Head Pakistani cleric backpedals on suicide attacks


In a somewhat startling reversal for the religious leader of a nation, Allama Tahir Ashrafi, the Chairman of Pakistan's Ulema Council, announced yesterday that his recent statement endorsing suicide attacks and other forms of violent jihad in "occupied" Muslim countries was taken out of context and that harming civilians is acceptable to none.

It was widely reported that on March 1 Ashrafi stated: "Palestine is occupied by Israel, Kashmir by India and Afghanistan by the US. So if Muslims don't have the atomic bomb, they should sacrifice their lives. We want America to leave the region." [See LWJ report, Pakistani clerics endorse suicide bombings, reject proposed peace conference.]

Ashrafi told Pajhwok Afghan News yesterday, however, that "I've never supported suicide attacks that cause civilian casualties in Afghanistan," and he added that such bombings had also been banned by Taliban emir Mullah Omar.

Despite Ashrafi's claim that Mullah Omar does not support suicide attacks, the tactic has been used with regularity by his Taliban forces.

Since the first such attack on Sept. 9, 2001, suicide attacks have killed well over 3,755 people in Afghanistan, and the vast majority of the victims of these attacks have been civilians. According to the United Nations' 2012 Report on Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict in Afghanistan, 22% of all civilian casualties inflicted by antigovernment elements in 2012 were caused by suicide attacks. The UN documented 1,507 civilian casualties in 2012 (328 killed and 1,179 injured) from 73 incidents of suicide and complex attacks (the latter include suicide attacks). Three children died executing suicide attacks in 2012, and 48 more were arrested for planning to conduct such attacks.

The UNAMA report also states: "In 2012 UNAMA documented 46 separate incidents for which the Taliban publically claimed responsibility. These incidents accounted for a total of 513 civilian casualties and included 15 targeted killings, 12 suicide and complex attacks, nine IED incidents and seven ground engagements."

Ashrafi's assertion yesterday that a suicide attack against a purely military target would be permissible is also curious, given that many suicide bombers are themselves civilians. The ranks of suicide bombers include children as young as eight, women, and the mentally handicapped. [See LWJ reports, Taliban rebuild children's suicide camp in South Waziristan, Pakistani Taliban kidnap young girl to turn her into a suicide bomber, and Female suicide bomber strikes in Peshawar, and see also LWJ report, Al Qaeda in Iraq uses disabled women in Baghdad bombings.]

Ashrafi's statement endorsing suicide attacks triggered widespread condemnation from Afghan clerics and government officials, among others. The Afghan High Peace Council issued a statement castigating Ashrafi's declaration on jihad as contradicting every Islamic principle, and a group of Afghan Islamic scholars and clerics said that it was not for the head of Pakistan's ulema council to issue a fatwa, according to TOLOnews.

Afghan national security advisor Rangin Dadfar Spanta warned that the "fatwa" issued by Ashrafi demonstrated the strong current of violence that threatened the Afghan people, Khaama Press reported.

Deputy national security advisor and former spy chief Rahmatullah Nabil called for the international community to blacklist both Ashrafi and Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence Agency, according to TOLOnews. Nabil said the fact that Pakistani clerics had responded to the conference invitation with "a religious Fatwa and [that they] consider Jihad in Afghanistan as permissible" amounted to a "very shameless confession" that Pakistan does not want a peaceful and powerful Afghanistan.

Ashrafi's fatwa also drew a reaction from NATO. Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen stated in Kabul today after meeting with President Hamid Karzai: "I strongly condemn endorsing suicide attacks and there is no justification for such a terrorist attacks." Speaking at the joint press conference with Rasmussen, Karzai said the chief Pakistani cleric's fatwa endorsing suicide attacks served to clarify Pakistan's position regarding Afghanistan, Khaama Press reported.

The speed and the nature of Ashrafi's apparent shift in position yesterday on the issue of suicide attacks suggest that forces are working on him to 'shape the message.'



