Taliban Minister Haqqani’s rare rebuke of top leader Akhundzada shows infighting

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Sirajuddin Haqqani, the Taliban’s powerful interior minister, has lambasted for the first time the group’s reclusive spiritual leader for monopolizing power and damaging their government in Afghanistan.

“Power monopolization and defamation of the entire system have become common,” Haqqani said in an angry speech at the packed graduation ceremony of an Islamic religious school in the south-eastern Khost province over the weekend. “The situation cannot be tolerated any longer,” he added, without naming Supreme Leader Haibatullah Akhundzada directly.

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Haqqani’s comments reflect the deep divisions emerging within the Taliban factions that seized power in the country in the wake of the US troop exit last year. The differences were inflamed after Akhundzada’s order last year, banning women from all education and work, drawing widespread international condemnation.

The group’s main spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahed, pushed back on Haqqani’s comments without naming him, saying that “according to Islamic ethics, the emir, minister, or a government official shouldn’t be criticized publicly and in such a way to insult him.”

Haqqani, leader of the Haqqani Network, who is on the FBI’s most-wanted list for terrorism, is one of the Taliban leaders pushing back against Akhundzada, who rules from the southern city of Kandahar and issues edicts via a religious council of clerics.

“The survival of the government depends on how we treat the people,” Haqqani said. “The previous government was corrupt and did not survive because it repressed and ill-treated people. If we treat people well, our government will last longer.”

Haqqani and the country’s defense minister, Mullah Mohammad Yaqoob, are among some of the Taliban’s top leaders –- deemed to be moderate –- who want greater rights for women to help their isolated government build ties with the world.

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