Dos and don'ts of a Taliban fighter

A solid set of rules is the bedrock of a successful organisation, as any manager will testify. Afghanistan’s Taliban are no different.

Most of the 30 new rules for recruits to jihad, or holy war, are predictably concerned with the finer points of killing and destruction. But others will sound familiar to those in more conventional lines of work—such as directives about using office equipment at home.

“Taliban may not use jihad equipment or property for personal ends,’’ declares rule number nine—perhaps referring to recreational use of AK-47 guns or RPG-7 rocket launchers.

The dos and don’ts of a good Taliban fighter were agreed by the 33-member shura, or ruling council, during the Eid religious holiday.
The regulations swing between the surprisingly punctilious and the coldly sinister.

Rule 18 urges mujahideen to quit smoking, while 19 declares that “mujahideen are not allowed to take young boys with no facial hair on to the battlefield or into their private quarters’‘.

Fighters must be on their best behaviour with civilians—theft, unauthorised house searches and murder are forbidden, but on the other hand traitors and government employees must be treated without mercy and killed.

Lest anyone accuse the Taliban of disrespecting legal niceties, there are also some helpful guidelines for fair trials. Suspected spies must be tried before being killed, witnesses must have a “good psychological condition and possess an untarnished religious reputation’‘. And a last word for those eager to administer a beheading­: “The punishment may take place only after the conclusion of the trial.’‘

Schools that ignore warnings to close must be burned, “but all religious books must be secured beforehand’‘, while the teachers working there are treated using a variation of the “three strikes, then you’re out’’ system.

First they must be warned of the folly of working for the “puppet regime’’ of the Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, rule 24 says, “because this strengthens the system of the infidels’‘. Failing that, they must be beaten. And if the teacher “continues to instruct contrary to the principles of Islam’‘, the handbook declares, “the district commander or a group leader must kill him’‘.

The code has been been circulated to field commanders across Afghanistan and northern Pakistan. And just in case there were any doubts, rule 30 declares that “the above 29 rules are obligatory’‘.

The ruthless application of these decrees was in evidence last weekend, when militants broke into a house in eastern Kunar province and killed a family of five, including two sisters who were teachers. The women had received “night letters’’ warning them to stop teaching. The deaths bring to 20 the number of teachers killed by insurgents this year.—Â

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