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Mullah Omar’s death puzzle and peace process

Media reports that say the Taliban’s supreme leader, Mullah Omar is dead, doesn’t auger well for the direct peace talks between the Afghan government and the insurgents. The second round of direct peace negotiations between the Afghan government and the Taliban are set to take place on Friday in Murree, a tourist resort in Pakistan not far away from its capital Islamabad. Since the first direct round of peace talks took place in Murree, there have been a hurricane of controversy and murkiness as the Taliban’s Doha office objected at the peace round. Doha office objected that all the Taliban representatives who attended the Murree peace talks were ISI’s agents and didn’t have approval of Mullah Omar. Though Pakistan’s national security advisor, Sartaj Aziz spurned Doha office’s allegations and said the Taliban representatives in the Murree talks had full support of Mullah Omar. Now that Omar’s death reports are doing rounds in media, it has raised concerns as how his death will affect the peace talks?

A Taliban official at Doha office on the condition of keeping his name in anonymity told this paper that Doha office has more influence than those who are holding talks on Pakistani soil under the thumb of Islamabad. He alleged those Taliban who held talks with Afghan government delegation were pressurized by Islamabad to attend the Murree talks. He also said that Afghan Taliban in Pakistan have been also pressed to announce ceasefire. However he added that if the Taliban announces cease fire, it will complicate the nature of peace talks as those Taliban who are members of the Doha office will not declare ceasefire. His stress was if the Afghan government wants substantial peace and successful talks then it must talk to Doha office too. This version of narrative clearly indicates that the Taliban leadership is divided over peace talks and a likely truce with Kabul. Fidaye Mahaz, a breakaway Taliban group, had claimed the death of Mullah Omar in a statement last week. It claimed the reclusive Taliban head honcho had died two years back and buried in southern Zabul province. The group alleged internal bickering within the Taliban movement and accused some commanders including Mullah Akhtar Mansoor of assassinating Mullah Omar. However Pakistan media quoted unnamed Afghan Taliban official and ex-minister during Taliban regime as saying that Mullah Omar was dead because of tuberculosis. Whereas the spokesman of the National Directorate of Security, Haseeb Saddiqi, told this paper that Mullah Omar had died in Karachi two years and four months back. The Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid spurned reports about Mullah Omar’s death. All the statements and counter statements clearly indicate that the game is all about the peace talks and every party is trying their best to gain more and more. Since Pakistan is a key player in the peace talks and the Taliban movement; therefore, its views on his death are a must and very much important as how it is possible that a country like Pakistan must remain incognizant to such a matter. Whether he is alive or dead, the Afghan government and the Taliban must keep continue the peace talks as the third round of talks is expected in China and the fourth round is likely in Saudi Arabia. Moreover, when Kabul was making efforts that Pakistan must take the Taliban to the table of negotiations and Islamabad is doing the same so why another Taliban group must create troubles. The government must try who is supporting those Taliban who doesn’t oppose peace talks and ceasefire? The government must know if the Taliban has found a new friend in Iran as the Taliban’s representatives from Doha office had visited Iran a few months back?

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