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‘Afghan Taliban will not make any leadership change’

Islamabad: Afghan Taliban will not change its decision to appoint Mullah Akhtar Mansour as the group’s chief as he was elected by a “clear majority” with only a “few people” opposing him, Mullah Omar’s former spokesman has said.

“The ‘Amirul Momineen’ (leader of the faithful) has been elected with a clear majority at a very sensitive time, and opposition to his election is aimed at sabotaging the system as there is no possible alternative,” Abdul Hayee Motmaen, a senior Taliban political adviser and former spokesman for Mullah Omar, told the Express Tribune.

The statement in strong support to Mullah Mansour’s leadership came as the rift within Taliban ranks over succession after the group and the Afghan government announced Mullah Omar’s death last month widened.

Motmaen said Mullah Mansour had been practically in charge of all organisational matters for five or six years and all commissions, all shadow governors and all senior leaders had been working under his leadership even when Mullah Omar was alive.

“The opinion of Mujahideen and those who had an active role during the resistance and are uninfluenced is credible and they are united on the election (of Mullah Mansour). A few people who have been misled by someone will oppose the new leader,” Motmaen said.

The senior Taliban leader’s assertions came amid reports that a group of top pro-Taliban Afghan Ulema has started mediations to resolve differences over the successor of the movement’s longtime leader Mullah Omar.

Motmaen also disclosed that Mullah Mansour had initially refused to shoulder the responsibility of being the chief but the majority of the shura (council) members and ulema convinced him to lead the movement.

“The entire ‘Islamic Emirate’, its active commissions and their heads, all shadow governors, and Jihadi commanders and influential faces were unanimous on the election of Mullah Akhtar Mansour and have sworn allegiance to him,” he said.

On opposition from Mullah Omar’s family to Mullah Mansour’s election, he said the deceased Taliban supremo had never even hinted that someone from his family should succeed him.

“I agree that Mullah Omar’s family has yet not endorsed the election of Mullah Mansoor but I think this is not a serious issue as the whole movement and those who had been empowered by the ‘Amirul Momineen’ (Mullah Omar) now stand with the new leader,” he said.

“It is a fact that Mullah Omar’s family commands respect among the Taliban but as far as I know they do not aspire leadership of the movement,” he added.

Motmaen said the news about Mullah Omar’s death was not disclosed earlier as the family of the deceased Taliban supremo and some key Islamic scholars had issued a decree against it, saying this could create problems.