Tuesday, 17 May, 2022
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Pakistani Salafi clerics are upset with Taliban after Imam killing and mosque-closing spree

Lecturer and IS-K ‘recruiter’ Shaikh Abu Obaidullah Mutawakil was found dead in Afghanistan. Taliban has denied any role.

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New Delhi: Pakistan’s Salafi clerics are upset with the Taliban. Earlier this month, two clerics from Afghanistan were allegedly abducted and killed by the Taliban, prompting the Jamiat Ahle Hadith — a Salafi religious organisation in Pakistan — to condemn their deaths and warn of a protest if justice isn’t served.

In Afghanistan, the Taliban reportedly antagonise the Salafis because of ideological differences and as retribution against IS-K attacks. The IS-K is said to have offered a platform to many Salafi jihadists post-9/11. But clerics in Pakistan — viewed globally as a tacit ally of the Taliban — aren’t too pleased by how the Salafis have been treated by the new government in Afghanistan.

On Tuesday, the Jamiat Ahle Hadith put out a statement saying the Taliban should punish the perpetrators of the alleged murders by hanging them. The two killed, Shaikh Abu Obaidullah Mutawakil and Muhammad Nabi Muhammadi, were from Kabul and were found dead on 5 September. Mutawakil was a former university lecturer, imam, and allegedly a recruiter for IS-K.

“It’s your responsibility,” Pakistani Salafi cleric Allama Hisham Elahi Zaheer thunders in a video, calling the slain clerics “martyrs”.

“Salafis constitute the majority in three provinces of Afghanistan, and they should also be included in the Taliban’s interim government,” he added.

Taliban’s spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid, meanwhile, has denied any wrongdoing, saying, “The killing of Maulvi Obaidullah Mutawakil, a religious scholar in Kabul, and one of his students has nothing to do with the Islamic Emirate. They were abducted a few days ago, and their bodies were found today. The intelligence of the Islamic Emirate is looking for the perpetrators. Evil circles do such things for the sake of divisiveness.”

Also read: In Afghanistan, a new ‘great game’ with ISIS, ISK and Pakistan is on with a vengeance

Salafism in Afghanistan

According to a news report by TRT World, “With the Taliban’s return to power in Afghanistan, there are reports that local Taliban fighters went after influential Salafi figures in Nangarhar and Kabul.”

Nikkei Asia reported that Mullah Abu Obaidullah Mutawakil was killed, “because a large number of his students belong to ISIS-K,” and that the Taliban “also shut down over three dozen Salafi mosques and religious schools around the country” since coming to power. Mutawakil had been earlier arrested by Afghanistan’s National Directorate of Security in 2019.

Citing sources, Pakistani journalist Saleem Mehsud tweeted that the Taliban has recently shut down 26 seminaries and mosques “in recent anti-ISIS Khorasan drive in Afghanistan”

The IS-K — notorious for having bombed the Hamid Karzai airport as US troops were withdrawing —  reportedly drew its support base from Afghan Salafis. It has competed with the Taliban to control various parts of Afghanistan.

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