Two days after Mullah Akhtar Mansoor stepped into the shoes of Mullah Omar, the new Afghan Taliban supremo cast doubts on the nascent peace process with the Afghan government, calling it the enemy’s propaganda. Pakistan says the second round of talks between the Taliban and Afghan government was postponed at the request of the orthodox militia following the confirmation of Mullah Omar’s death on Wednesday.
Senior Taliban cadres and Afghan government officials were to meet somewhere in Pakistan on July 31 for a second round of peace and reconciliation talks. The first round was held in the popular tourist resort of Murree in the beginning of July.
In a brief speech to a gathering of senior Taliban leaders and religious scholars who elected him, the new Taliban supremo did not mention the Murree rendezvous. Several members of the Taliban’s powerful leadership council rejected Mullah Mansoor’s nomination, while Mullah Omar’s family, too, refused to pledge allegiance to him unless he is elected with consensus.
On Saturday, the Taliban released a 33-minute audio of Mullah Mansoor, his first since his election, in which he spoke in detail about his predecessor’s policies, internal rift, ongoing insurgency, and glossed over the ‘reported peace process’.
“This is the enemy’s propaganda to call it ‘peace process’ and ‘dialogue process’. The enemy’s propaganda has increased. They are using the media, money and puppet religious scholars to weaken our Jihad and to create rifts in our ranks. I want to tell you, do not pay any attention to such reports,” Mullah Mansoor said in the audio message.
Nonetheless at one point in his audio message, the 48-year-old said: “The Islamic Emirate could use negotiation along with Jihad to achieve its objectives.” Mullah Mansoor, a founding member of the Taliban movement, was elected new Afghan Taliban chief on Wednesday after the orthodox militia formally confirmed the death of Mullah Omar.
The Taliban have conferred the title of ‘Amir-ul-Momineen or leader of the faithful’ on Mullah Mansoor, though some Taliban critics say it’s a prerogative of a huge gathering of Islamic scholars, and not the ‘Shura’, to grant this title. They insist that over 2,000 Islamic scholars and top Taliban commanders had declared Mullah Omar ‘Amir-ul-Momineen’.
Some members of the leadership council and religious scholars pledged allegiance to the new Taliban supremo but some stayed away from the meeting that elected him to replace Mullah Omar, according a council member.
In the audio message, Mullah Mansoor said he was ready to meet all dissidents and disgruntled members of the Taliban movement, and address their grievances.
He said ‘Jihad’ would continue until Islamic Sharia was enforced in Afghanistan. “No other system is acceptable and even there is no place for democracy,” he added. “We will try not to lose what we have achieved on the battlefield. As victory approaches fast, people will try to harm it.”
Referring to criticism from his opponents among the Taliban, he said decisions would not be made unilaterally but collectively. “If someone has doubts about any decision, he can approach the leadership,” he said. “There is a need for unity. The enemy will face defeat if we demonstrate unity in our ranks. The world tried its best to create rifts in our ranks, create misunderstandings, and weaken our Jihad but their money and pressures have not worked.”
In a reference to the dissident Taliban, Mullah Mansoor said: “If some friends are unhappy, we should address their grievances. We will do whatever we can to keep them happy and in our ranks.”
On the other hand, a former Taliban minister and member of the leadership council says senior members have formed a ‘Shura’ and have told Mullah Mansoor to step down to elect a new chief with consensus. “If Mullah Mansoor does not quit, then the council will elect a new chief,” he said, requesting not to be identified.
‘Shura formed to elect chief’
Dissident Afghan Taliban leaders have formed a ‘Shura’ to elect a new chief after a controversy surfaced over the election of Mullah Mansoor, a council’s member said on Saturday.
A senior member of the powerful leadership council told The Express Tribune that the Shura would give some time to Mullah Mansoor to ‘relinquish’ the position. “If he refuses, then the council could elect a new leader,” he added.
Mullah Omar’s family also refused to endorse Mullah Mansoor’s election, saying it would support the new chief if he was elected with consensus.
“The Ameer-ul-Momineen had always desired unity and understanding and he had, to a large extent, succeeded in maintaining unity. So, in the election of a new Taliban leader we want to consult the Ulema, Mujahideen and all those renowned personalities who had played an important role in founding the Islamic Emirate,” Omar’s family said in a statement sent to The Express Tribune.
The statement said election with consensus would mean respecting the desire of Mullah Omar. “We will serve the new leader if he is elected with consensus but will not support anyone, including Mullah Akhtar Mansoor, if the leaders fail to demonstrate unity.”
Published in The Express Tribune, August 2nd, 2015.