Taliban’s chief leader Haibataullah Akhundzada made a rare appearance at a large gathering of religious clerics called loya jirga in Kabul on Friday but no decision was made regarding the stalled education of girls and women in the country.
Mr Akhundzada also delivered a speech at the nationwide gathering in the capital which began under heavy security arrangement, in what is his first appearance in public after the hardline Islamist group took control of Afghanistan in August last year.
Addressing the gathering, the Taliban’s ultimate authoritarian congratulated all on the “victory that led to the liberation of our country and the subsequent establishment of the Islamic system”, referring to the establishment of Taliban’s interim government in Afghanistan after the US-led forces withdrew.
“In these twenty years that everyone has sacrificed, they are tired. May Allah the Exalted accept it. I wish the families of the martyrs and the orphans well. Whoever supports our jihad, in word, deed and moral form, may Allah accept him,” he was quoted as saying by Bilal Karimi, the deputy spokesperson of the Afghanistan government.
“The success of the Afghan jihad is not only a source of pride for Afghans but also for Muslims all over the world,” he said, reported state-run Bakhtar News Agency, in Arabic word signifying a spiritual struggle.
The hardline cleric, whose son was a suicide bomber, also thanked the supporters of his administration for helping the victims in the earthquake that killed more than thousands and hundreds of children on 22 June.
More than 3,000 men participated in the key Taliban religious gathering, while no woman was allowed to be present for the event.
The topics of discussion at the gathering included national unity, Taliban’s return in Afghanistan, the recent earthquake and education of girls.
Based out of southern Afghanistan’s Kandahar, Mr Akhundzada summarized the role of helming Taliban, which he has held since 2016, as its supreme leader and is not easily seen in public.
This is also the Taliban’s first such meeting after taking control of Afghanistan from the US forces, leading to thousands fleeing the country.
He hailed the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan and said, “A few years ago, no one could take the name of jihad and Mujahidit was the blessing of jihad that the country was liberated and everything became our own.”
“We are still facing a kind of confrontation, where others want to implement their demands and we pursue our goals,” tweeted Mr Karimi, quoting the supreme leader.
The gathering also saw sustained gunfire erupt near the venue but the Taliban officials said it was caused by security men firing at a “suspicious location”. They later said the situation was under control.
One of the Taliban participants, Sayed Nassrullah Waizi from central Bamiyan province, also called for allowing girls in the country to access education and permitting them to go to high school.
Addressing the issue at the meeting on Friday, the Taliban’s deputy chief and acting interior minister Sirajudding Haqqani said that the world is demanding inclusive government and education, and the issues needed time.
“This gathering is about trust, interaction, we are here to make our future according to Islam and to national interests,” Mr Haqqani said.
The Taliban respected the decisions of those present at the meeting, but the final word on whether the girls will be allowed access to education in the Islamic country was up to the supreme leader Akhunzada, the interim government’s spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid said.