Who is who in Taliban’s Qatar negotiators?
The inaugural ceremony for the Taliban office on June 18 allowed the world to see, for the first time in many years, the public face of the insurgent group.
The ceremony was attended by a number of Taliban representatives and Qatari officials. A website “Zhman” has published brief biotherapies of some of the Taliban negotiators in Qatar.
In the picture (from right to left) are Maulvi Shahabuddin Dilawar, Qari Din Mohammad Hanif, Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanikzai, Suhail Shaheen, Maulvi Jan Mohammad Madani, Sheikh Syed Rassoul Nangarhari, Haji Zahid Ahmadzai and Maulvi Naik Mohammad.
The list of Taliban members in Qatar office:
Syed Mohammad Tayeb Agha
Agha is head of the Taliban office in Doha. He was born in Jalahor area of Arghandab district in southern Kandahar province nearly 40 years ago. Son of a renowned religious leader, Maulvi Sahib Sadozai, Tayeb received his primary education in Quetta, the capital of Pakistan’s southwestern Balochistan province, before joining a seminary. Having good communication and diplomatic skills, he can speak English, Arabic, Urdu and Balochi.
His father Maulvi Sadozai Sahib was also a jihadi leader during the Russian invasion of Afghanistan. During Taliban rule, Agha first served at a foreign relations office in Kandahar. The office worked as foreign ministry for the Taliban before they captured Kabul.
Agha was then sent to Islamabad as a diplomat. From Pakistan, he returned to Afghanistan as head of Mullah Mohammad Omar’s office. After the Taliban’s regime was toppled in 2001, Agha continued as Omar’s secretary. In March 2010, he acted as a key negotiator in the first phase of Taliban-German-US talks. Tayeb did not attend the June 18 opening ceremony.
2): Maulvi Shahabuddin
Shahabuddin is member of the Taliban office. Son of Maulvi Syed Akbar, a monarchy-era MP from Logar, Dilawar served as Taliban representative at the Peshawar consulate, ambassador to Pakistan, chargé d’affaires in Saudi Arabia, Deputy Chief Justice of the Kandahar Appeal Court and head of the religious board of the Supreme Court, which dealt with international backlash over the Taliban’s destruction of colossal Buddha statues in Bamyan in 2001. He also attended the Chantilly conference in December 2012.
3): Maulvi Jan Muhammad Madani
Madani was among Taliban negotiators who cut the ribbon at the opening ceremony for the Qatar Office. Having studied in Medina, he belongs to Kandahar province. He is a member of the Alizai tribe from Panjwai district. During Taliban regime, he headed the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Kandahar and later served as chargé d’affaires in the Taliban Embassy in the UAE.
After 2001, he is believed to have moved to Quetta and subsequently lived in Dubai and Doha. His background reportedly enabled him to better introduce the Taliban to Qatari diplomats.
4): Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanikzai
Stanikzai is a Pashtun from the Baraki Barak district of central Logar province. He joined the anti-Soviet jihad, first with Nabi Mohammadi’s Harakat-e-Inqilab-i-Islami, then with Abdul Rasul Sayaf’s Ittehad-i-Islami, as commander on the southwestern front.
During the Taliban government, Stanikzai served as deputy minister of foreign affairs and later deputy minister of public health. Before joining jihad, he received military training in India.
5): Qari Din Mohammad Hanif
From northern the Yaftal district of Badakhshan province, Hanif was the Taliban’s minister of planning and higher education. Seen as a relatively progressive man, Hanif represented the Taliban at talks with former northern alliance in Tajikistan.
He was also a member of the Joint Consultative Committee (a forum where UN, NGOs, donors and Taliban representatives met in Islamabad to discuss aid). He surfaced in Kyoto on June 27, 2012, talking on behalf of the Taliban at an academic conference.
6): Maulvi Naik Mohammad
Mohammad, belonging to the Nawa district of southern Helmand province, briefly served as deputy minister in Kabul. He left the job to lead the education department in Kandahar where he remained until Taliban’s collapse.
He resurfaced in September 2011 when he was reported as having participated in the ‘Islamic Awakening’ conference in Tehran. As part of a three-member Taliban delegation, Mohammad read out a statement of the movement to participants of the Tehran conference, which was attended by religious scholars from across the Muslim world.
7): Haji Mohammad Zahid Ahmadzai
Born in 1971, Zahid hails from central Logar. He worked as Taliban’s third secretary in Islamabad. Having been in Dubai for a long time as a businessman, he fought against the Soviets as member of the Maulvi Mohammad Nabi’s Harkat-i-Islami.
8): Mohammad Suhail Shaheen
A Totakhel from southeastern Paktia province, Shaheen studied at the International Islamic University in Islamabad. A fluent English speaker and prolific writer, he edited the English-language, state-owned Kabul Times during the Taliban government. He was later appointed as deputy ambassador to Pakistan.
After 2001, he lived in the Shamshatu refugee camp in Peshawar, where he wrote for newspapers and later worked for the United Nations in Pakistan.
9): Dr. Mohammad Naeem Wardak
In his late 30s, Wardak is from the Chak district of central Maidan Wardak province. Son of Agha Jan, he went to school in Wardak before completing his BA in Islamic Studies (Arabic) in Peshawar. He was enrolled at the International Islamic University in Islamabad for a master’s and PhD, graduating in 2010. He studied Hadith briefly in the famous Darul Ulum Haqqania in Akora Khattak.
He was reportedly detained by the Afghan government for six months in Kabul while visiting relatives in 2011. He is fluent in Arabic and can also speak English. He was first sighted at a conference in Chantilly, France, on in December 2012. The event was organised by a French think tank. He accompanied Maulvi Shahabuddin Dilawar to the conference that brought together many Afghans, including representatives of the government and the High Peace Council.
10): Hafiz Azizur Rahman
Formerly secretary to the Taliban Embassy in the UAE, Rahman was born in the Daman district of southern Kandahar province. His father owns a religious school named Hijrat. A Hotak from Shega area, he is a businessman based in Qatar.
Political analyst Mohammad Hassan Haqyar said he knew all members of the Taliban office in Qatar, acknowledging they had vast experience in diplomatic and political affairs. He added their biographies would put to rest rumours that the Taliban’s negotiators in Qatar were Pakistanis.
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