Hassan Abbas: Mullah Akhtar Mansour Used to Drink Wine and Hug Russian Danseuse

By: Samad Payenda

The Taliban have made “the promotion of virtue and prevention of vice” their most important political tool, justifying their anti-human rule by relying on it. They advertise that they have no intention other than to reform society’s morals and guide people to live according to the law that guarantees happiness in the hereafter. They accuse their opponents of hoarding wealth and promoting vices while claiming that they, especially the leaders of the group, have no desire for wealth, worldly peace, or physical pleasures. At one point, Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid said that life in this world is not valuable for the Taliban, and they see freedom in the servitude of God and prosperity in the afterlife. But the track records of the group’s leaders and their actions today prove such claims false. During their previous period of rule, the Taliban were largely covered by the media, and people directly saw through documentary reports how they competed with each other in gathering wealth, gaining power, and having multiple marriages. However, at least about the leaders of the group, documents indicating wealth accumulation, polygamy, and revelry were not available in the media, or if they were brought up sometimes, they were not taken very seriously.

One of the few documents available was photos and videos of the late Taliban Supreme Leader Mullah Muhammad Omar’s house, which were recorded after the fall of the first Taliban regime in 2001. In a video of Mullah Omar’s house and residence, the residents of Kandahar were surprised to see the wall paintings and his rather luxurious house, saying that they did not expect such a scene. In a picture, it can be seen that the place of residence of the Taliban Supreme Leader, contrary to the group’s propaganda, was not a simple place and a mud house, but a large building with many facilities and full of exquisite art.

On May 4, Abdul Malik Haqqani, the Taliban’s Deputy of the Supreme Court, announced that the court had sentenced a list of individuals to retributive justice, stoning, and being buried under a wall. Haqqani reported that 175 people had been sentenced to retributive justice, 37 to be stoned, and four to be buried under a wall. In the Taliban regime, stoning and being buried under a wall are two horrific punishments reserved for those accused of extramarital sex. However, it is uncertain whether the Taliban issues these terrible orders to purify the morals of society or to intimidate people and consolidate power. There is no doubt that the lash of “promotion of virtue,” stoning, retributive justice, and killing by knocking down walls are political tools.

Examining the lives of former Taliban commanders and leaders can shed light on the Taliban’s motivations. According to “The Return of the Taliban” by Hassan Abbas, which draws on accounts from Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansour’s relatives, friends, and colleagues, if Sharia law had been applied equally, the former Taliban Supreme Leader would have faced multiple stonings, acts of retaliation, and potentially even being buried under a wall. Pages 29 to 36 of the book detail how Mansour came to power, consolidated power, his relationships, and death.

Abbas reported that Mansour had strong relationships with Pakistani intelligence, religious scholars, and intelligence officials from the United Arab Emirates and Iran. Mansour served as the Minister of Transportation and Aviation for the Taliban in the late 90s, and he would invite Emirati shaikhs to Afghanistan, offering them the chance to hunt rare birds and enjoy other privileges in exchange for private Arab plane travel, luxurious parties, feasts, and security support. On page 32 of the book, Abbas stated that when Mansour visited Dubai, he would comfortably spend time at perfume shops and hug a Russian dancer.

Abbas writes that based on information he obtained from Taliban insiders, “Taliban officials are not what we usually think of as conservative and cave-dwelling people commuting between the mosque and the school.” They are essentially politicians. They enjoy wine, free trips, women, and private jets. Their spiritual titles hold no real meaning, and they are not as pure as they appear. They do whatever it takes, even if it means killing their enemies.

Was Mansour the only one who indulged in womanizing, drinking, and luxury, and who craved power? Certainly not. Mullah Hibatullah Akhundzada, the current Taliban Supreme Leader, was Mansour’s deputy at that time and played a significant role in consolidating the leader’s power. Akhundzada issued a fatwa about not disclosing the death of Mullah Omar, which allowed Mansour to rule under Omar’s name for a few years and consolidate his power. Akhundzada would also inform Mansour about the dynamics in the Quetta Council while he was busy having recreational, business, and intelligence trips in Dubai.

Even now, Mullah Hibatullah supports the family of Mullah Mansour. Taliban officials hold Fathullah Mansour and Misbahullah Mansour, the sons of Mullah Akhtar Mansour, in high esteem. In November 2021, Fathullah Mansour was appointed as the commander of Kandahar Airport. A week ago, news broke that Misbahullah Mansour had been appointed as the supervisor of the southwestern zone of the Central Bank.

The Haqqani family and other Taliban officials are famous for their business and investment in Arab countries and Pakistan. It is said that Mullah Amir Khan Mutaqi, the Taliban’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, has made substantial investments in Pakistan. However, investment and trade require relationships and behaviors that are not consistent with the Taliban’s consecrations and are closer to what Mullah Mansour was popular for.

If the Taliban did not use Sharia law as a political tool and dispensed justice without discrimination, how many of their own leaders and ordinary people, strong and weak, would face punishment for their crimes? How many times would Mullah Akhtar Mansour have been punished for drinking alcohol, sleeping with forbidden women, stealing, and hoarding illicit wealth before he was killed by U.S. drone attacks?