‘Teacher of the Taliban’

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  • Maulana Samiul Haq to the rescue

If there existed the concept of an organised clergy in Islam, Maulana Samiul Haq would no doubt be its ‘high priest’ in Afghanistan, especially during the 1990s, when Taliban fighters became the most potent military force and then rulers from 1996—2001 in the divided and war-torn country. The Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Islam (S) chief, twice a sitting IJI Senator, gained more fame for his religious seminary, Darul Uloom Haqqania at Akora Khattak, the ‘university of jihad’, in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, from which numerous future Taliban leaders and field commanders ‘graduated’. He maintained close contact with the Taliban and reportedly taught incumbent Taliban chief, Haibatullah Akhundzada.

Perhaps it was due to the latter reason that an officially sanctioned Afghan delegation met the 82 years old cleric on Monday, seeking his support in bringing his former ward to the negotiating table and assisting in ending the 17 year old conflict. But even if the maulana now himself desires an end to jihad and bloodshed, it is debatable whether he wields the requisite influence over the majority of Taliban commanders.  Apart from factions holding varying opinions on restoring Afghan peace, even the ‘official’ Taliban are divided on whether it will be war or peace, as the truce agreement on Eidul Fitr but not on Eidul Azha, clearly demonstrated. The JUI(S) chief’s international clout is also rendered shakier by his viewpoint regarding US –NATO troop withdrawal as a precursor for peace, and now perhaps revised one, of the Afghan government being a ‘puppet’ setup.

Press reports of what transpired at the maulana’s meeting with the Afghan delegation are sketchy and inconclusive. Apparently they discussed the ineffectual US efforts for peace, emphasised intensive Afghan government- Taliban meetings and unity among various armed groups. Another piece of advice was asking US for a definite troop exit timetable, and exhorting China to play a more vigorous role. However, excluding the US altogether from secret talks between Afghan government, Taliban and selected religious scholars, would be counter-productive, indeed the red rag to the bull. And hopefully it won’t turn all out to be merely an election stunt with the October 20 elections looming, by appealing to the Afghan people’s desperate yearning for peace.