The international Ulema conference on suicide bombings that was supposed to take place in Kabul in late January has been postponed, Pakistan’s Express Tribune reported yesterday. Omer Daudzai, the Afghan ambassador to Pakistan, told the Express Tribune that neither Afghanistan nor Pakistan was prepared for the event.
According to Daudzai, the conference will now take place in February. No new date has been chosen, however, and other details, such as the agenda, also remain vague. In all likelihood, the conference will not take place at any time in the near future.
The conference of Islamic scholars was originally proposed to Islamabad in November 2012 by Salahuddin Rabbani, the chairman of Afghanistan’s High Peace Council, and was to specifically address the issue of suicide bombings and reiterate the finding that they are un-Islamic and not permitted by the Koran.
Salahuddin Rabbani is the son of former High Peace Council Chairman Burhanuddin Rabbani, who was killed by a Taliban suicide bomber at his home in Kabul in September 2011. A few days before he was assassinated, he had asked Islamic scholars at a conference in Tehran to release a fatwa saying that Islam forbids suicide.
At the time of Burhanuddin’s death, his daughter Fatima told Reuters that her father thought “the majority of Afghan Taliban were keen to join the [peace] process, but the Pakistani branch of the group opposed it.”
The Pakistani government did not cooperate in the investigation into Burhanuddin’s death, and Afghanistan’s Interior Minister and the chief of the National Directorate of Security blamed the suicide bombing on Pakistan, its Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate, and Mullah Omar’s Quetta Shura.
This latest attempt to convene an influential group of Islamic scholars to pronounce on the impermissibility of suicide bombings was initially agreed to by Pakistan after it was proposed in November 2012. But on Dec. 27, the Taliban issued a statement condemning the proposed conference as “clear American intrigue” designed to “create mistrust among Mujahideen, paving a way for the US to perpetually control Afghanistan.” The Taliban called instead for the Ulema — especially those in Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia — to support the mujahideen, their “spiritual offspring,” as a matter of religious duty and to boycott the “fraudulent gathering.”
Then on Jan. 9, Mullah Omar weighed in on the proposed conference, issuing a four-page-statement warning that clerics who participate in the conference will be “answerable to God” and will be discredited by the believers. He dismissed the planned conference as a desperate ploy by the United States, and reiterated the Taliban’s insistence that “they will not lay down weapons until achievement of their goals and establishment of a real Islamic state.”
It is not surprising that the Taliban should resist an effort to remove the tactic of suicide bombing from their arsenal; it is also a tactic favored by the Taliban’s close ally, al Qaeda. Nor is it surprising that plans for the conference seem to be disintegrating in the face of the Taliban’s condemnation. The fact that the most recent mention of the proposed conference makes no reference to suicide bombings as part of the agenda suggests that if the conference proceeds at all, that important topic will not be addressed.