The new Afghan Prime Minister Mullah Muhammad Hassan Akhund is a veteran Taliban, who comes from the Zarai district of Kandahar.
As co-founder of the movement, Akhund was one of the closest associates of Mullah Umar. Their friendship went back to their teen years, when Mullah Umar used to live with stepfather in Urazgan province. It is stated that Akhund used to take Mullah Umar on long motorcycle rides there.
Akhund, now approximately 71-year-old, was educated in various seminars of Afghanistan but never in Pakistan. He could not complete his education because of fighting against the Soviets. He was among the three people who conceived the idea of the Taliban movement.
In the early years of the Taliban, Akhund provided financial and logistics supports to movement nad arranging Shura meetings. Akhund is also credited with opening diplomatic channels with Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
When Taliban seized Kabul in the mid-90s, the group formed its first government headed by Mullah Rabbani, he was the country’s foreign minister. When Mullah Rabbani died of cancer, Akhund became the next caretaker prime minister – a position he held for around five years. Since the Taliban were unable to take over the entire country in their first tenure, they called their government as caretaker.
During the Taliban’s government, and later during the group’s 20-year war against the US-led forces, Akhund never lost his position in Rehbari Shura. After the demise of Mullah Umar, he also served as a close aide to the next head of the movement Mullah Mansoor.
After the death of Mullah Mansoor in a drone strike, Mullah Haibatullah became the Taliban chief. Till this date, Akhund remained a close aide and adviser to Haibatullah.
It is stated that Akhund was asked several times by the Rehbari Shura to become the Taliban Ameer after the death of Mullah Umar and again after the death of Mullah Mansoor, but he declined.
Actually, he paved the way of the consensus on the name of Mullah Haibatullah, a senior Taliban official told The Express Tribune. The official said that Akhund was respected by the Rehbari Shura so much that his word on all decisions is taken as final.
Akhund had visited Pakistan during the tenure of then prime minister Nawaz Sharif, when Sartaj Aziz was the foreign minister. He married when he was 21-year-old.
Akhund’s deputy in the new Afghan setup, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, was also raised in Kandahar. Like the most Afghans, Baradar’s life was forever altered by the Soviet invasion of the country in the late 1970s. He was believed to have fought side-by-side with Mullah Umar.
The two would go on to found the Taliban movement in the early 1990s during the chaos and corruption of the civil war that followed the Soviet withdrawal. Arrested in Pakistan in 2010, Baradar was kept in custody until he was freed in 2018 and relocated to Qatar for talks with the United States.
The new interior minister Sirajuddin Haqqani is the son of a famed commander from the anti-Soviet jihad, Jalaluddin Haqqani. The Haqqani network is a US-designated terror group long viewed as one of the most dangerous militant factions in Afghanistan.
Known for their independence, fighting acumen, and savvy business dealings, the Haqqanis are mainly based in eastern Afghanistan and hold considerable sway over the Taliban’s leadership council. Their network is accused of assassinating top Afghan officials.
The son of Taliban co-founder Mullah Umar, Mullah Yaqoob heads the group’s powerful military commission, which oversaw the vast network of field commanders charged with executing the insurgency. His lineage makes him a unifying figure in the movement.
(WITH INPUT FROM AGENCIES)