Mawlawi Hibatullah Akhundzada, chief of the Afghan Taliban, has instructed his top officials to “avoid second, third, and fourth marriage if there is no need.” Constant requests from Taliban officials for extra money to pay for multiple wives reportedly prompted the order.
Voice of America News (VOA) obtained Akhundzada’s order, written in the Pashtun language, from two Taliban officials. They said they were instructed to share the order with their subordinates.
“Families of several officials of the Islamic Emirate do not have a lot of money. Therefore, more marriages could affect their prestige, trustworthiness, and personality,” the Taliban chief instructed his subordinates.
One of VOA’s sources said Akhundzada grew weary of the “many complaints” he received from Taliban officials who needed financial assistance to pay the dowry for multiple wives. Among the Pashtun tribes of Afghanistan, it is customary for the groom to pay a “bride price” to the bride’s family. The going rate for a bride is currently as high as $26,000 U.S.
The source also said Taliban officials are requesting money to pay for separate houses for each of their wives and substantial upkeep costs for them. High-ranking officials have developed a taste for holding elaborate weddings, which is not only a drain on the Taliban treasury but also brings bad publicity to an organization that presents itself to the public as a union of austere, heavily-armed religious scholars.
Akhundzada’s letter alluded to the bad press these lavish Taliban weddings have generated by advising his officials to protect themselves against “accusation and disgrace,” including allegations of “bribery, misappropriation, and embezzlement,” and prioritize “gaining trust” from the public.
VOA noted that the Taliban’s version of Islamic law technically allows for men to take up to four wives, but Akhundzada stressed that his injunction against taking more than one had been approved by “religious scholars.” Along those lines, he pointed out that the companions of Muhammad were known for having “simple marriages.”
Akhundzada’s letter mentioned that exceptions could be made for men who seek to marry widows, provided they keep the costs down and convince the public they are “spending their own money” rather than dipping into the Taliban treasury.
The Taliban has grown extremely wealthy over the past few years, banking huge profits from illegal drugs, illegal mining operations, extorting “taxes” from the parts of Afghanistan they control, collecting hefty financial donations from supporters in the Middle East, and partnering with the criminal Haqqani Network. They also receive heavy financial support from governments like Russia and China.
A confidential NATO report reviewed by Radio Free Europe (RFE) in September estimated the Taliban raked in $1.6 billion last year, an impressive sum when measured against the legitimate Afghan government’s budget of $5.5 billion. The cost of multiple wives must be skyrocketing to put significant stress on such a huge income stream.
“Unless global action is taken, the Taliban will remain a hugely wealthy organization, with a self-sustaining funding stream and outside support from regional countries. Its role as a destabilizing force, not only in South Asia but globally, will only be enhanced by the withdrawal of the United States from the Afghan theater, and its expected return to the power equation in Kabul,” the NATO report warned.