KABUL: A meeting of Islamic scholars from across the world will be held in Jeddah in July to discuss the religious justification of the Taliban war against the Afghan government and the presence of foreign troops in Afghanistan, Afghan High Peace Council (HPC) officials said on Saturday.
Akram Khpolwak, HPC’s secretariat chief, is in Saudi Arabia and has held meetings with authorities and members of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation about the moot, Sayed Ehsanullah Tahiri, HPC spokesman, told Arab News.
The first of its kind, the moot will examine the latest round of the spiraling Afghan war, which began with the ousting of the Taliban in 2001. It is being held at the request of the HPC, which has struggled for years to bring Taliban militants to the dialogue table, the HPC official said.
It follows the offer of President Ashraf Ghani’s unconditional peace package in February, which has earned regional and international support.
The Taliban have neither rejected nor accepted the overture, but the launch of the group’s annual offensive this week was seen as a rejection of the offer by some analysts.
Asked if Afghanistan would accept a decision by the meeting that sought the expulsion of foreign troops, Tahiri said that the Taliban could put a timetable for troop withdrawal on the table when the group accepts Ghani’s unconditional peace talks offer.
“The meeting in Jeddah will have high impact since in the past Pakistani ulema have repeatedly termed the war here as jihad and a righteous act,” he said, adding that the upcoming moot will decide that the Afghan war has no legality.
“We need a religious verdict on this war and the holy religion of Islam emphatically orders all that there has to be talks, negotiations, between adversaries at all times.”
He said that despite the launch of the spring offensive by the Taliban, sources from within the group suggested that its leadership was deliberating on Ghani’s overture and expressed the hope that an Afghan-led peace process would begin later this year.
“All scholars from the Muslim countries should attend the meeting and assess the Afghan war and bloodshed from a religious point of view,” Tahiri said.
Abdul Sattar Khawasi, a lawmaker who is a leading opponent of foreign troops in Afghanistan, described the meeting as a great initiative by Saudi Arabia.
“We hope that the ulema come up with a just decision,” Khawasi said.
“We have some ulema who exploit facts. We hope that this meeting debates and decides about the overall conflict that is going on in different parts of the Islamic world,” he told Arab News.