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Network error? PM Khan and his CNN Haqqani flub

PM Khan called the Haqqanis a 'Pashtun tribe'

SAMAA | - Posted: Sep 16, 2021 | Last Updated: 1 month ago
Posted: Sep 16, 2021 | Last Updated: 1 month ago

Photo: CNN

Prime Minister Imran Khan’s interview with CNN has set off a debate on the origins of the Haqqani Network.

“This [Haqqani] is a group that now has four members in key roles in the Taliban government,” said CNN’s Becky Anderson, and after quoting retired Admiral Mike Mullen from 2011 (“Haqqani is a veritable arm of Pakistan’s ISI”), asked if it was any wonder that there was a trust deficit between the West and Pakistan.

“It is complete ignorance,” PM Khan responded. “The Americans didn’t understand what the Haqqani network was. Haqqani is a tribe. It’s a Pashtun tribe, living in Afghanistan. Forty years ago, when the Afghan jihad took place, we had five million Afghan refugees in Pakistan, among them were a few of the Haqqanis. And the Haqqanis, the mujahideen were fighting the Soviets. They were born in Pakistan refugee camps.” The US expected Pakistan to find out who among the three million people living in the refugee camps were and were not the Taliban, he added.

PM Khan’s statement prompted a response from a number of people, including journalists, who argued that Haqqani is a not a tribe.

A history of Haqqani group

The Haqqani Network is an organisation of individuals who have been fighting wars in Afghanistan since the Soviet invasion. The group was formed by Jalalduddin Haqqani and joined hands with the Taliban in 1995 and helped them capture Kabul in 1996. Jalaluddin is thought to have received his education at Darul Ulum Haqqania in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. He had two wives, including one from the United Arab Emirates.

Due to deteriorating health, Jalalduddin had handed over the group’s leadership to his son Sirajuddin Haqqani.

The western media holds a view that the Haqqani Network had been fighting against Soviets, the US and NATO forces as an ally or a tool of the CIA and ISI, but these claims have never been established or backed by evidence. 

Haqqani has been termed the “deadliest” militant group in Afghanistan and had ties with al-Qaeda. The 2018 bombing of Kabul, which killed more than 100 people and injured over 400 others, was blamed on the Haqqani Network linked to al-Qaeda. 

Key figures

The Haqqani Network’s most powerful leaders include Sirajuddin Haqqani, Anas Haqqani, Khalilur Rehman Haqqani, Najibullah Haqqani, and Sheikh Abdul Baqi Haqqani.

Anas Haqqani is the youngest son of Jalaluddin Haqqani and has been given responsibilities of interior minister since Taliban’s return to power. Anas was earlier sentenced to death by a local court but the Haqqani group had warned of severe consequences if it was carried out. He was released from the infamous Bagram prison during a prisoner exchange deal between Taliban and the US in 2019.

Khalilur Rahman Haqqani has been appointed the minister for refugees. The US had marked a $5 million reward for his head. Khalil is one of the senior Haqqani members. He played a key role in raising funds for the Taliban. He used to take instructions from his nephew Sirajuddin Haqqani to run the Taliban operations. He has worked for al-Qaeda as well.

Najibullah Haqqani hails from Shaigal district of the Kunar province. He was the deputy finance minister during the former Taliban government and was named in the UN sanctions list in 2014. He has now been appointed minister for technology and communications. 

Abdul Hakim Haqqani was the chief justice for the Taliban. He was born in Kandahar in 1967. Hakim graduated from Darul Uloom Haqqania in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and later served as an imam at a mosque in Afghanistan’s Helmand province. 

According to reports, Hakim is a close and trusted ally of Taliban leader Hibatullah, which is why he was later appointed the chief negotiator for peace talks between Taliban and the US.

Abdul Baqi Haqqani has been appointed education minister under the new Taliban regime. He is the only Haqqani leader in the Taliban cabinet who has not been named in the terrorist list but he has been banned by the European Union.

How far the network extends

The group is reportedly based in areas along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. They carry out such activities as acquiring weapons, training suicide bombers, planning military operations, etc. Kabul and US officials have long accused ISI of providing safe havens to the group, but Pakistan has denied the allegations. 

Reports suggest that the Haqqani network comprises between 3,000 t0 10,000 members. It is financed by a number of sources, including the wealthy and influential from Gulf states. It makes money through smuggling too.

The Haqqani network is thought to have links with the al-Qaeda, Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan and Lashkar e Taiba in Pakistan. 

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