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READER COMMENTS: "Head Pakistani cleric backpedals on suicide attacks"

Posted by Infidel4LIFE at March 4, 2013 2:20 PM ET:

So, I guess if they had nuclear weapons, he endorses using them on the kafir's? Wow, thanx for telling us. I guess the Pakistani's are ok with killing indiscriminately, women, children, moslem or not?

Posted by blert at March 4, 2013 3:07 PM ET:

Infidel...

You've missed his legalese: the reference to NOT using suicide bombing WHEN a nation has atomic weaponry was a SPECIFIC coded reference to Pakistan, itself.

Translating into ordinary language: he meant that murder-suicide was proper in Afghanistan -- but not proper within Pakistan. (It's atomic arsenal, being the difference.)

After the Pakistani and Western press got through with his (too clever) phrasing -- just about everyone has misconstrued his messaging.

========

Having said all that, the ISI and its minions are using murder-suicide gambits within Pakistan -- anyway.

So, he was too clever, by far.

Posted by mike merlo at March 4, 2013 3:30 PM ET:

that Pakistani's of 'standing' would 'see' fit to impose their will upon their neighbors serves only to further 'enlighten' the Afghans of the ominous threat Pakistan poses to their Nation. This Pakistani Lebensraum targeting Afghanistan has long ago been exposed for the fraud that it is. Using religion as cover to satisfy extraterritorial ambitions by Pakistan has inexorably been grinding itself into irrelevance.

That Allama Tahir Ashrafi is the Chairman of Pakistans Ulema Council & is now seeking to reverse his position reveals the depth of the fraud being perpetrated by the Pakistani Government & high profile personages. Conversations, behavior's, & 'actions' by the 'rank & file' witnessing a Nation racked by sectarian violence, leadership of questionable loyalty & dysfunctional governance continue to fuel efforts determined to secure their well being & safety in spite of a government unwilling or unable to do the same.

Posted by gb at March 4, 2013 3:30 PM ET:


Does this rhetoric justify a preemptive strike if the PAK government were to lose positive control over it's nuclear arsenal.

Posted by Moose at March 4, 2013 11:04 PM ET:

@Mike Merlo
I agree with a lot of your comments. I also believe there is a Pakistani Lebensraum occurring.

I believe Pakistan implemented the first phase of this strategy by creating and supporting the Taliban in the 1990s. Using Afghanistan to launder their jihadists and drugs made Afghanistan look like a pariah on the international stage and gave Pakistan diplomatic cover to eventually annex the country. Of course, September 11 changed all that.

I base my conclusions on three facts: 1) Pakistan's population growth can't be sustained by its current territories, 2) Pakistan has a history of doing this, and 3) they teach their kids in school that Afghanistan belongs to Pakistan.

On the first point, Karachi, for instance, had a population of 500,000 in 1947 that today stands at over 20 million.

On the second point, this strategy has been underway in Balochistan for the last decade. The port at Gwadar was touted as creating 2 million jobs, but that labor force doesn't exist in Balochistan. Construction on the Makran Coastal Hwy was also completed a few years ago which connects Karachi to Gwadar and reduces travel between the two cities by over a day. As muhajirs arrive in Balochistan by the millions, the province will change drastically in the coming years.

They're accomplishing with infrastructure and overwhelming population growth what armed intervention couldn't do in Balochistan... conquering it. Current population trends lead me to believe that they still have their sights on Afghanistan.

Posted by BANBI at March 5, 2013 12:39 PM ET:

What about the terrorist cia who have beeen supplying and arming some of the taliban wich where created by the stinking lying two faced USA.

Posted by mike merlo at March 5, 2013 1:14 PM ET:

@Moose
if you take some time study/research Pakistan you'll find that 'they've' been coveting Afghanistan, at least parts of it, since the Partition of 1947. One could also easily make the case that Afghanistan has been a much vocal & active advocate of securing parts of Pakistan at different times during their brief 'histories.'

