Pakistan clerics issue fatwa against suicide bombings

Pakistani security officials gathering at the site of a suicide bomb attack in Quetta on Jan 9, 2018.
Pakistani security officials gathering at the site of a suicide bomb attack in Quetta on Jan 9, 2018.PHOTO: AFP

ISLAMABAD (REUTERS) - More than 1,800 Pakistani Muslim clerics have issued an Islamic directive, or fatwa, forbidding suicide bombings, a book due to be unveiled by the government on Tuesday (Jan 16) says.

The South Asian nation has for years been plagued by violence by Islamist militants who often use suicide bombers and preach that their struggle is a holy war to impose Islamic rule.

Suicide attacks are frequently condemned as fanatical and immoral, especially when civilians are killed, but insurgents view the tactic as their most effective weapon.

Seeking to curb "terrorism" that has resulted in tens of thousands of casualties since the early 2000s, the clerics declared suicide bombings to be forbidden, or "haram".

"This Fatwa provides a strong base for the stability of a moderate Islamic society," Pakistan President Mamnoon Hussain wrote in the book.

"We can seek guidance from this Fatwa for building a national narrative in order to curb extremism in keeping with the golden principles of Islam."

Foreign and domestic critics of Pakistan's government and military accuse them of cosying up to radical groups for political and military purposes and say the state has for too long turned a blind eye to hate preachers in mosques.

Pakistani officials deny frequent US allegations about collaborating with militant Islamist proxies in Afghanistan and India, and say vast gains have been made over the past decade against militant outfits such as the Pakistani Taleban.

But privately they also warn any moves against some popular hardline groups based in Pakistan would take a long time and need to be undertaken carefully.

Similar fatwas appear to have yielded scant results in the Middle East where the practice is used by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and other militant groups.

The Pakistani scholars, who declared that "no individual or group has the authority to declare and wage jihad (holy war)", said suicide bombings violate key Islamic teachings and were as such forbidden.

The book was prepared by the state-run International Islamic University and Hussain was due at a ceremony to mark the book's release in Islamabad on Tuesday.