Pro-Taliban clerics meet in Quetta on succession row
KABUL (Pajhwok): Hundreds of pro-Taliban religious leaders have gathered near Quetta, the capital of Pakistan’s Balochistan province, to resolve a lingering dispute over who should lead the militant group following the death of its supreme leader Mullah Mohammad Omar, a report said on Thursday.
An American newspaper “Stars and Stripes” quoted unnamed senior Taliban political official as saying that as many as 1,000 scholars with various ties to the Taliban, including some of the group’s top religious leaders, began meeting in the area south of Quetta on Wednesday.
Omar’s brother Mullah Abdul Manan, eldest son Mullah Mohammad Yaqub and a significant faction within the insurgency oppose the election of Mansoor as the group’s supreme leader.
Mansoor has been trying to consolidate power after the group confirmed in July that the organization’s founder and longtime supreme commander, Mullah Omar had been dead for at least two years.
There has been controversey over whether Mansoor was legitimately named as the new supreme commander.
Mansoor rejected the nascent peace talks with the Afghan government in his first address after being elected as the supreme leader.
In Quetta, Yaqob has recognized the gathering’s authority, but Mansoor, who claimed he already has the official vote of the Taliban’s leading council, has not, the source told the American newspaper.
A Taliban military commander in Helmand province told Stars and Stripes that he had been informed of the gathering, but said he could not confirm if the agenda would be limited to leadership issues.
He said similar gatherings had been used in the past to work out a variety of issues related to the Taliban’s organization. Either way, the meetings are a clear effort to unify the group, the commander concluded.
While declining to confirm the specifics of these meetings, Zabihullah Mujahid, a spokesman for the Taliban said the group’s religious scholars had been seeking to resolve the dispute for some time.
Earlier, the rival factions had approached a top religious leader Maulana Saimul Haq, the leader of his own faction of Jamiat-i-Ulema Islam (JUI-S) in Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province to help resolve the succession row.
Omar’s brother Abdul Manan had told Pajhwok Afghan News and other media outlets that they had not been consulted on the appointment of Mansoor as the Taliban’s new leader. He had said the Taliban’s central leadership would soon make a decision in this regard.
A Taliban commander in southern Afghanistan told Pajhwok Afghan News over the telephone that he was informed about the gathering in Quetta.
He said he did not know if the gathering had reached any decision, but added that a number of Taliban commanders wanted to join the peace process but they needed guarantee of their security.
In August, Pajhwok Afghan News reported that Maulvi Haibatullah Noorzai, a top deputy to Mansoor, narrowly escaped an assassination attempt when unidentified gunmen attacked his convoy in Pakistan’s Baluchistan province.
Noorzai and the head of the Taliban’s leading council, Maulvi Abdul Kabir, were in the area to try to drum up support for Mansoor.