Omar’s death; a setback to peace talks and Pakistan, say analysts

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: Photo By News Lens Pakistan / Matiullah Achakzai
Supporters of Pakistani religious party Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam Nazriati pray for the soul of Taliban leader Mullah Muhammad Omer in Pakistani border town Chaman: Photo By News Lens Pakistan / Matiullah Achakzai

FATA: Announcement of Mullah Omar’s death has seriously jolted peace talks between the Afghan Government and Taliban, and analysts believe chances of success are very slim after the split within the Taliban’s ranks.
Ever since peace talks began between the Afghan government and the Afghan Taliban, overseen by the US and China, rumors had started swirling around Mullah Omar’s death. Every news item about the talks would end with a note expressing doubts if the peace process had been started with the permission of the supreme commander and the spiritual leaders of the Afghan Taliban considered hiding somewhere in Quetta, Pakistan since 9/11.

The first round of talks held in Murree Pakistan on July 7, ended with a hope of reaching some sort of reconciliation between the Taliban and the Afghan government. Just when people had been waiting for the next round of talks to begin on July 31, the news of Mullah Omar’s death pushed the peace process backward.

Selab Mehsud, a senior analyst from FATA says that the timing of revealing Mullah Omar’s death, who had died in 2013, shows that there are forces within Afghanistan that do not want Pakistan to succeed in getting Taliban and the Afghan government to the negotiation table.

“The situation is set against Pakistan. I believe that the Afghan government is playing into someone’s hands. Since the death of Mullah Omar had been kept secret and not many even in the Taliban ranks knew about it, therefore breaking the news right when the peace talks were in progress, could be nothing but to demoralize the Taliban, dampen Pakistan’s role and to give the Afghan government an upper hand in the peace negotiation,” says Mehsud

He added that the involvement of India in bringing up this twist cannot be ruled out either.
“India has a good influence inside the Afghan government. The revelation of Mullah Omar’s death at this critical time could be India’s ploy to force Pakistan into a tight corner. It could not be possible, that Pakistan did not know about Mullah Omar’s death. That Pakistan had been using press releases issued purportedly by Mullah Omar supporting the peace talks, has already weakened its position considerably,” opined Mehsud.

The Afghan government released the news of Mullah Omar’s death without getting the approval of the Afghan President Ashraf Ghani.

“A lobby inside Afghan intelligence agency, The National Directorate of Security, is openly in confrontation with the Afghan President,”

Mehsud is however confident that things will improve in coming days even though the Taliban are ostensibly not in favor of brokering peace deals with the Afghan government.

“The Taliban have no option but to unit under the new leadership and to make peace with the Afghan government. This is the right time for them to engage in peace talks. The self-styled Islamic state (IS) has already laid its tentacles in Afghanistan and could take away the sheen from the Afghan Taliban especially when quite a number of Taliban commanders have joined the IS. If the Taliban refuse to unite now, they would become crumbs in the presence of the IS.

“Mullah Omar’s deputy Mullah Akhtar Muhammad Mansoor has taken over the leadership of the Taliban Supreme Council. His nomination is being contested against Mullah Omar’s son Mullah Yaqoob considered the rightful heir to Omar’s leadership. Mullah Mansoor has been in favor of the peace talks and obviously was the one who had originated the process at the behest of a dead Mullah Omar. Mullah Mansoor is now retracting from his stance of supporting the talks, which could be a strategy to repair the fractures in the Taliban ranks and file”, says Mehsud

In his first audio message recorded at an unidentified location in Pashto Mansoor has categorically rejected any kind of participation in peace talks and vowed to continue the holy war against the infidels on Afghan soil.

“I have accepted the heavy responsibility of heading the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan on the recommendations of the Ulema and Afghan leaders, but let it be known that I will run the Afghan Shura (Supreme Council) on the lines of our late leader Mullah Omar.”

He urged the Taliban fighters to keep unity among them.

“If you show disunity or rift, people will make fun of you,” he advised the Taliban.

Regardless of his message, the analysts are of the opinion that his withdrawal from the peace talks is an effort to remove the stigma he has earned of being a pro-Pakistani.

Rehmat Shabab, a senior analyst on Afghan affairs told the News Lens Pakistan that the news of rift among Taliban were no doubt true and the top leadership had even left the meeting convened to select Mullah Mansoor.

“Taliban from the eastern Afghan provinces are in favor of Sirajuddin Haqqani while a number of top commanders favors Molvi Yaqoob, the son of late Omar,” Shabab said adding that there was a possibility that the Taliban may splinter over the leadership crisis.

Pakistan had always denied the accusation of sheltering Mullah Omar. Now, that Mullah Omar’s family has also confirmed that he had never been to Pakistan and had died in Afghanistan, Pakistan’s deniability over his presence in Quetta gains credence. However, Pakistan’s reluctance to accept that it did not know if he had died while it was spearheading the peace talks is not finding enough buyers.

“Mullah Omar never came to Pakistan after 9/11. He had no confidence in Pakistani rulers,” said a senior Taliban Commander requesting anonymity.

Talking to the News Lens Pakistan, he said Mullah Omar was suffering from Hepatitis. He lived in Helmand and was buried in Nowzad district. The commander added that even Gulbuddin Hekmatyar the head of Hizb-e Islami, an Afghan political party, distrusted Pakistan.

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