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Is the Taliban rejecting Wahhabism

Taliban said it wants “better diplomatic and trade relations” with all countries

taliban-kabul-reuters Taliban fighters stand outside the interior ministry in Kabul, Afghanistan | Reuters

The word is still reeling under the shock of Afghanistan falling so quickly to the advances of the Taliban. The only embassies currently functioning in the country are those of Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, China and Russia. The embassies of nearly every other nation have been evacuated. Saudi Arabia and UAE have had relations with the Taliban in the past. Pakistan has been known to aid the Taliban, grant its leaders, footsoldiers safe haven in Pakistan.

China and Russia have a joint interest to maintain positive relations with the Taliban. Both the nations don’t want Islamic extremism to spill over to their nations and the Taliban can help then rein it within Afghan borders. Russia and China both have economic and infrastructure interests in Afghanistan. Both Russia and China also hope to cut off the US, a mutual adversary and establish stronger trade and military relations in the region.

The Taliban in the meantime seems keen to be seen in a different light. The group’s spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid took to Twitter and said that the group wants “better diplomatic and trade relations” with all countries. Soon after taking hold of Kabul, the group also encouraged women to return to workplaces and promised amnesty. No nation, however, wants to be the first to acknowledge a Taliban government.

On Tuesday, a Taliban leader said, “We don’t want Wahhabism in Afghanistan.” It is a striking statement since the Taliban in the 90s was inspired by Wahhabism ideology, which led to the massacre of close to 15,000 Shia Muslims—the ideology is mostly practised by Sunni Muslims.  Several laws that deny women several freedoms in Saudi Arabia have their origins in Wahhabism. However, if the Taliban was to truly reject Wahhabism, it would mean that Afghanistan could see peace after more than 40 years. 

Afghanistan has been the safe haven for Wahhabi terror outfits, including al-Qaeda. It was to capture the leader of Osama Bin Laden, that the US invaded Afghan soil 20 years ago. Taliban has executed Omar Khorasani, former head of the Islamic State in South Asia, who had been languishing in a Kabul prison for over a year. The IS is a Wahhabi-inspired terror group. Saudi Arabia, whose Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman has been challenging Wahhabism, urged the Taliban to preserve life and property. However, within a day of the Taliban taking over, Afghan people came out to protest and they were dispersed violently by the Taliban—two protesters were shot at. Here, the Taliban seems to be acting in contradiction to the message of amnesty they wish to send out. 

China on Thursday said it is in talks with the Taliban and called for an “objective judgement” on their actions after it seized power in Afghanistan, saying the militant group appears to be more “clear-eyed and rational” and hoped that it will deliver on its promises, including protection of women's rights. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said that although the situation hasn’t cleared up completely, it is believed that the “Afghan Taliban will not repeat the history of the past and now they are clear-eyed and rational” compared to their last rule. Leaders of the Taliban and its spokesperson have openly stated that the militant group will work to resolve the problems faced by the people, meet their aspirations and strive to build an open, inclusive Islamic government, Hua told a media briefing when asked whether China is in talks with the Taliban and Beijing’s conditions for recognising its government. “Actually, we have been saying on the basis of respecting the sovereignty of the country and the will of various factions, China maintained communication and contacts with the Afghan Taliban during the last couple of days after the major changes have taken place in Afghanistan,” Hua said.

 On Wednesday, China said it will decide on extending diplomatic recognition to the Taliban in Afghanistan only after the formation of the government in the country, which it hoped would be “open, inclusive and broadly representative”. 

The Taliban has also stated that it is committed to equality for all, eliminate discrimination and has pardoned former government employees,  will protect women’s freedom of speech, employment and educational rights. The Taliban also said they will take responsible action to protect the safety of the Afghan citizens and foreign missions and would like to develop good relations with other countries.

The Taliban of today seems keener on asserting traditional Islam and Shariah law. Taliban leadership on Tuesday said that it is keen to have peaceful international relations.

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