Taliban Says It Has The ‘Right’ To Speak Up For Muslims Anywhere in the World, Including in Kashmir
13:41 GMT 03.09.2021 (Updated: 14:40 GMT 06.08.2022)
Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanekzai, the Head of the Taliban’s Political Office in Doha, said this week that the new regime wants to continue its trade, economic and cultural ties with India. New Delhi was one of the strongest backers of “democracy” in Afghanistan under fugitive President Ashraf Ghani, which had put it at odds with the Taliban.
Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen has said that his Islamist outfit has the right to speak up for Muslims anywhere in the world, including in India-administered Jammu and Kashmir.
"Just like India speaks for the rights of Hindus and other minorities in Afghanistan, we too reserve the right to speak up for Indian Muslims and Kashmiris if they are not given their rights,” Shaheen was quoted as saying by the British Broadcasting Corporation’s (BBC) Hindi service.
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Shaheen, who is also a member of the Taliban’s negotiating team in Doha, Qatar, however added that his group was obliged to not let Afghanistan’s territory be used by any terrorist outfit against a third country.
“I am just saying that if the Muslims are not given their rights as mentioned under Indian law, then the Taliban will raise the issue. We have done it in the past and will continue to do so,” stated Shaheen.
Shaheen's comments were made hours after the death of pro-Pakistan Kashmiri separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani. An Indian national who advocated for Kashmir's accession to Pakistan, Geelani had been under house arrest in Srinagar since 2010.
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After the fall of Kabul to the Taliban on 15 August, India said that it would "facilitate the repatriation" of Afghan Sikhs and Hindus wanting to leave the Central Asian nation.
"We are in constant touch with the representatives of Afghan Sikh and Hindu communities. We will facilitate repatriation to India of those who wish to leave Afghanistan. There are also a number of Afghans who have been our partners in the promotion of our mutual developmental, educational and people-to-people endeavours. We will stand by them," Indian foreign ministry spokesman Arindam Bagchi said on 16 August.
Till last month, the Taliban refused to comment on the Kashmir dispute, as it described the more than seven-decade-old territorial matter between India and Pakistan as a “bilateral” and “internal” issue for the two South Asian neighbours.
In May, Shaheen himself dismissed media reports that the Taliban would provide support to the anti-India militants in Jammu and Kashmir.
“The policy of the Islamic Emirate is clear: that it does not interfere in the internal affairs of other countries,” Shaheen tweeted on 18 May.
Earlier this week, Shaheen once again clarified that the Taliban had no “foreign agenda” and was just “focused” on the reconstruction of Afghanistan. The remarks were made in response to a question about Al-Qaeda reportedly congratulating the Taliban for its victory in Afghanistan and even urging it to “liberate” Kashmir, Palestine and other regions.
India also for the first time acknowledged that it was holding discussions with the Taliban, as per the foreign ministry. In the meeting on 31 August, India raised its concern that “Afghanistan’s soil should not be used for anti-Indian activities and terrorism in any manner,” said the official statement.
“The Taliban Representative assured the Ambassador that these issues would be positively addressed,” it added.
New Delhi was represented in the meeting by its Ambassador of India to Qatar, Deepak Mittal, while the Taliban delegation was led by Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanekzai, the head of the group’s Doha political office.