ISLAMABAD: In a bid to impose their own puritanical version of Islam, the Pakistani Taliban have introduced “moral policing” in parts of northeastern Afghanistan, Afghan police claimed on Sunday.
Key leaders of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) – including its chieftains in Swat, Bajaur Agency and Mohmand Agency Maulana Fazaullah, Maulvi Faqir and Abdul Wali – and dozens of their loyalists had fled military operations and sought sanctuary in the Afghan provinces of Nuristan and Kunar.
Sporadically, they have been mounting cross-border attacks on Pakistani border guards in Chitral and Dir districts of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.
Now, they have introduced “moral policing” on the pattern of the Taliban-era ‘Department for the Preservation of Virtue and Prevention of Vice’ in Kamdesh district of Nuristan. Their armed vigilantes roam the streets to stop what they believe are un-Islamic activities.
“Turbaned and bearded Pakistani Taliban fighters, clad in black clothes, punish local people for shaving or trimming beards, using mobile phones and even eating Naswar,” provincial police chief Ghulamullah Nuristani told The Express Tribune by phone.
These vigilantes, according to Nuristani, are affiliated with a TTP group, led by Maulana Fazlullah, the infamous cleric who had fled his stronghold in Swat district following a military operation in 2008.
However, Sirajuddin, a TTP spokesperson, denied the claim. So did the Afghan Taliban.
The Taliban’s shadowy governor for Nuristan, Sheikh Dost Muhammad, dismissed Nuristani’s claim as “part of propaganda to undermine the Taliban’s growing popularity in the region”.
“Only Afghan Taliban operate in the areas under our control,” Dost Muhammad told The Express Tribune by phone.
Local journalists say that people are routinely body-searched in the Taliban-controlled areas. “Afghan officials believe the TTP is involved,” Nimatullah Karyab, an Afghan journalist from Asadabad city, capital of Kunar, told The Express Tribune.
Before the toppling of their regime by US-led foreign forces in 2001, the Afghan Taliban had set up a department called Amar Bil Maroof Wa Nahi Anil Munkar, or Department for the Preservation of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, as part of their Islamisation campaign.
The Nuristan police chief claimed that scores of Pakistani families have also crossed over into Kamdesh district, where the writ of Kabul does not apply.
Afghan officials claim TTP militants are also ‘harassing native Afghans’ in Barg-e-Metal district and forcing them to vacate their homes for Pakistani families.
Nuristan and Kunar virtually fell to the Taliban following the pullout of US-led Nato forces from their forward bases in the two provinces in 2009-10.
Meanwhile, Afghan forces on Sunday seized a truckload of bomb-making material in Kunar which, they claimed, was coming from Multan.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 2nd, 2012.
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