Print Print 2021-09-08

Taliban veteran Akhund named head of new govt

  • Zabihullah Mujahid names Abdul Ghani Baradar as one of two deputy leaders
Published September 8, 2021

Kabul: The Taliban announced veteran Mullah Mohammad Hassan Akhund as the leader of their new government on Tuesday, while giving key positions to some of the movement's top officials.

Hailing from the spiritual Taliban heartland of Kandahar, Akhund served as governor of the key province during the group's brutal first reign in the 1990s. He was a close aide to the group's co-founder Mullah Omar, held the position of deputy foreign minister, and is on a UN blacklist.

At a press conference in Kabul, chief spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said Taliban co-founder Abdul Ghani Baradar will be one of two deputy leaders, alongside Abdul Salam Hanafi, a member of the Islamist group's political office in Doha, Qatar.

Mullah Yaqoob, the son of the Taliban founder and late supreme leader Mullah Omar, was named defence minister, while the position of the interior minister was given to Sirajuddin Haqqani, the leader of the feared Haqqani network who also doubled up as a Taliban deputy leader.

Taliban cement power with announcement of top govt leaders

World powers have told the Taliban the key to peace and development is an inclusive government that would back up the movement's pledges of a more conciliatory approach, upholding human rights, after a previous 1996-2001 period in power marked by bloody vendettas and oppression of women.

Taliban supreme leader Haibatullah Akhundzada, in his first public statement since the August 15 seizure of the capital Kabul by the insurgents, said the Taliban were committed to all international laws, treaties and commitments not in conflict with Islamic law.

"In the future, all matters of governance and life in Afghanistan will be regulated by the laws of the Holy Shariah," he said in a statement, in which he also congratulated Afghans on what he called the country's liberation from foreign rule.

The names announced for the new government, three weeks after the Taliban swept to military victory as US-led foreign forces withdrew and the weak Western-backed government collapsed, gave no sign of an olive branch to its opponents.

Afghans who enjoyed major progress in education and civil liberties over the 20 years of US-backed government remain fearful of Taliban intentions and daily protests have continued since the Taliban takeover, challenging the new rulers.

Taliban fire in air to scatter protesters

On Tuesday, as the new government was being announced, a group of Afghan women in a Kabul street took cover after Taliban gunmen fired into the air to disperse hundreds of protesters. The Taliban has urged Afghans to be patient and vowed to be more tolerant this time - a commitment many Afghans and foreign powers will be scrutinising as a condition for aid and investment desperately needed in Afghanistan.

Mullah Hasan Akhund, named as prime minister, like many in the Taliban leadership derives much of his prestige from his close link to the movement's reclusive late founder Mullah Omar, who presided over its rule two decades ago.-Agencies

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