Posted by Joe at March 5, 2013 4:52 PM ET:

It is fairly clear that the actual policy of the ISI and the Pakistani military is not aimed at grabbing territory. They are mostly determined to prevent the unification of the Pashtun peoples on both sides of the Durand Line and to suppress any Nationalist urges by the Balochs et al.

If they wanted to seize control over territory they could start by doing it in Waziristan and so forth. Instead they view these areas as ungovernable by a state as weak and disunited as Pakistan and try to prevent any other cohesive entity from taking root there.

In Afghanistan they are terrified of Indian influence, because India is a powerful nation with growing wealth and influence and Pakistan is pretty much on it's knees from mismanagement and reaping what they have sown with the Jihadist groups they helped to organize.

Posted by Pete Michael at March 6, 2013 12:08 AM ET:

Hey Allama Tahir Ashrafi: Interesting that fat, overfed cowards like you who coerce young and impressionable youths to end their lives in suicide bombings never seen to have the guts to sacrifice themselves in suicide attacks. What a surprise. I can only hope that so many young, brainwashed and hopeless young people that you pollute with your hateful rhetoric will finally realize that there is a better future in store than throwing their lives away for some fanatical tyrant such as you. Peace is possible, Pete.

Posted by Moose at March 6, 2013 4:55 AM ET:

@Joe

My comments should be taken in the context of several decades.

The Pashtunistan issue has been moot since the Soviets left and Afghanistan collapsed. I'm sure the U.S. made guarantees early on ensuring Pakistan's territorial integrity. In any case, playing the sub-tribes in the region against each other has always been a specialty of Pakistan's. It's called divide and conquer.

Pakistan has also done a fantastic PR job of making it's strategy in Afghanistan seem like it's all about India. India has never had a large footprint in Afghanistan and the notion that building a few roads in the country somehow threatens nuclear-armed Pakistan is a red-herring. They just don't want a developing Afghanistan to ever be a threat and to unite the Pashtuns.

"Instead they view these areas as ungovernable by a state as weak and disunited as Pakistan and try to prevent any other cohesive entity from taking root there."

Absolutely agreed. They've been buying themselves time by keeping countervailing forces at bay, but do you really think Pakistan doesn't have a strategy in place to change this?

Pakistan hasn't done so yet in places like Waziristan b/c they've been too busy consolidating their country since 1947. Again, I'm not saying it's going to happen tomorrow or even 10 years from now, but at some point Pakistan will go after Afghanistan. Call it Lebensraum or Manifest Destiny, but I believe it's part of their long-term strategy.

Posted by Mr T at March 6, 2013 8:35 PM ET:

So they tell the world one thing out of their mouth and tell the poor bomber its ok to kill himself or herself including children.

"Posted by BANBI at March 5, 2013 12:39 PM ET:

What about the terrorist cia who have beeen supplying and arming some of the taliban wich where created by the stinking lying two faced USA."

Talk about two faced. The USA did not issue any fatwas for suicide bombers. Thats a guy from Pakistan who did. By the way, Bambi dies at the end of the movie.

Posted by blert at March 7, 2013 5:03 AM ET:

BANBI...

The US Constitution -- our highest law -- flatly prohibits a n y state supported religion.

Consequently, it has been unlawful for the US Government to run ANY monies through any religious institution -- by any mechanism of any kind.

Do note that the Taliban, as a collective, were created within the Islamic madrassas of Pakistan.

Such institutions have been, still are, supported by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia -- the King, himself, in particular. This is why they spout Wahhabist dogma -- something new to Pakistan during the 1980s.

The King is on record as having spent at least $200,000,000,000 since the 1970s on 'spreading the (Wahhabist) faith.' (Every king in his turn, of course.)

It's KSA state policy.

There is great irony: OBL and his AQ crew's core desire is to liquidate the entire Saudi royal family. (!)

We call that 'blow-back.'