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Maulana Sami ul-Haq is a revered figure in Pakistan and Afghanistan whose views carry enormous weight among the Taliban on both sides of the border - Photo by Reuters
Maulana Sami ul-Haq is a revered figure in Pakistan and Afghanistan whose views carry enormous weight among the Taliban on both sides of the border - Photo by Reuters
Students study at  Darul Uloom Haqqania - Photo by Reuters
Students study at Darul Uloom Haqqania - Photo by Reuters

AKORA KHATTAK: He is known as the Father of the Taliban, a radical Pakistani cleric who calls the Taliban's one-eyed leader an “angel” and runs a seminary described as the University of Jihad.

Bespectacled and soft-spoken, Maulana Sami ul-Haq is a revered figure in Pakistan and Afghanistan whose views carry enormous weight among the Taliban on both sides of the border.

Tucked away in a dusty Pakistani town off the main motorway to the Afghan border, his Darul Uloom Haqqania university was the launching pad for the Taliban movement in the 1990s.

Speaking at the sprawling campus near his native town of Akora Khattak, Haq did little to hide his sympathies for the Taliban, a word meaning “students” in Pashto. He said he was sure the Taliban would soon sweep back to power in Afghanistan.

“Give them just one year and they will make the whole of Afghanistan happy,” Haq predicted. “The whole of Afghanistan will be with them ... Once the Americans leave, all of this will happen within a year.”

Haq's seminary is recognised officially in Pakistan - a symptom of Islamabad's long-running duality over the Taliban issue.

Though Haq would not talk about this publicly he is believed to be close to the Pakistani security forces - a legacy of an era when Pakistan sponsored movements and supported militants, including Osama bin Laden, fighting Soviet troops in Afghanistan.

Kabul's government has long accused Pakistan of playing a double game and harbouring militants on its soil while publicly condemning extremism - a charge Islamabad fiercely denies.

Back in the 1980s, many young Darul Uloom Haqqania graduates swapped books for guns and drove west along the highway running just outside its iron gates towards Afghanistan, where they joined mujahideen groups to fight against the Russians.

One of them, Mullah Mohammed Omar, later took advantage of the chaos that followed the Soviet withdrawal in 1989 to found the Taliban movement - a period often recalled with nervousness ahead of next year's drawdown of US forces from Afghanistan.

Haq's face brightened as he recalled Omar, one of his bests students, but laughed when asked about his whereabouts.

“He is a devout Muslim, very virtuous. He is hospitable. He is a very simple man, with no princely tastes,” Haq said, alternating between Pakistan's official Urdu and his native Pashto language. “He is very intelligent. He understands politics and is wise to the tricks of outsiders.”

Haq added with conviction: “He is no aggressor. He is an angel-like human being.”


The seminary, founded in 1947, is now one of biggest and most respected Islamic institutions in South Asia.

Fenced off from the hustle and bustle of the outside world by high walls and barbed wire, it houses 4,000 male students in its multi-storey concrete buildings. Haq says he and his seminary have nothing to do with terrorism.

He has even offered to mediate between the United States and militants in order to bring peace to Afghanistan.

Haq, who speaks fluent Arabic, said the US ambassador to Pakistan visited him in July to discuss the situation in the region but added that peace was not possible as long as foreign troops were still in Afghanistan.

“As long as they are there, Afghans will have to fight for their freedom,” Haq said. “It's a war for freedom. It will not stop until outsiders leave.”

The Taliban were initially popular among Afghans after years of Soviet brutality and the ensuing anarchy of feuding warlords.

However, that quickly changed after they seized power and enforced puritanical restrictions on all spheres of people's lives.

After years of war there are hopes that the Taliban might be coaxed to the negotiating table or even turned into a political movement with the help of influential mediators such as Haq.

But would the Taliban still listen to him?

“They are my students. In our tradition, a teacher is like a father, like a spiritual leader,” Haq said. “Afghans should be allowed to fight for their freedom. Foreign powers should get out and let them do what they want.”

Comments (16) Closed

NHM Sep 15, 2013 05:15pm

I remember way back in the early nineties , his name was involved in a major scandal with madam Tahira. If he is the father of Talibans, who is the mother. hmmmmm.

