The Taliban have sought to quash reports of differences between their senior members over the makeup of the interim government which provided grist to the rumour mills and set off a guessing game in the media.
Anas Haqqani of the Haqqani Network and Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the deputy prime minister of Afghanistan, made video statements to deny the rumours of schisms within the Taliban hierarchy over the caretaker set-up.
The development came days after reports went viral on social media of an armed scuffle between Baradar and Haqqani at the presidential palace in Kabul in which the former was reportedly fatally wounded.
Baradar was reportedly not happy with the clerics-dominated interim government which doesn’t have representation from women and other ethnic groups of the country.
Baradar was quick to deny the reports of his death in an audio statement, but his conspicuous absence from Kabul fuelled rumours of persisting differences within the Taliban.
Anas Haqqani is the youngest son of Jalaluddin Haqqani, the jihadi commander and founder of the ‘Haqqani Network’ which was blamed for most of the deadliest attacks on US-led foreign forces in Afghanistan during the 20-year insurgency.
In a video statement shared on social media on Thursday, the young Haqqani, whose elder brother Sirajuddin Haqqani is caretaker interior minister, denied rumours of any conflict with Mullah Baradar.
“There was no fight with Mullah Baradar over who will take up the reins,” he said, calling it part of the enemy’s disinformation campaign aimed at drawing a wedge in the Taliban movement.
“As you all know the enemies of jihad have tried to spread propaganda against the Taliban movement during our 20-year-long sacred struggle,” the young Haqqani said in the video.
He went on to add that the propaganda against the Taliban has intensified since they took over the country. “The new propaganda is that the Haqqani Network and respected Mullah Ghani have differences over slots in the [interim] cabinet. The people who know us also know that we would never fight over government positions,” he added.
“We fought for God, for the Islamic Emirate, and for the establishment of an Islamic system [in Afghanistan] and not for any position in the government,” he said.
Meanwhile, Mullah Baradar also denied reports of any internal rifts within the Taliban leadership in a video interview. “As you can see I’m hale and hearty,” he said while denying the rumours of his fatal injury.
Without naming the Haqqani Network, the cleric who had negotiated the Doha deal with the United States snubbed the reports of the infighting as groundless.
“We have only compassion, mercy, and confidence for each other. You won’t find this kind of love and trust even within families,” Baradar said in the video while responding to a question.
“We fought against foreign aggression for decades – and this sacred jihad was not for any government post,” he said while clarifying that it took him a while to issue the video rebuttal of his reported death because he was touring an area where he didn’t have access to the media.
Asked about his absence from the official meeting with Qatar’s foreign minister who visited Kabul earlier this week, Baradar said he was not aware of the trip.
Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani visited the Afghan capital on Sept 12 Kabul and met Mullah Mohammad Hassan Akhund, the acting prime minister of Afghanistan.
He also met a number of officials in the new government, including the foreign minister and their deputy, as well as former president Hamid Karzai and Abdullah Abdullah, the head of the National Reconciliation Council.
It was the highest-level visit by an official since the US military withdrawal from Afghanistan. However, Mullah Baradar was conspicuous by his absence from this high-profile visit.
“I wasn’t aware of the Qatari delegation’s Kabul visit. I couldn’t be informed about the visit because I was touring a remote area of Afghanistan. Otherwise, I would have cut-short or cancelled my trip and returned to Kabul,” said Mullah Baradar, who has spent considerable time in the Qatari capital of Doha where the Taliban have long maintained a political office.
The Taliban’s deputy premier condemned the “one-sided and baseless news” about his death and his conflict with the Haqqanis. “Such disinformation campaign had also been launched to derail our delegation-level talks with the US in Qatar,” he added.
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