‘Stop interfering in Afghanistan’, says Hibatullah in rare appearance

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Taliban’s supreme leader Hibatullah Akhundzada called Friday for the world to stop telling them how to run Afghanistan, insisting sharia law was the only model for a successful Islamic state.

Akhundzada, who has not been filmed or photographed in public since the Taliban returned to power in August, was addressing a major gathering of religious scholars in the Afghan capital.

Over 3,000 clerics have gathered in Kabul since Thursday for the three-day men-only meeting, and Akhundzada’s appearance had been rumored for days — although media are barred from covering the event.

“Why is the world interfering in our affairs?” he asked in an hour-long speech broadcast by state radio. “They say ‘why don’t you do this, why don’t you do that?’ Why does the world interfere in our work?“

Akhundzada rarely leaves Kandahar, the Taliban’s birthplace and spiritual heartland, and apart from one undated photograph and several audio recordings of speeches, has almost no digital footprint.

But analysts say the former Sharia court judge has an iron grip on the movement and he bears the title “Commander of the Faithful.”

His arrival at the meeting hall was greeted with cheers and chants, including “Long live the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan,” the Taliban’s name for the country.

Akhundzada said the Taliban had won victory for Afghanistan, but it was up to the “ulema” to advise the new rulers on how to properly implement sharia law.

“The sharia system comes under two parts — scholars and rulers,” he said.

“If scholars do not advise authorities to do good, or the rulers close the doors against the scholars, then we will have not an Islamic system.”

Believed to be in his 70s, Akhundzada spoke in strong measured tones, occasionally coughing or clearing his throat.

He warned that non-Muslim nations would always be opposed to a pure Islamic state, so the faithful had to endure hardships to get what they wanted.

“You have to compete, you have to endure hardships… the present world will not easily accept you implementing the Islamic system,” he said.—AFP

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