Latest peace talks create rifts among Taliban ranks
Rumors about differences among Taliban ranks started circulating soon after the Afghan government and Taliban representatives held talks in China and then in Pakistan.
Zabihullah Mujahid, the Taliban’s overall spokesman, had rejected the two-day meeting in the northwestern Chinese city of Urumqi, but he had issued an ambiguous statement about the talks in Murree near Islamabad.
However, some sources said no one from the Taliban’s political office in Qatar had attended the one-day talks in Murree.
But national security advisor to Pakistani Prime Minister Sartaj Aziz had said the talks had Taliban leadership approval and that more Taliban leaders would join the next round of talks.
Pakistan foreign secretary Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry recently told the Pakistani senate that though the Afghan government was interested in the peace talks, the Taliban were divided into two groups over the parlays. He had said one group of the Taliban was ready for the talks and the second was not.
In Kabul, political affairs expert Javed Kohistani confirmed differences among the Taliban, saying the rebels had split into three groups over the issue.
He told Pajhwok Afghan News the Doha office was under influence of Mullah Mohammad Omar’s friends to a great extent, but it seemed Omar was under immense pressure from Pakistan and close observation as those attending talks at different venues had the backing of Islamabad.
He said Omar’s Doha office was one group, Mullah Mohammad Hassan Rahmani and his supporters was another group, which has been taking part in talks, and the third group was young battlefield commanders each of whom had his own view and had serious differences among them.
Another political expert, Dr. Faiz Mohammad Zaland, said the peace talks which had been initiated with Pakistan’s mediation might have caused differences among the Taliban ranks.
However, he believed the Taliban’s cautious statement following the Murree talks showed the differences would be resolved until the next round of talks and the Taliban would appear for the next round with a unified stance.
Zaland also said it was possible the governments of Afghanistan and Pakistan had started efforts to create differences among the Taliban ranks. “I think this will hurt the Afghan peace process because it is not in the interest of the two countries.”
However, political commentator Eng. Yunas Fakor said the Taliban were puppets in outsiders’ hands and they lived in a foreign country so it would be wrong to expect that they would hold similar views.
He said the US, other western countries and the Qatari government had been pushing for the establishment of the Doha office and there could be differences between the Doha office (Taliban) and those living in Pakistan, but the differences were mostly about power.
“These differences are not important for us. What is important is that Pakistan has produced them for talks and has promised to do it again.”
But political science teacher and expert Najib Mahmood rejected all sorts of differences among the Taliban. He also rejected if there were many hands that divided the Taliban into various groups.
Mahmood told Pajhwok Afghan News the Qatar office was symbolic and only those Taliban representatives could take part in talks who enjoyed Pakistan’s support.
Journalist Sami Yousafzai said the US and the western world did not want differences among the Taliban when it came to the peace process.
Meanwhile, a Taliban source confirmed differences among the movement, but called the differences as racial. He said such differences existed even when the Taliban ruled Afghanistan.
Speaking on the condition of anonymity, the Taliban source said during the Taliban regime, attempts had been made to create differences among Mullah Omar, Mullah Rabbani, Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansoor and Mullah Dadullah.
Mullah Dadullah was mysteriously killed and Mullah Omar did not reconcile with Mullah Rabbani until the latter’s demise.
After the collapse of the Taliban regime, the movement’s central leadership council was limited for unknown reasons, but Mullah Abdul Razaq, the then interior minister, and some other friends like Mullah Nooruddin Torabi, Mullah Saeeduddin Saeed, Mullah Abdul Manan and others tried to resolve the matter through dialogue.
The source said the issue could not be resolved and several senior leaders were ousted from the movement.
Mullah Abdul Razaq and his friends invited a large number of Taliban leaders in 2003 and formed his own group after contacts with some foreign countries. He not only criticised Mullah Omar’s leadership, but also gained support of many Pakistani scholars in this regard.
The source said though the differences were tribal, but there existed some hidden hands that fueled the differences.
During the Taliban regime, the source said, some foreign governments and non-governmental organisations had hand in creating differences between Mullah Omar and other Taliban leaders. A number of Pakistani religious scholars had influence over Mullah Omar’s office and personality.
But despite all this, Wahid Muzhda, a political expert who worked in the Foreign Ministry during Taliban’s rule, acknowledged there must be some differences among the Taliban, but the differences were not serious.
He said participants of the Murree talks had called for complete withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan as a precondition for peace talks.
The withdrawal of foreign troops was the main demand of Taliban under Mullah Omar’s leadership, he said. “The demand itself proves it there are no serious differences.”
But another political expert Qazi Mohammad Hassan Haqyar held a different view about the differences among the Taliban. “I have no evidence to say there exist deep differences among the Taliban ranks.”
He said difference of opinion existed in every organisation. If Mullah Mohammad Hassan Rahmani or other Taliban leaders arrived at the negotiating table, it did not mean they had shunned the movement or did not recognize Mullah Omar’s leadership, he added.
He said Mullah Rahmani, Maulvi Abdul Jalil Akhund, Mullah Torabi, Maulvi Akhtar Mohammad Mansoor, Maulvi Kabir and others had been living in Pakistan which wielded influence over them. However, Haqyar denied any differences among the Taliban.
“There can be differences in views. But all those I mentioned do not say they are separated from the Taliban or they do not recognize Mullah Omar as their leader.”
About two weeks ago, former Taliban’s ambassador to Pakistan Maulvi Abdul Salam Zaeef told a research seminar that according to his information, Mullah Omar remained a recognized leader of all the Taliban.
He cited some examples in this regard like the swapping of a US soldier with five Taliban leaders of the Qatar office through the Haqqani network and the release of Turkish engineers in central Logar province and others.
Pro-Taliban writer and expert Nazar Mohammad Mutmayen in a column had called the Murree talks an attempt to divide the Taliban.
He blamed the US for it and said: “The US is trying to take revenge from the Taliban of its defeat in Afghanistan. The US has distributed millions of dollars to fuel infighting among the Taliban ranks like the Soviets did with mujahideen.”
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