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Daughter says Afghanistan’s Rabbani sought suicide ban

SHARJAH/QUETTA/KABUL: Days before he died when a Taliban militant detonated a bomb hidden in his turban, Burhanuddin Rabbani was trying to persuade Islamic scholars to issue a religious edict banning suicide bombings.

The former president’s daughter, 29, said in an interview that her father died shortly after he spoke at a conference on “Islamic Awakening” in Tehran.

“Right before he was assassinated, he talked about the suicide bombing issue,” Fatima Rabbani, who had watched a replay of her father’s speech on television, told Reuters. “He called on all Islamic scholars in the conference to release a fatwa. You know: in Islam killing yourself is forbidden.”

Several Taliban officials were present at the two-day event which brought together some 600 Islamic scholars. Rabbani did not sit with them at the same table.

A former leader of a powerful mujahedeen party during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980s, Rabbani was chosen last October by Afghan President Hamid Karzai to head the High Peace Council, created to negotiate peace with the Taliban.

Fatima, who had lived in the United Arab Emirates since 1997, said she was planning to set up a foundation in her father’s memory to teach young Afghans that killing civilians contradicts Islamic values.

Rabbani, was the most prominent surviving leader of the ethnic Tajik-dominated Northern Alliance of fighters and politicians that drove the Taliban from Kabul in 2001. He served as president in the 1990s when rival mujahedeen factions waged war for control of the country after Soviet withdrawal.

Fatima, who is doing a Masters degree in post-conflict studies and development at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London, said those who plotted her father’s death wanted to cripple peace efforts.

“Killing my father sent out a really loud message, very loud and clear to us that they do not want peace,” she said, adding that Rabbani had said after meeting Pashtun leaders in Kandahar, birthplace of the Taliban movement, that the “idea of peace was very possible.”

It was unclear how far his efforts to make peace with the Taliban went. Fatima said he had suggested to her that the majority of Afghan Taliban were keen to join the process, but the Pakistani branch of the group opposed it.

Separately, Pakistan’s interior minister said Tuesday that some members of the Pakistani Taliban have requested peace talks, but the government would only hold such negotiations if they first surrendered their arms.

The government’s stance raises questions about the prospects for peace talks, despite a recent peace push by parliament.

Pakistan’s Interior Minister Rehman Malik said there would be no negotiations with insurgents who “held a Kalashnikov [rifle] in one hand.”

“The minimum agenda is that they must surrender arms and come forward,” Malik said in response to questions by reporters during a visit to Quetta, the capital of southwest Baluchistan province.

Pakistan’s government is under some internal pressure to reach a deal with the insurgents, who are mostly based along the Afghan border and who have declared war on the state.

Meanwhile, Afghan security forces and their NATO allies launched a new push against the Al-Qaeda-linked Haqqani network along the Pakistani border, according to Afghan senior defense officials Tuesday.

Afghan Defense Minister Abdul Rahim Wardak said operation “Knife Edge” had been launched two days ago, while a senior Defense Ministry official said it was “largely against the Haqqani network.”

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on October 19, 2011, on page 11.
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