by Abdul Haleem
KABUL, Feb. 24 (Xinhua) -- The decision by the Pakistani religious scholars not to attend the joint conference of Afghan and Pakistani Ulema, or religious scholars, scheduled for March in Kabul has all but scuttled the all-important meeting that could have advanced the peace process in Afghanistan.
According to media reports, the chief of Pakistani clerics, Mufti Abu Huraira, has sent a letter to Afghan Ulema council last Sunday informing the latter that it will boycott the conference, claiming it was being used as an attempt to target the Taliban.
Another Pakistani religious leader Tahir Ashrafi has also announced that he would not attend such a conference because it might be used to issue a "fatwa" or religious decree against the Taliban.
The Afghan government has endeavored to bring together leading religious scholars from both countries in Kabul to denounce violence and suicide bombings by militant groups against Afghan and NATO-led troops in Afghanistan.
Afghan observers here say that the reason why the Pakistani clerics have refused to directly hit the Taliban despite the latter's role in the resurgence of violence in the region is that many of them had served as tutors for Taliban militants in the past and would never issue a "fatwa" against the insurgents.
The Pakistani Ulema, according to an Afghan observer, have been supporting Taliban-led militancy against Afghan and NATO-led forces in Afghanistan.
The Taliban militants have intensified their suicide attacks and roadside bombings inside Afghanistan, making its presence felt especially after the U.S. announced the withdrawal of most of its forces from the country even before 2014.
The Taliban had earlier called on the Pakistani Ulema not to attend the Kabul conference scheduled for March.
"A threat of Taliban is enough to keep away the Pakistani Ulema from the conference," a former Taliban foreign ministry official and political analyst Wahid Mujda said.
He said that with their decision to boycott the Kabul conference, the Pakistani clerics have shown that they are beholden to the Taliban.
"Unfortunately the Council of Pakistani Ulema has been working for the legitimacy of Taliban and its refusal to attend the Ulema conference in Kabul is a clear insult to both Afghanistan government and its religious scholars," Abdul Hafiz Mansoor, an Afghan parliamentarian, said.