Kabul – In a rare public statement, Taliban called on Afghans to plant more trees for worldly and other-worldly good.
Taliban usually sends messages on different occasions and on a range of issues such as civilian casualties, upcoming military operations, and the anniversary of the withdrawal of Soviet troops in the 1980s, yet it is very uncommon to make a statement in the name of its leader, Haibatullah Akhundzada.
Official Taliban outlets released the “special message” under the name of Akhundzada who is believed to have been hiding since becoming Taliban leader in May 2016 following the death of his predecessor Mulla Akhtar Mansour in a US drone strike in Pakistan.
In the statement, he urged Afghan civilians and Taliban fighters to “plant one or several fruit or non-fruit trees for the beautification of Earth and the benefit of almighty Allah’s creations”.
Akhundzada, who was reported to have spent 15 years teaching at a mosque in Pakistan, interpreted verses of the Koran in his call for more trees in the arid country.
The statement added that tree planting plays an important role in environmental protection, economic development and the beautification of the earth. Allah Almighty has interconnected the lives of human beings with plants.
“Plants live off soil while humans and animals live off plants. If the plants and trees are eradicated, life itself would be put in peril, Allah Almighty says,” he stressed.
“Planting trees and agriculture are considered actions which hold worldly good and benefit as well as immense rewards in the hereafter,” Akhundzada said in the statement.
The statement points out that the Taliban group remains “actively engaged in a struggle against foreign invaders and their hirelings.”
A spokesman for Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, Shah Hussain Murtazawi, described the statement as an attempt to deceive public opinion and to distract from Taliban’s “crimes and destruction”.
“Since the establishment of the Taliban movement the only things that these people have in their minds are fighting, crimes and destruction,” he said.
Murtazawi wondered how it is possible for the Taliban to think about planting trees or protecting the environment in the country.
UN reported the highest number of civilian casualties in Afghanistan in 2016 with 11,500 people dead or wounded in battles between Afghan forces and militants, especially Taliban whom the UN blames for two-thirds of the victims.
More than 3,000 children were among the victims, an increase of 24 percent from the previous year, the UN said.
Taliban has been waging a war against the government in Kabul and its NATO coalition backers since being ousted from power in a US-led military intervention in 2001.
Since the withdrawal of most foreign combat troops in 2014, the Islamist group has made slow but steady gains and it now controls or contests more than 40% of Afghanistan.
Local officials in eastern Nangarhar province said that ISIS terrorists killed eight civilians and injured seven others during an attack in Kot district. In addition, at least 42 civilians have been rescued after ISIS held them as captives in Nangarhar.
Provincial governor’s spokesman Ataullah Khogyani confirmed that women and children were among those killed or wounded during the attack by ISIS loyalists.
Clashes continued between the Afghan forces and the ISIS militants in Kot district since early Friday where at least 37 ISIS militants have been killed so far.
According to residents, ISIS kidnapped about 100 women to use them as sex slaves. Officials didn’t comment on the matter.