Hibatullah Akhundzada’s Rise from Mufti Suicide Bomber to Leadership Role

By: Amin Kawa

Mullah Hibatullah Akhundzada, the leader of the Taliban, is seen by the public and media as an enigmatic figure. Afghans have been unable to accept the truth about the individual behind the anti-feminist and oppressive decrees that have been persecuting critics, protestors, and political and cultural dissidents for almost two years. The Taliban have yet to release a report from their leader, who is accepted by all social groups and the majority of people. Akhundzada has been communicating with the people from behind the curtains since the Taliban’s rise to power. Even at the largest meeting of the Taliban during this time, the Islamic Scholars Council, headed by Hibatullah, he remained invisible. According to the Taliban, Islamic scholars hold a particular position, and the image of the meeting that was published in the media shows that Akhundzada was addressing the followers from behind the curtains. Prior to the assassination of Mullah Akhtar Mansour, the second Taliban leader to be killed by U.S. drones on the Iran-Pakistan border, Akhundzada was a name that few people were familiar with. It is common for mafia group leaders, professional thieves, and repeat offenders to cover their faces due to arrest, questioning, and identification. Terrorist organizations also use this method of concealment. However, the majority of the Taliban’s top leaders have had their photographs and likenesses published in the media, and Afghans have heard and seen the majority of the Taliban’s important leaders’ speeches since the Taliban’s establishment. In 2016, there was only one publication of a picture depicting Hibatullah Akhundzada’s background and current activities. The Taliban leader is seen in the photograph with a long gray beard and a white turban, but there is no speech of him in the video that would indicate his true identity. Senior national security personnel from the former Afghan government believe that Akhundzada, the Taliban’s current leader, does not actually exist beyond the walls of spy agencies.

The political society of Afghanistan holds the view that Mullah Hibatullah Akhundzada is not physically present and, if he did exist, he would have made himself known by now. Despite the United States Federal Police announcing a $10 million reward for the capture of Sirajuddin Haqqani, the interior minister of the Taliban and renowned “caliph of suicide bombers,” he remains visible. Sirajuddin Haqqani, leader of the Haqqani network, has been responsible for the country’s worst suicide and bombing attacks in the past 20 years, which have resulted in the death and injury of hundreds of civilians. However, no country or organization has listed the missing Taliban leader, who is also wanted, as a wanted individual. Akhundzada is in charge of the organization that currently administers Afghanistan, and the people have a right to know who is in charge of all the orders and restrictions that are being imposed.

In this essay, an effort has been made to include the conversations of a number of people with whom the author discussed Hibatullah Akhundzada, the Taliban leader. A reliable source, verified in a conversation with the author, has confirmed that the Taliban’s current leader was in charge of issuing fatwas for suicide attacks before the group regained control. According to these reports, in the “Hajj Mosque,” located in the “Kuchalak” neighborhood near Quetta, the capital of Pakistan’s Balochistan province, Akhundzada was busy teaching Islamic teachings. This topic was also covered in a piece by Reuters. In addition to speaking about religious topics, the Taliban leader has issued religious fatwas about suicide bombings in this mosque. He was also known to tie the waistlines of those who were prepared to end their lives and pray for them.

A senior and knowledgeable source has confirmed that prior to their deployment to Afghanistan, Hibatullah Akhundzada discussed suicide attacks with individuals in a mosque in accordance with the standards of the Qur’an and hadiths. This person was reportedly preparing to carry out suicide attacks, and was said to have encouraged them by saying, “Go, God is with you, and Paradise is waiting for you.” According to the source, who is familiar with the conditions in Baluchistan, Pakistan, Akhundzada was the leader and accountable for the front of the suicide attacks. Another Pakistani source has claimed that for many years, Akhundzada had the responsibility of escorting children who were training for suicide attacks before heading to Afghanistan. He would read them passages from the Holy Qur’an and discuss hadiths, as well as provide them with an outline of Islam’s history.

According to sources, the whereabouts and fatwas of Taliban leader Mullah Hibatullah Akhundzada were known to the West and Pakistan, but they never made this information public. These sources believe that Akhundzada should be removed from his position as the Taliban’s leader, as his true identity is becoming increasingly apparent, and the intelligence services that placed him in this position are concerned about a potential leak of the information they shared with him. Additionally, the intelligence agency’s policies are linked to Akhundzada’s refusal to appear in front of the camera or show his face to anyone he meets. A source stated that if the Taliban leader’s identity is revealed, it would be dangerous for Pakistan, as he is the Taliban’s suicide attaché and has no other options.

The recognition of a leader is a fundamental requirement of any legitimate system in which the people are in charge. This is because the people need to know who is commanding and forbidding them, and what qualities and abilities they possess for leading. However, the Taliban reject the notion of gaining legitimacy and distributing power; in their opinion, the people must submit to the group’s authority and have no official or unofficial authority to confer legitimacy on the ruler or a legitimate share of power. Due to the mono-structural and dictatorial nature of the system, which disregards the interests or needs of its citizens or the realities of modern society, they are not concerned with or interested in these matters.

Throughout human history, there have been several mysterious individuals who have never been seen or encountered in real life, particularly in the region’s past. Many other famous historical and religious figures who lived abroad did not even want the general public to know where they were buried. This group only traded with a select few people during their lives and rejected everyone else. One of these figures was the well-known religious and historical figure Hassan Sabah, who did not visit his followers every day in Almawt Castle and only spoke to them after evening prayers. Hassan Sabah used to say to his followers, “No one should find out where my body is buried, as I have many enemies who may dig up my grave, take my body out and burn it or throw it in the garbage.” After Hassan Sabah passed away, his successor, Kiyā Buzurg-Ummīd, informed only a select group of trustworthy people and instructed them to spread the word that the Imam was recovering and relaxing.