KABUL: Religious scholar Mullah Haibatullah Akhundzada, named Wednesday as the Afghan Taliban's new leader, was a senior judge during the insurgent group's five-year rule over Afghanistan and issued many of its verdicts.

Believed to be aged in his fifties, he hails from Afghanistan's southern province of Kandahar like both his former boss -- Mullah Akhtar Mansour, who was killed in a US drone strike on Saturday -- and Taliban founder Mullah Omar, who died in 2013.

Akhundzada went on to become the group's “chief justice” after a US-led invasion toppled the Taliban government in 2001. He was a close ally of Mansour and was one of his two deputies.

Akhundzada is not known for his prowess on the battlefield, having preferred a life of religious and legal study. He is said to have issued many of the group's rulings on how Muslims should comply with the Taliban's interpretation of Islam.

According to Rahimullah Yousafzai, considered the region's foremost expert on the Taliban, Akhundzada was away in Pakistan during the 1979-89 Soviet occupation of Afghanistan -- unlike Omar and Mansour, who earned reputations as fighters as part of the US-backed mujahideen.

"Though the new chief is not an experienced soldier, he has been very close to Mullah Mansour, and he is expected to continue the policies of Mullah Mansour," said Yousafzai.

It is unclear whether he will follow Mansour in shunning peace negotiations with the Afghan government.

Analysts believe he will be more heavily reliant on his shura (council) than Omar and Mansour and will need to rule by consensus.

In terms of age and seniority, he was second only to Taliban co-founder Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, whom many sources had believed was in contention for the leadership despite his reported detention by Pakistani authorities.

“Akhundzada was chosen to avoid further conflict and consultation,” said Islamabad-based analyst Amir Rana.

Yousafzai, however, projected a rocky road ahead for the new leader.

“I think some other sections were not consulted, there is no unification of the movement yet, and I don't see how it can unify under Haibatullah (Akhundzada),” he said.

Opinion

Awaiting orders
25 Oct 2021

Awaiting orders

Orders are given for demolition. Some structures go down. Some still stand.
Is it our own?
25 Oct 2021

Is it our own?

It is fair to ask what truly determines our success.
Up, up and away
Updated 25 Oct 2021

Up, up and away

Irate Twitterati want Superman to stop meddling.
No-trust resolution dynamics
Updated 24 Oct 2021

No-trust resolution dynamics

It is heartening that the effort to remove a chief minister is following constitutional norms.

Editorial

25 Oct 2021

Party to a vile campaign

THE PTI government’s hostility towards the media and its intolerance for dissent is well known. The target of ...
Financial crisis
Updated 25 Oct 2021

Financial crisis

DESPITE having progressed to ‘very good step’ and being ‘close to concluding the agreement’ a few days back,...
25 Oct 2021

Morals and Pemra

TIME and again, Pemra has come under fire for issuing arbitrary instructions to TV channels on matters ranging from...
Anti-government rallies
Updated 24 Oct 2021

Anti-government rallies

Banning a party because it can create a public nuisance sets a dangerous precedent which can be repeated to justify future bans.
24 Oct 2021

End of polio?

AFTER a long struggle, the reward is finally in sight. With only a single case of wild poliovirus reported this year...
24 Oct 2021

Heritage work

IT is encouraging that, slowly, projects of heritage conservation and preservation appear to be taking off. These...