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Taliban unveil hardline interim govt, Haqqanis included

Source: PTI   -  Edited By: Utkarsh Mishra
Last updated on: September 08, 2021 01:03 IST
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The Taliban on Tuesday unveiled a hardline interim government led by Mullah Mohammad Hasan Akhund, with key roles being shared by high-profile members of the insurgent group, including a specially designated global terrorist of the dreaded Haqqani Network as the interior minister.


IMAGE: Taliban forces walk in front of Afghan demonstrators as they shout slogans during an anti-Pakistan protest, near the Pakistan embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan, on September 7, 2021. Photograph: Stringer/Reuters

Mullah Hasan, the chief of the Taliban's powerful decision-making body 'Rehbari Shura', will be the Acting Prime Minister while Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar will be his deputy in the 'new Islamic government', Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said at a news conference in Kabul.

The announcement of key figures in the caretaker government comes weeks after the Taliban seized control of war-torn Afghanistan, ousting the previous elected leadership which was backed by the West.

The Taliban have previously said they wanted to form an inclusive government.

However, all of the Cabinet ministers announced on Tuesday are already established Taliban leaders.

A statement attributed to Taliban Supreme Leader Mawlawi Hibatullah Akhundzada told the government to uphold Sharia law.

The Taliban want 'strong and healthy relations with our neighbours and all other countries based on mutual respect and interaction', the statement, released in English, said -- with the caveat that they would respect international laws and treaties 'that are not in conflict with Islamic law and the country's national values'.

Sirajuddin Haqqani, a specially designated global terrorist and son of the famous anti-Soviet warlord Jalaluddin Haqqani who founded Haqqani Network, is the new acting interior minister in the 33-member cabinet that has no woman member.

Haqqani has been one of two deputy leaders of the Taliban since 2016 and has a $10 million US bounty on his head.

Khalil Haqqani, Sirajuddin's uncle, was appointed as acting minister for refugees.

Two other members of the Haqqani clan were also named to positions in the interim government, indicating the hand of Pakistan in the Taliban-run government.

The announcement of the interim government 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.

'Our government won't be based on ethnicity. We will not allow this type of politics,' Taliban spokesman Mujahid said.

The Taliban had promised an 'inclusive' government that represents Afghanistan's complex ethnic makeup, but there is no Hazara member in the cabinet.

Mullah Ameer Khan Muttaqi will be the new acting foreign minister while Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanikzai will be his deputy, said Mujahid, who has been appointed as the deputy information minister.

Mulla Yaqoob, son of the Taliban founder Mullah Mohammad Omar, will be the new acting defence minister. Yaqoob was a student of Taliban chief Mullah Hebatullah Akhundzada, who had earlier appointed him as head of the powerful military commission of the Taliban.

Mullah Hedayatullah Badri has been named as the acting minister of finance while Qari Fasihuddin Badakhshani will be the new army chief.

Interim Prime Minister Mullah Akhund, thought to be in his 60s, has served as governor of Kandahar province during the Taliban's previous rule in the 1990s.

Akhund was a close aide to the Taliban's co-founder Mullah Omar, who is currently on a UN blacklist.

'The Cabinet is not complete, it is just acting,' Mujahid said. 'We will try to take people from other parts of the country.'

In a written statement, Acting Prime Minister Mullah Hasan congratulated Afghans for the 'withdrawal of all foreign forces, end of the occupation and complete liberation of the country', Dawn reported.

A caretaker and 'committed' cabinet had been announced which will start working at the earliest, he said, adding that the leaders will 'work hard towards upholding Islamic rules and Sharia (Islamic law) in the country', the paper reported.

'All governance and life in the country will henceforth be in accordance with Islamic law,' said Mullah Hasan.

He is presently head of 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.

Taliban chief Mullah Hebatullah Akhundzada himself proposed Mullah Hasan's name to head the government, according to media reports.

Mullah Hasan 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.

His interior minister -- Sirajuddin Haqqani -- is a specially designated global terrorist.

According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation website, the United States Department of State is offering a reward of up to $5 million for information leading directly to the arrest of Sirajuddin Haqqani, who maintains close ties to 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.

The appointment of a group of established figures from different elements of the Taliban gave no indication of any concession towards protests that broke out in Kabul earlier in the day, when Taliban gunmen fired in the air to scatter them.

Hundreds of men and women shouting slogans such as 'Long live the resistance' and 'Death to Pakistan' marched in the streets to protest against the Taliban takeover.

Pakistan has deep ties with the Taliban and has been accused of assisting its return to power -- charges Islamabad denies.

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Source: PTI  -  Edited By: Utkarsh Mishra© Copyright 2021 PTI. All rights reserved. Republication or redistribution of PTI content, including by framing or similar means, is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent.
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