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Monday October 25, 2021

Spotlight on Mullah Haibatullah

By  Sabir Shah
September 03, 2021
Spotlight on Mullah Haibatullah

LAHORE: Numerous western media houses like the New York-based “Bloomberg” reported Wednesday that the 60-year-old Taliban supreme commander, Haibatullah Akhundzada, will be the top leader of the governing council, while Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, one of his three deputies and the main public face of the Taliban, is likely to be at the helm of the daily affairs of the new regime in Kabul, which might just take a few more days to start functioning amidst all the chaos and rumpus.

A peek through the life of this much-feared militant outfit’s leader, Mullah Haibatullah, reveals he has seen one of his sons and a brother dying unnaturally during the last four years.

In July 2017, according to the British news agency “Reuters,” one of Mullah Haibatullah’s sons, Abdur Rahman, was killed in the restive Afghan province of Helmand while carrying out a suicide attack.

Abdur Rahman, 23, also known as Hafiz Khalid, had died driving a vehicle laden with explosives into an Afghan military base in the town of Gereshk. In August 2019, according to the Doha-based “Al-Jazeera Television,” a brother of Haibatullah had lost life in a powerful bomb blast at a Quetta mosque.

The television had reported: “A senior Taliban source said that Hafiz Ahmadullah was the imam of the Khair Ul Madarais mosque in the town of Kuchlak, on the outskirts of Quetta, which came under attack during Friday prayers. Two of Haibatullah’s nephews were also wounded in the blast."

Moulvi Haibatullah Akhundzada, also spelt as Hibatullah by some western media outlets like the “BBC News,” had headed the Taliban courts prior to his appointment as the emir of this armed group in Afghanistan in May 2016, replacing Mullah Akhtar Mansoor who was killed in an American drone strike on Pakistan’s territory.

Soon after Mansoor had crossed through the Taftan border from Iran, he was hunted down by American technology. Quoting the statement of the Taliban spokesman on May 25, 2016, the “BBC News” had reported: “Hibatullah Akhundzada has been appointed the new leader of the Islamic Emirate (Taliban) after a unanimous agreement in the Shura (supreme council), and all the members of the “Shura” pledged allegiance to him. Mullah Mohammad Yaqoob, son of Mullah Omar, would become a joint deputy head of the movement, alongside current deputy leader Sirajuddin Haqqani. The fact that Akhundzada comes from the traditional Taliban stronghold of Kandahar is likely to please rank-and-file fighters.”

The British media house had added: “More of a religious leader than a military commander, he has been responsible for issuing most of the Taliban's fatwas. However, experts say, he maintains close links with the so-called Quetta Shura, the Afghan Taliban leaders said to be based in the Pakistani city of Quetta. From southern Kandahar province, he belongs to the Noorzai tribe. Hibatullah in Arabic means "gift from God."

An eminent British newspaper “The Guardian” had maintained: “Haibatullah is a former Taliban chief justice and heads their religious Ulema council. Compared with Mansoor, he has strong religious credentials, and has been responsible for issuing fatwas to justify military and terrorist operations. Reportedly from the Panjwai district of Kandahar, Haibatullah is part of the Noorzai tribe and comes from the Taliban’s spiritual heartland, which gives him clout over southern commanders and could potentially help him unify discontented factions.”

He had fought against the Russians during the 1980s and then joined the Taliban movement in 1994 under the leadership of the late Taliban leader Mullah Omar.

In June 2020, speculations had surfaced in a section of western press, including the “Foreign Policy” magazine that Haibatulah had died from corona virus, but Taliban officials refuted all such reports.

According to the “New York Times,” which quoted one of the cleric’s students Mullah Ibrahim, Haibatullah had survived an assassination attempt in Quetta few years ago while he was delivering a lecture.

The American newspaper revealed: “A man stood among the students and pointed a pistol at Mawlawi Akhundzada from a close range, but the pistol stuck. He was trying to shoot him, but he failed, and the Taliban rushed to ‘tackle' the man.”