Mullah Mohammad Hasan Akhund, the chief of the Taliban’s powerful decision-making body ‘Rehbari Shura’, has been appointed Afghanistan’s new head of state by the insurgent group’s top leader Mullah Hebatullah Akhundzada. Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, Chairman of Taliban’s Political Office in Doha, and Mullah Abdus Salam will work as deputies of Mullah Hasan in the new Taliban government.
Hasan is currently heading the Taliban’s powerful decision-making body - Rehbari Shura or leadership council - which serves much like a government Cabinet running all the group’s affairs subject to the approval of the top leader. Hebatullah himself proposed Mullah Hassan’s name to head the government, Pakistan’s The News International reported, adding that the issues within ranks of the Taliban regarding the formation of the government have been resolved.
According to American intelligence records detailing his career, Hassan was “considered one of the most ineffective and unreasonable Taliban leaders”.
Mullah Hassan, who is on the UN terror list, belongs to Kandahar, the birthplace of the Taliban, and was among the founders of the armed movement. He worked for 20 years as head of Rehbari Shura and remained close to Mullah Hebatullah. He had served as foreign minister and deputy prime minister during the Taliban’s previous government in Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001.
Although, he seems to have no power equation in Afghanistan or Taliban poltiics, he is a hardliner who is alleged to have supervised the destruction of the Bamiyan Buddhas in March 2001 and been part of several Islamist killings.
Likely born in the village of Pashmul, in Kandahar province’s Argandab, Hassan is believed to have been educated at a seminary in Pakistan, before joining the Hizb-e-Islami’s Khalees faction during the war against the Soviet Union. Like others, though, he retreated back to Pakistan in 1989-1992, as ferocious struggles broke out within the Mujahideen over control of revenues and territory.
He was also the Governor of Kandahar, Vice President of the Council of Ministers in 2001. According to the UN he is one of “30 original Taliban"
According to Washington DC based, National Security Archive, “Akhund holds prejudices against both westerners and the mujahadeen. Considered one of the most effective commanders. Studied at various madrassas in Pakistan.”
By 2001 he rose in the ranks, to supervise the ministries of defense, intelligence, interior, supreme court, culture and communications, academy.
He was also reported to have been captured in 2010. He is considered to be a relatively lesser known Taliban leader and is referred to as “lightweight" in several media reports.
Fight for power
Disagreements between the extremist group’s multiple factions have so far stymied government formation in the war-torn nation. Kabul fell to Taliban three weeks ago.
Mulla Yaqoob, son of the Taliban founder Mullah Mohammad Omar, will be the new defence minister, the paper said. Yaqoob was a student of Mullah Hebatullah, who had earlier appointed him as head of the powerful military commission of the Taliban.
Sirajuddin Haqqani, the head of the notorious Haqqani network and son of the famous anti-Soviet warlord Jalaluddin Haqqani, is likely to get the portfolio of interior minister, while Mullah Ameer Khan Muttaqi will be the new foreign minister, according to the Taliban sources. Sirajuddin Haqqani is a specially designated global terrorist. According to the FBI website, the US Department of State is offering a reward of up to USD 5 million for information leading directly to the arrest of Sirajuddin Haqqani, who is thought to stay in Pakistan, specifically the Miram Shah area in North Waziristan, and maintains close ties to the Taliban and al Qaeda.
He is wanted for questioning in connection with the January 2008 attack on a hotel in Kabul that killed six people, including an American citizen. He is believed to have coordinated and participated in cross-border attacks against the US and coalition forces in Afghanistan. He was also allegedly involved in the planning of the assassination attempt on Afghan President Hamid Karzai in 2008, the FBI website noted. Citing the Taliban sources, the paper said Mullah Zabiullah Mujahid, whose name was earlier proposed for information minister, will now be the spokesperson for the new head of state.
The Taliban last week postponed the formation of a new government as the insurgent group struggles to give shape to a broad-based and inclusive administration acceptable to the international community. The development comes days after Pakistan’s spy agency Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) Director General Lt Gen Hameed dashed to Kabul on an unannounced visit last week, amidst mounting pressure on the Taliban to form an inclusive government acceptable to the international community.
During his visit, the ISI chief had met Mullah Baradar and Hizb-e-Islami leader Gulbuddin Hekmatyar and discussed the current situation in Afghanistan. According to reports, the new government in Kabul will be based on the lines of the Iranian leadership, with the group’s top religious leader Mullah Hebatullah as Afghanistan’s supreme authority.
In Iran, the supreme leader is the highest political and religious authority of the country. He ranks above the president and appoints the heads of the military, the government, and the judiciary. The supreme leader has the final say in the political, religious and military affairs of the country.
(With PTI inputs)