Hibatullah's edicts.

HOPES that the Afghan Taliban would this time around run a more open country have largely been dashed after the hard-line movement's shadowy supreme leader, Mawlawi Hibatullah Akhundzada, passed a set of stern edicts recently. In Taliban-ruled Afghanistan, Hibatullah's word is law, which is why his call for the 'full enforcement' of the Taliban's version of Sharia is important. Afghanistan's most powerful man, who rarely issues public edicts and remains mostly confined to his Kandahar redoubt, reportedly told judges to enforce 'hudood and qisas' injunctions, and that this was 'obligatory'. It is obvious that the Taliban leadership wants to take their country into a more obscurantist direction, as recently women were banned from entering parks and gyms, while the ban on women's higher education has remained in effect since the movement took Kabul last August.

The move to enforce strict penal codes, as well as restrictions on women, seems to be sending two messages. Firstly, the messaging is directed at more hard-line factions amongst the Taliban, who view their government's very limited concessions since they came to power last year as going 'soft' on the...

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