KABUL -- Afghan and Pakistani Islamic clerics last week jointly condemned the Taliban's continuing fight in Afghanistan following a conference hosted by Saudi Arabia.
The two-day in-person meeting took place on June 10 in Makkah city under the auspices of the Muslim World League.
Religious scholars from both countries voiced their support for negotiations and called on both sides to immediately halt the ongoing bloodshed in Afghanistan.
They also condemned the pace of the conflict, emphasising that extremism, terrorism and suicide attacks are all against Islamic values.
The clerics agreed to establish a co-ordination council of senior scholars from both countries to take practical steps in the Afghan peace process and to manage fatwas.
Afghan Minister of Hajj and Religious Affairs Mohammad Qasim Halimi and Pakistani Minister of Religious Affairs Noor-ul-Haq Qadri chaired the meeting.
Afghanistan, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia during an international conference of Islamic scholars in Saudi Arabia in the summer of 2018 agreed to hold someday a tripartite meeting of ulema to discuss the peace process in Afghanistan, Halimi told Salaam Times.
The meeting this month was crucial because, for the first time, Pakistani scholars explicitly supported Afghanistan's position in the peace process and the legitimacy of the Afghan government, he said.
Pakistani officials and scholars emphasised that stability in Afghanistan means stability in Pakistan, he said.
The joint co-ordination council established as a result of the meeting will help prevent fatwas against each country, according to Halimi.
In the past, Afghan and Pakistani Islamic scholars have issued conflicting fatwas, leading to confusion among followers.
"Based on the meeting declaration, both sides will make sure no fatwas will be issued against each other, and if it happens, scholars from each country will be held accountable," he said.
Scholars from both countries agreed that the conflict has no justification and is not a "jihad" and that the violence does not help anyone, said Halimi.
Qadri, Pakistan's religious affairs minister, in his remarks during the meeting said that violence, suicide attacks and destructive activities in Afghanistan are not justifiable and that therefore Islamic clerics from both countries should denounce such acts of violence and extremism, Halimi added.
"I had a very productive meeting with Abdul Rahman al-Sudais, imam of the Grand Mosque in Makkah and the president of the General Presidency for the Affairs of the Two Holy Mosques," Halimi said.
"Al-Sudais supported the declaration of the meeting and called on warring sides to immediately halt the ongoing conflict," he said. "He also supported the ... Afghan peace process and emphasised that there was no reason to continue the war Afghanistan."
The continuation of conflict in Afghanistan does not benefit anyone, added Dr. Mohammad bin Abdulkarim Al-Issa, secretary-general of the Muslim World League.
He called on both sides to put an end to the conflict immediately.
Scholars from both countries agreed to co-operate with each other in rooting out extremism and to stay amicably engaged by holding subsequent meetings, said Sardar Mohammad Zadran, chairman of Afghanistan's Ulema Council.
The objective of the Makkah meeting was to reconcile the voices of Afghan and Pakistani scholars in recognising that Afghanistan's war is unjustifiable and that there is a great need to establish a durable peace in Afghanistan, Zadran said.
"Participants at the Makkah meeting have unanimously announced that the ongoing fighting is illegitimate and demanded the establishment of durable peace and stability in Afghanistan," he said.
Afghans are welcoming the results of the Makkah meeting.
"Allah Almighty has discouraged shedding the blood of Muslims by Muslims, and we call on scholars from around the Islamic world to continue their efforts and push for putting an end to the ongoing fighting and establishing a durable peace in Afghanistan," said Shir Shah Kohdamani, 30, a resident of Kabul.
This is the first time that well-known Pakistani scholars have publicly condemned the Afghan conflict and agreed to help persuade both sides to stop the fighting and establish peace, said Gul Mohammad Rasuli, a member of the Meshrano Jirga from Faryab.
"As a representative of the people, I welcome the outcome of the Makkah meeting," he added.
"Now that foreign forces are leaving Afghanistan, the Taliban do not have any convincing justification to continue fighting and the killing of the Afghan people," Rasuli said.
As Pakistani scholars have recognised that conflict and insecurity in Afghanistan will cause insecurity and instability in Pakistan, the continuation of such meetings is useful to accelerate peace and end the conflict, he said.
It is therefore essential that scholars of both countries continue their engagement to make sure both countries are peaceful and stable, he added.