Akhund, Mohammad Hassan Mullah
|Name||Akhund, Mohammad Hassan Mullah|
|Date of birth||1956|
|Function/Grade||Interim Prime Minister of Afghanistan|
|History and Biodata||
1. Former Prime Minister:
Akhund is one of the Taliban’s most senior figures. He was a founding member of the group in the early 1990s and a deputy prime minister during the Taliban’s regime from 1996-2001. He also served as foreign minister and a provincial governor during that time.
Akhund, who hails from Kandahar, considered the birthplace of the Taliban, was believed to have been a close associate of late spiritual leader Mullah Omar.
During the Taliban’s insurgency, Akhund was a senior military commander. He also headed the Taliban’s leadership council, the group’s highest decision-making body, which is based in the southwestern Pakistani city of Quetta.
Akhund is probably best known as one of the architects of the destruction of the Buddhas of Bamiyan, the giant cliff statues destroyed by the Taliban in 2001.
Initially, Omar had no intention of destroying the statues. But the Taliban founder was angered at seeing conservation money being made available for the UNESCO world heritage site while failing to secure humanitarian aid from the United Nations for Afghanistan. As such, Omar sought out the advice of his shura, and Akhund was part of the council that ordered the destruction of the sixth-century statues. Akhund has been on the United Nations terror list since 2001, when the U.S.-led invasion toppled the Taliban from power. The UN has described him as one of the “most effective Taliban commanders.
Today, there are broadly two factions in the Taliban – a military wing that carries out the day-to-day campaigns, and a conservative religious elite grounded in Deobandism that acts as its political wing. Mullah Akhund aligns very much with the religious faction of the Taliban. Ibraheem Bahiss, an independent Afghan research analyst, says that considering Akhund’s seniority and status it is not a “huge surprise” that he was appointed as the new head of government.(20210908)
He was appointed as Raees-e-Jamhoor or Raees-ul-Wazara of Afghanistan.
There appears to be a power struggle behind Akhund’s appointment. Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, who served as deputy to Omar during the early years of the Taliban before assuming the position of de facto leader after Omar’s death, had been seen by many experts on Afghanistan as a potential head of state. But there is political tension between Baradar and the powerful Haqqani network – a family-based Islamist group that has become the Taliban’s de facto diplomatic arm in recent years and has been successful in gaining support for the group among other local groups.
The Haqqanis are among the most militant factions of the Taliban. And recent conciliatory language from Baradar on issues such as women’s rights, working with the international community and amnesty for members of the former government runs counter to the ideology of the Haqqani network.
Akhund seems to be a compromise candidate between supporters of Baradar and the Haqqani network. Whether this arrangement is permanent or temporary remains to be seen, but the compromise could be a testing of the waters of the Taliban – to see how effective Akhund is as a unifying figure for the group.(20210908)