Movement is already multi-ethnic, he insists
The interim cabinet announced by Taliban was composed of people from all ethnicities and ethnicity was not a Taliban precept. The Talib movement was multi-ethnic. This was the response of deputy spokesperson for the interim Taliban government Zabiullah Mujahid.
He was responding to a question about the exclusion in the cabinet of ethnic groups other than Pakhtun, such as Uzbeks, Tajiks, Hazaras, women and other minorities.
The Taliban announced their 33-member interim cabinet on September 7, but most of the key posts were delegated to hardline Pakhtun.
The interim cabinet lacked names of key groups other than the Taliban.
The 33-member interim cabinet is mostly composed of members from either the areas where the Taliban movement originally originated – Kandahar and Nangarhar, and the stronghold of the Haqqani network, Paktia and surrounding areas.
Apart from Sirajuddin Haqqani himself, three other members of the Haqqani network are part of the new cabinet: Khalilur Rehman Haqqani, Abdul Baqi Haqqani and Najeebullah Haqqani.
Mullah Mohammad Hassan Akhund, the interim prime minister, is not the only one who is from the city of Kandahar. Defence Minister Maulvi Mohammad Yaqoob, Information Minister Khairullah Khairkhwah and Minister for Petroleum and Minerals Mullah Isa Akhund are also from the same city.
Although there is a widespread perception that the Taliban mostly comprise elements from Pakhtun-dominated areas, this time around, the Taliban increased their presence in other ethnicities such as Tajiks, Uzbeks, Hazaras and Turkmens.
It is true that only three persons from northern ethnic groups, an Uzbek and two Tajiks, were included in the interim cabinet, but various Taliban commissions and district-level commanders include a substantial number of ethnic Tajiks and Uzbeks.
Deputy Prime Minister Mullah Abdul Salam Hanafi, who is considered to be one of the co-founders of the Taliban, is an ethnic Uzbek from the Faryab province. Earlier, he played a key role during the Taliban-US dialogue in Qatar. Previously, he served as education minister during the earlier Taliban regime.
Qari Fasihuddin, a key Taliban commander, has been named the new army chief. He is the only Tajik among Taliban commanders. Famous for vanquishing the resistance in the Panjshir Valley, he is the first of the commanders to set foot in the provincial capital of Panjshir, Bazarak.
Belonging to the northernmost province of Badakhshan, Qari Fasihuddin also serves as the deputy commander in the Afghanistan Emirate’s Military Commission. The change in the composition of the military commission is also being viewed as a major change in the Taliban strategy.
Qari Deen Mohammad Hanif is the interim Minister for Economic Affairs. Born in 1955, he is also from the Badakhshan province and is an ethnic Tajik. He was an important member of the political team which negotiated with the US in Qatar.
He arrived in Pakistan as a refugee with his father and finished his religious education in Pakistan too and joined the Taliban movement during its nascent phase.
He was elevated to the status of a commander in Badakhshan. He was later appointed to the political commission in 2004 and as a member of the leadership council on the direct orders of Taliban founder Mullah Umar.