The Ulema Council of Afghanistan is seeking more authority via the establishment of a new Dar al-Ifta – a scholarly institute with the authority to issue binding decrees concerning Islamic law or “fatwas”.

The council discussed their demand with President Hamid Karzai on Friday during a meeting requested by the president at his palace in Kabul.

The head of the Ulema Council Mawlawi Qiamuddin Kashaf said there were a few caveats, including the abolishment of the national Ulema Council and the current Dar al-Ifta within Afghanistan’s Supreme Court.

“[The new] Dar al-Ifta should bear executive competency, otherwise founding it will be an act of mocking Islam,” he said at the meeting.

“When a Dar al-Ifta issues a fatwa, the fatwa should be enforced by juristic institutions and the national police. I am 100 percent against it if it does not have these conditions,” he added.

Kashaf said the council was being criticised for its weakness, which he viewed as wrong, but called for more executive authority to deliver rulings in Islamic law. The president himself should also be a member, he added.

The council and Karzai discussed the matter of suicide attacks with the religious leaders stressing the need for such attacks to be again declared Haram (forbidden under Islamic law).

To this effect, both parties welcomed a plan agreed upon by High Peace Council and Pakistani officials to have an bilateral meeting with the Pakistan Ulema council on the matter of suicide attacks.

“I met [Pakistan Chief of Army] Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani and told him that Afghanistan has no problem with holding this meeting. If you make the effort and it makes no difference if you want it to be in Afghanistan or in Pakistan. The location of this meeting is not important,” Karzai said.

Karzai also commented on the release of Taliban prisoners from Pakistani prisons as an effective step towards peace talks with the militants.

“A number of the Taliban prisoners that were imprisoned in Pakistan were released following a request from the High Peace Council. This is a very important step in progress of the talks. A very good move has been made,” Karzai said.