Tariq, Lahore Sep 15, 2013 05:37pm

The "barbaric" Talibans with their brand of unethical, un-Islamic, medieval values have no place in the modern World!

Shyam Kokku Sep 15, 2013 05:49pm

The bold existence and reverence of such preachers of jihad who in the name of religious schools, actually teach hatred and militancy, is the "Mother of all Problems" in Pakistan. These people only spread cruelty; they can never guide children towards education towards economic development, equality for women, development of communities / societies. From books, one sudden shift takes place, where the innocent children after become adolescents are given automatic rifles and hand grenades. Then they become "saviours of Islam" and the country becomes Global Terror Hub!

Saleem Sep 15, 2013 05:53pm

Remember these are the enemies of Pakistan,and enemies of Islam. Don't negotiate with them. They should be arrested and bring to justice.

HADI SAKEY Sep 15, 2013 07:43pm

Where from this seminary is receiving full financial support. Once that life line is stopped the problem will be solved.

Ahmer Sep 15, 2013 08:13pm

Maulana Sami ul-Haq is what Pakistan needs today. He should bring TTP too under his wings.

Suma Sep 15, 2013 09:21pm

Whole of Taliban as concept believes in purity & Supremacy of the Religion and dwells on the middle ages history of reign of south Asia including Afghanistan. Let me tell you that history of south Asia is more glorious than just the arrival of Arab/ Irani forces in India. Lets fools be in fools paradise they ruled with mind than heart and fooled general masses. Be new age masses will be army of thoughts and will defeat brutes

Thoughtful Sep 15, 2013 10:04pm

Why such a dangerous criminal is on loose? He should have been arrested, tried in a court of justice, and hanged for crimes against humanity.

Alert Sep 16, 2013 12:04am

@Shyam Kokku: Connecting the dots leads to the conclusion that Islam and Terror are two sides of the same coin.

SMF Sep 16, 2013 12:17am

"father of taliban" title for mulana sami ul haq is a thing i would have never expected from DAWN he is considered to be very honorable and a religious person and darul uloom haqqania is one of the renowned islamic showing them terrorist u are giving wrong idea to people. u people have just changed the meaning of taliban. Taliban were they people who used to get education of islam not they terrorist. plz dont consider every mulana and a madrasa student with a beard a terrorist and for all of you go read WARRIOR PRINCESS in which us army officer confessed that he used to fight in Pakistan as so called taliban

Sarah Sep 16, 2013 02:27am

Its because of guys like this lakhs of people have died in Taaliban sponsored violence.Can he return the lives lost.And he calls himself Father of Taaliban?Its because of him and Taaliban Pakistna has lost it cricket,hockey hosting abilities and still he is allowed to live in Pakistan to perpetuate crime against Paksistan state.These people are enemies of nation provide them harshest of punishments,

Sapno_Ka_Saudagar Sep 16, 2013 03:28am

His existence is representation of values of our society. He can rise, spread his philosophy, and gain importance only with the support of masses. He is a concept. We are to blame for propagating his ideology. We have found our enemy and it is us. Salaam.

Islamic Republic of Pakistan Sep 16, 2013 04:24am

Its a shame we call ourselves citizens of Islamic Republic of Pakistan. We need to look at our self and when we are alone ask ourself "Are we on the right path?" If the answer is yes then please criticise others constructively but if the answer is no then surely you know what needs to be done.

Most of us are following and not thinking why we are following. When we do realise why we follow Islam then we will be successful and the real success is not materialistic success but it is when our Lord THE ALMIGHTY is happy with us.

Omer Sep 16, 2013 06:02am

@Shyam Kokku: What are the your RSS cadres teaching? Love, tolerance? Give me a break! Don't worry about Pakistan. Worry about your own country. BJP is poised to win your next general elections. The same Afghans were called Mujahideen, termed the "Moral Equivalent of our founding fathers" by an American president. Because then they were waging a jihad against the Godless communists. What has changed? I hardly can see any difference.

Siddhu Sep 16, 2013 08:24am

Pakistan must accept the pre-conditions of TTP if it wants to move forward.

Syed Adeel Haider Sep 16, 2013 04:04pm

"it houses 4,000 male students in its multi-storey concrete buildings"

In other words, 4,000 terrorists are being trained to kill innocent women, children and people. So sad :-(