PESHAWAR, Dec 6: The Taliban supreme leader, Mulla Mohammad Omar, agreed on Thursday to surrender control of Kandahar on condition of a general amnesty for Taliban forces and top leadership.
Hamid Karzai, the prime minister-designate of the new Afghan interim government, who led the talks with the Taliban, said Mulla Omar would have to renounce terrorism to enjoy amnesty.
Karzai, said the agreement was reached at a meeting with a team of Taliban negotiators in Shah Wali Kot district to the north of Kandahar city.
The Taliban have agreed to surrender Kandahar, Zabul and Helmand provinces in southwestern Afghanistan, a Taliban spokesman Syed Muhammad Haqqani told the BBC Pushto Service.
Afghan watchers said that Mulla Omar was under intense pressure from senior Taliban leaders to give up the control of Kandahar and avoid further loss of human life. “Osama has gone into hiding and these people have now realized the futility of putting up any resistance.”
Haqqani said that a joint commission comprising tribal Shoora, headed by Hamid Karzai, and the Taliban leaders, would supervise a peaceful transition of Kandahar. Karzai said he hoped the transition would begin as early as Friday. “It may be completed in two to three days,” Karzai told the BBC Pushto Service.
Karzai said the Taliban negotiators told him the agreement had the full backing of their reclusive leader Mulla Muhammad Omar.
As per the terms of agreement, a former Mujahideen commander Mulla Naqibullah would become military commander of Kandahar, and Gul Agha Sherzai, the former governor of Kandahar, would take control of the city airport. “The Taliban would lay down their weapons and go to their homes with honour and dignity,” Karzai said.
He was evasive when asked about the fate of senior Taliban leaders including Mulla Omar. “The Afghan Taliban are our brothers and there is no cause for them to worry,” he said.
Announcing a general amnesty for the Taliban, Hamid Karzai on Wednesday told Dawn: “Let there be no revenge and no vendetta.”
Karzai, however, made it clear that the Taliban supreme leader would have to openly dissociate himself from terrorism, condemn those who were responsible for the killing of people and the destruction of Afghanistan. “If he does that he will have our support, otherwise, we wouldn’t stand with him.”
Karzai said that all foreign fighters must leave Afghanistan or they would be turned over to stand trial in a UN tribunal.
The Taliban spokesman said the decision to surrender Kandahar, Zabul and Helmand to Hamid Karzai’s tribal Shoora came at a meeting of the Taliban Shoora presided over by Mulla Omar.
He said Karzai was also asked to use his influence and help secure the release of Taliban prisoners in northern Afghanistan and facilitate their return home.
The former governor of Kandahar, Gul Agha Sherzai, has rejected the agreement saying he had not been consulted on it. “Nobody has talked to me about it,” he told the BBC Pushto Service.
He said that he would not accept the term of the agreement which entrusts the security of the airport to him, and makes Mulla Naqibullah the military commander.
“Mulla Naqibullah is the same guy who brought the Taliban to Kandahar,” Gul Agha said of the former Mujahideen commander associated with Jamiat-i-Islami Afghanistan of Prof Burhanuddin Rabbani.
Abdur Rehman Zahid, Taliban’s deputy foreign minister told BBC by phone from Ghazni about the Taliban’s support for the Bonn process.
“The Taliban support the Bonn process and the Loya Jirga,” he said indicating a split within the Taliban ranks.
Saleem Shahid from Quetta adds: Ahmed Karzai, brother of Hamid Karzai told newsmen in Quetta on Thursday night that the Taliban team that negotiated the surrender of Kandahar with his brother’s group comprised special assistant to Mulla Omar Syed Tayyab Agha, governor Kandahar Mulla Mohammad Hasan Rehmani, Obaidullah Taliban defence minister, Mir Ahmed Agha, and Mulla Naqeebullah, (a close associate of Hamid Karzai representing Taliban).