Five Pakistani religious leaders, who had held talks with Afghan clerics in Islamabad earlier to discuss arrangements for a joint conference scheduled for Kabul in March, will skip yet another preparatory meeting in the Afghan capital on Thursday (today).
Two Pakistani scholars confirmed to The Express Tribune on Wednesday, that all five members of the Pakistani committee will boycott Thursday’s meeting.
Chairman of the Pakistani Ulema Council, Allama Tahir Ashrafi, said that the council has asked Afghan authorities to send a high level delegation for talks on a new and broad-based agenda that must also include a role for scholars in the elusive reconciliation process.
Mufti Abu Hurraira Mohiuddin, a Karachi-based scholar also confirmed to The Express Tribune that he and three other members of the Pakistan side will not attend the preparatory meeting in Kabul due to a member of the Afghan Ulema council making anti-Taliban remarks. Other members of the Pakistan delegation include Roohullah Madni, Iftikhar Kararwi, and Maulana Waziul Qadri.
However, a spokesman for the Afghan clerics council denied that any of their member had issued a statement against the Taliban and said the Afghan council has invited the Taliban for the conference just as Pakistani and Afghan clerics had agreed to in Islamabad earlier this week.
A member of Afghanistan’s Ulema Council, Maulvi Shehzada Shahid told The Express Tribune from Kabul that the Afghanistan Ulema Council has formally invited the Taliban to attend the conference in March.
He disputed a claim by the Pakistani clerics that a member of the Afghan ulema council has made anti-Taliban remarks.
“We invite the Pakistani scholars delegation to jointly attempt, along with Afghan religious scholars, to hold this conference instead of making unfounded excuses,” Maulvi Shehzada said.
Pakistani religious leaders had called for Taliban participation in the conference, but the Taliban had dismissed the conference as a ‘conspiracy’ by the US and its Western allies. They had also asked the scholars of other Islamic countries to stay away.
A spokesman for Mufti Abu Hurraira’s Sautul-Islam group said his side has not yet decided whether or not to boycott the March moot, adding that their participation will depend on the response to the concerns of the Pakistani scholars.
He said the scholars are concerned that the March moot could be used against the Taliban.
Organising committees for the clerics of the two countries had agreed in their Islamabad talks that 500 scholars, 250 from each country, will attend the March moot and that the conference will not be used to support or go against any group involved.
They had also agreed to hold another meeting in Kabul on February 21 (today) to finalise their agenda and list of invitees. But that is now postponed as the Pakistani side has decided not to attend.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 21st, 2013.