Out-of-power Taliban Resume Public Executions

ByRahimullah Yusufzai

PESHAWAR, Pakistan, May 15, 2006 — -- Almost five years after being thrown out of power as a result of the U.S. military intervention in Afghanistan, the Taliban has gained sufficient strength in some remote parts of the country to resume public executions of people convicted of murder by pro-Taliban Islamic courts.

In the first week of May, the Taliban claimed that Badshah Khan, a convict, was executed in the presence of a large number of people in central Urozgan Province.

Badshah Khan was tried by a Taliban-appointed Shariah (Islamic) court and found guilty of murdering one Fateh Khan, according to Taliban spokesman Qari Yousaf Ahmadi. Speaking on satellite phone from an undisclosed location in Afghanistan, Ahmadi said the court included Ulema (religious scholars), who sentenced Badshah Khan to death after trying him under Islamic law. He acknowledged that Badshah Khan was publicly executed in the district headquarters town of Gizab in Urozgan, which is the native province of Taliban Islamic movement founder Mulla Mohammad Omar. He said the heirs of Fateh Khan refused to forgive Badshah Khan or accept blood money, despite repeated requests from the family of the convicted murderer and the religious scholars present on the occasion.

"The members of the court then gave the go-ahead signal to the heirs of Fateh Khan to exercise their Islamic right of Qissas [revenge] and execute Badshah Khan," Ahmadi said. "One man shot at and killed Badshah Khan from close range."

This marks the first time after losing power in December 2001 that the Taliban has organized a public execution of a convicted killer. Ahmadi said it showed the level of Taliban control in the Urozgan and added that the Taliban had the power to arrest and try criminals and publicly implement decisions of its Islamic courts.

President Hamid Karzai's Afghan government and the U.S. and NATO military authorities refrained from commenting on the Taliban's claims. They neither confirmed nor denied the execution.

Independent sources, however, confirmed that a man accused of murder had been executed in a remote part of the insurgency-hit Urozgan Province. They see the Taliban's power growing in Urozgan and in neighboring provinces such as Kandahar, Zabul, Ghazni, Helmand, Nimruz and Farah in central and southwestern Afghanistan. The area near the border with Pakistan is inhabited by Afghanistan's majority Pashtun ethnic group, which provided the bulk of the Taliban's fighters.

Since the Taliban's emergence in the fall of 1994, it has enforced a system of government and justice based on Shariah, or Islamic law. After capturing power in most of the country following the fall of Kabul in September 1996, the Taliban introduced Islamic laws, including strict punishments for crime. Those convicted of murder were publicly executed, thieves had their limbs amputated and adulterers were stoned to death or lashed.

Public executions took place in the stadiums in Kabul and other provincial capitals. On a few occasions, such scenes were secretly filmed and the footage smuggled out of Afghanistan. These images were later portrayed as a symbol of Taliban atrocities.The Taliban, who were primarily students of seminaries known as madrassas, easily defeated the Afghan mujahedin, who had fought against the Soviet occupation troops with help from the U.S. and its allies from 1979-89. In fact, most Afghan people were fed up with the mujahedin due to its infighting and cruelties after coming to power in 1992.

The Afghan people initially welcomed and supported the Taliban in the hope that it would restore peace and enforce an Islamic system of government. But after a while, the Taliban became just another armed faction like the mujahedin and ruled with an iron hand. Distrustful of anyone else, the Taliban continued to fight other factions, such as the Northern Alliance, instead of reaching out to effect national reconciliation and stop bloodshed. Besides enforcing strict interpretation of Islam, the Taliban also banned education for girls and prohibited women from working outside their homes. They also harbored Osama bin Laden and his al Qaeda lieutenants, and refused to heed demands by the United Nations and the United States to deliver bin Laden to face trial for his role in the 9/11 attacks and the 1998 bombings of the American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.

Though the Taliban brought relative peace to Afghanistan after years of turmoil and brought poppy cultivation to an end, its refusal to expel bin Laden and its harsh policies made it unpopular in the world and led increasingly to Afghanistan's isolation.

Now that the Taliban has regrouped, it has become more sophisticated and deadly in its attacks against the U.S.-led coalition troops in parts of Afghanistan. The Afghan government, NATO and U.S. military commanders and aid workers concede that the number of Taliban attacks has increased and that its tactics, including the use of improvised explosive devices, or IEDs, has become dangerous.

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