New Taliban chief Akhundzada a scholar, not a soldier

By AFP
Published: May 25, 2016
Email
Afghan Islamic Press releases photograph of new Afghan Taliban chief Mullah Haibatullah Akhundzada

Afghan Islamic Press releases photograph of new Afghan Taliban chief Mullah Haibatullah Akhundzada

KABUL: Religious scholar Mullah Haibatullah Akhundzada, named Wednesday as the Afghan Taliban’s new leader, was a senior judge during the insurgent group’s five-year rule over Afghanistan and issued many of its harsh verdicts.

Taliban ‘most likely’ to reach consensus on new leader today

Believed to be aged in his fifties, he hails from Afghanistan’s southern province of Kandahar like both his former boss — Mullah Akhtar Mansour, who was killed in a US drone strike on Saturday — and Taliban founder Mullah Omar, who died in 2013.

Akhundzada went on to become the group’s “chief justice” after a US-led invasion toppled the Taliban government in 2001. He was a close ally of Mansour and was one of his two deputies.

Akhundzada is not known for his prowess on the battlefield, having preferred a life of religious and legal study. He is said to have issued many of the group’s rulings on how Muslims should comply with the Taliban’s extreme interpretation of Islam.

Afghan Taliban meets on succession after US drones target leader

According to Rahimullah Yousafzai, considered the region’s foremost expert on the Taliban, Akhundzada was away in Pakistan during the 1979-89 Soviet occupation of Afghanistan — unlike Omar and Mansour, who earned reputations as fighters as part of the US-backed mujahideen.

It is unclear whether he will follow Mansour in shunning peace negotiations with the Afghan government. Analysts believe he will be more heavily reliant on his shura (council) than Omar and Mansour and will need to rule by consensus.

In terms of age and seniority, he was second only to Taliban co-founder Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, whom many sources had believed was in contention for the leadership despite his reported detention by Pakistani authorities.

Strike on Taliban chief shows dimming US hopes for Afghan peace

“Akhundzada was chosen to avoid further conflict and consultation,” said Islamabad-based analyst Amir Rana.

Yousafzai, however, projected a rocky road ahead for the new leader.

“I think some other sections were not consulted, there is no unification of the movement yet, and I don’t see how it can unify under Haibatullah (Akhundzada),” he said.

Facebook Conversations

Reader Comments (14)

  • Usama
    May 25, 2016 - 2:46PM

    wait till you die Recommend

  • AD
    May 25, 2016 - 2:51PM

    Nice picture. American already sticking it on drone dashboard.Recommend

  • Haji Atiya
    May 25, 2016 - 2:53PM

    Great, we look forward to reading his treatise on quantum computing !Recommend

  • ali sindhi
    May 25, 2016 - 3:02PM

    now its time to get him new pakistani CNIC and passport, so he can easily travel the worldRecommend

  • Adnan Siddiqui
    May 25, 2016 - 4:03PM

    He is not a fighter? What is he doing heading a violent fighting force? Maybe he is hoping to defeat the enemy with prayers!Recommend

  • Irfan_Sydney
    May 25, 2016 - 4:11PM

    Orya Maqbool Jaan has confirmed that no Talibaan leader died in the drone attack. This is conspiracy spread by US that new Talibaan leader has been chosen. Recommend

  • Messenger
    May 25, 2016 - 8:54PM

    “He is said to have issued many of the group’s rulings on how Muslims should comply with the Taliban’s extreme interpretation of Islam.”
    How is that possible?? There is nothing in there but words of peace !!Recommend

  • R S Chakravarti
    May 25, 2016 - 10:53PM

    What kind of sentences did he hand out as a judge? Stoning to death, cutting off legs and so on?Recommend

  • Shiv
    May 26, 2016 - 1:10AM

    A scholar?! Is this some kind of a joke(r)???!!!Recommend

  • Hameed
    May 26, 2016 - 5:53AM

    @ali sindhi:

    now its time to get him new pakistani CNIC and passport,

    He lives in Kuchlak (same pace Taseer was found) so would already have them. Pakistan is not even trying to hide the fact that these people are permanent residents in Pakistan.Recommend

  • Tp
    May 26, 2016 - 8:12AM

    He looks unhappy in the above photo for being chosen the leader of Taliban. He knows that his life-expectancy just took a nose dive. Recommend

  • Tp
    May 26, 2016 - 8:15AM

    @Shiv: Calm down bro. ‘Scholar’ in these parts means he can read and write. Recommend

  • Irfan_Sydney
    May 26, 2016 - 9:32AM

    @Tp: Same as “professor” term is used in Pakistani cricket team ? Recommend

  • K Alam
    May 26, 2016 - 9:52AM

    A SCHOLAR? Please call him Taliban Scholar and not a Muslim SCHOLARRecommend

More in World