ISLAMABAD: Afghanistan on Monday officially confirmed that a senior Taliban leader, Mullah Agha Jan Mutasim, who had started dialogue with Kabul-backed negotiators in Dubai, has been missing in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
After a mysterious silence for nearly two weeks, the Afghan Foreign Ministry on Monday confirmed that Mutasim is missing.
“The Afghan government confirms that Agha Jan Mutasim has disappeared in the UAE and we are talking to UAE senior officials to determine his fate,” the Afghan Foreign Ministry spokesperson, Ahmed Shakaib Mustaghni said in Kabul.
“The talks, unfortunately, have not yet produced any results and we do not have any more details,” Mustaghni told his weekly press briefing, according to the recorded version of the briefing received here.
When contacted, Afghan Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid told The Express Tribune that he had seen media reports and has no other information.
Mutasim’s family and friends had confirmed to The Express Tribune last week that they had lost contact with him in Dubai for ten days. They were concerned that the UAE authorities had detained and shifted him to an unknown location in Abu Dhabi.
Mutasim, a former Taliban cabinet minister and close aide to the Taliban chief, Mullah Muhammad Omar, had launched his alternate peace movement. And contrary to the Taliban policy, held talks with Karzai’s negotiators.
After their first meeting, they had agreed to hold more talks to push the peace process.
Sources close to Agha Jan had told The Express Tribune that he had been working on a plan to convene a big conference of religious scholars.
Mutasim’s move was seen a major embarrassment for the Taliban as he was thought to be the first senior leader to have openly started talks with Karzai’s government.
President Hamid Karzai had personally welcomed the Dubai peace initiative. He also urged other Taliban leaders to join the move after receiving Kabul-backed negotiators.
However, the Taliban reacted angrily to Agha Jan’s “unauthorized negotiations” with Karzai’s High Peace Council and had publicly disowned him.
The dissident Taliban leader’s detention is seen a serious setback for Karzai’s efforts to lure some Taliban leaders to join the intra-Afghan dialogue in the last day of his Nato-backed regime.
Karzai is scheduled to step down as the long serving elected leader of Afghanistan if a new leader is elected in the first round of the April 5 presidential elections.