rights," Abbas told The Associated Press. "I think this new message is also intended as damage control."

Also on Saturday, the Taliban-controlled Supreme Court said six people, including a woman, were publicly flogged on adultery charges in eastern Logar province.

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