Moscow: The Taliban demanded a new constitution for Afghanistan and promised an “inclusive Islamic system” to govern the war-torn country at a rare gathering with senior Afghan politicians in Russia on Tuesday that excluded the Kabul government.
The insurgents’ manifesto, outlined in Moscow before some of Afghanistan’s most influential leaders, comes a week after the Taliban held unprecedented six-day talks with US negotiators in Doha about ending the 17-year war.
“The Kabul government constitution is invalid. It has been imported from the West and is an obstacle to peace,” Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanikzai, who headed the Taliban delegation, told attendees at a central Moscow hotel.
“It is conflicted. We want an Islamic constitution,” he said, adding that the new charter would be drafted by Islamic scholars.
No representatives from the Kabul government were invited to Moscow but some of Ghani’s chief rivals — including Karzai as well as opponents in an election slated for July — were in attendance.
Stanikzai said the insurgents, who ruled Afghanistan under a ruthless interpretation of Sharia law between 1996 and 2001, did not want a “monopoly of power” but “an inclusive Islamic system”.
They also promised to stamp out Afghanistan’s poppy cultivation and take steps to prevent civilian casualties in a conflict that has killed and wounded hundreds of thousands.
Two women attended the round table conference. The Taliban closed girls’ schools and banned women from working under their regime, but have indicated they could loosen some guidelines in line with Sharia law.
“I think all sides are ready for a compromise. It is a good start,” said Muhammad Ghulam Jalal, the head of an Afghan diaspora group who hosted the meeting.
The Taliban are scheduled to hold another round of peace talks with the US in Doha on February 25.