Differences erupted among Taliban before start of Intra-Afghan Dialogue

Arif Qureshi

Islamabad: According to sources close to Afghan Taliban, differences have been erupted among Taliban leadership before the start of historic Intra-Afghan negotiations (IAN). The Taliban supreme commander Mullah Haibatullah Akhunzada surprisingly removed Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanikzai who was the chief negotiator of the Taliban team and appointed his close aide and confidant Mawlavi Abdul Hakim as chief negotiator.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid on saturday, officially announced the new appointments through his Twitter account,  “we have formed a strong and inclusive team for intra-Afghan negotiations. It mostly comprises members of the Rehbari Shoura [Taliban leadership council], and the Islamic Emirate’s [Taliban] chief justice has been appointed as the team leader,” Mujahid stated.

Sher Muhammad Abas Stanikzai will be his deputy in the talks.

According to analysts with the appointment of Mawlavi Abdul Hakim as a chief negotiator, Taliban supreme commander secured full grip on the movement but another aspect of the development is that the Taliban’s negotiations team has been shifted from moderate to hardliners.

Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, a co-founder of the Taliban and deputy political chief of the group is considered a flexible and moderate Taliban leader.

Mawlavi Abdul Hakim at the moment working as a head of Taliban’s own judicial system under Taliban-captured Afghan areas.

Zabihullah Mujahid also announced the termination of Suhail Shaheen from the post of spokesman of Taliban’s political office in Doha. He told that Muhammad Naeem Wardak has been appointed as a new spokesman of Doha office, Qatar by supreme leader.

Suhail Shaheen, the Taliban’s outgoing spokesman in a note to TOLO News on Friday said that the Taliban’s negotiating team have returned to Doha from Pakistan trip and that efforts are underway to finalize the date for the start of the talks.

A six member delegation headed by deputy political chief, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, visited Islamabad on the invitation of the pakistan’s Foreign Ministry to discuss the AFghan peace process, state of Afghan refugees in Pakistan last week of August. Pakistan’s foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi along with Lt General Faiz hameed, DG Inter Service Intelligence (ISI).

Earlier both the Kabul administration and Afghan Taliban completed the prisoners exchange on friday. Afghan Government released all the 320 remaining prisoners including the seven Taliban hardcore prisoners whom release was objected by France and Australia,

They will be transferred to Doha, and they will remain in custody of Qatar government. It has not been announced how much time these seven prisoners will remain in the custody of Qatar.

In return Taliban has also released 22 commandos of Afghan National Army in Kabul.

It has been learnt that a technical team of Afghan Government has left for Qatar on Thursday to take stock of the arrangement of Intra-Afghan Dialogue. Hopefully the Afghan negations team headed by Muhammad Masoom Stankzai, former chief of Afghan Intelligence, NDS will leave coming week to Qatar.

It is expected that Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, Chairman of the High Council for National Reconciliation [HCNR] of Afghanistan and US special envoy to Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad are likely to join the opening session of intra-Afghan dialogue thatis expected to begin next week.

US state department on Saturday confirmed that USA Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad departed for Doha, Qatar on September 4.  He will be traveling in the region to advance ongoing U.S. efforts to promote the immediate start of intra-Afghan negotiations (IAN).

The Afghan people are ready for a sustainable reduction in violence and a political settlement that will end the war.  Afghan leaders must seize this historic opportunity for peace.  All sides have taken important steps to remove obstacles for the start of IAN, said in the statement.



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