Pakistan Taliban leader gives beard warning: residents

KHAR, Pakistan (AFP) — A Pakistani Taliban leader has warned local tribesmen to grow beards within the next two months in accordance with Islamic teachings or face harsh punishment, residents said Monday.

The threat came amid an apparent increase in incidents of militants trying to enforce Islamic Sharia law in Pakistan’s tribal belt bordering Afghanistan, where the new government is trying to make peace with hardliners.

“Men must grow beards and stop shaving within the next two months,” residents quoted senior Taliban commander Maulvi Faqir Mohammad as telling dozens of people at a mosque in Khar, the main town in Bajaur tribal district.

Beards were mandatory under the harsh Taliban regime which ruled Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001 as part of a strict morality code that also made women wear the all-encompassing burka and outlawed music and other entertainment.

“It is un-Islamic to shave beards. Harsh punishments will be awarded to all violators,” added Mohammad, the central vice chief of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (Pakistan Taliban Movement) and also a Muslim cleric.

The group is an umbrella organisation of Taliban factions in Pakistan’s tribal belt. Its leader, Baitullah Mehsud, has been accused of masterminding the slaying of former premier Benazir Bhutto in December.

Mohammad told a rally in March that Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and fugitive Afghan Taliban chief Mullah Omar were not enemies of Pakistan.

Suspected Islamic militants have been meting out vigilante justice in the tribal belt and targeting “un-Islamic” hair salons, music and video shops with explosive devices for the past few years.

But activities have increased in recent weeks amid a lull in military operations and fighting since a new government took power after defeating President Pervez Musharraf’s allies in elections.

Last week Pakistani Taliban militants publicly executed an alleged criminal involved in kidnappings for ransom in Mohmand, another of the seven semi-autonomous tribal areas.

 

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