Agha Jan Motasim’s delisting could kick-start dialogue process with Afghan insurgents, diplomatic sources say

Key Taliban leader Agha Jan Motasim has been removed from a United Nations list targeting the insurgent organisation in a move, a western diplomatic source has told The Hindu, aimed at kick-starting its stalled dialogue process with the United States and the Afghan governments.

Formerly Finance Minister and chief administrator in the Islamist regime deposed after 9/11, and a son-in-law of Taliban chief Mullah Muhammad Omar, Agha Jan Motasim has been undergoing treatment in Ankara, ever since an August 2010 assassination attempt in Karachi. Turkish authorities had earlier said they would ask Mr. Motasim to leave the country when his treatment was completed, and it remains unclear if he will continue to function from that country.

Mr. Motasim was among three Taliban envoys, who attended a 2011 meeting with the United States in Bonn and Doha. The Taliban had later announced they would open a political office in Doha, but called off talks after the United States rejected its demands for the release of prisoners held in Guantanamo Bay.

Limited waiver

The United Nations had earlier provided a limited waiver to Mr. Motasim, allowing him to travel to Turkey. His removal from the United Nations’ 1988 list, which draws its name from the Security Council resolution that created it in 2011, will allow him to travel freely and engage in political activities.

“It isn’t clear how much influence Mr. Motasim has with Taliban on the ground,” the diplomat said, “but we hope this will open up at least some space for a serious conversation on what is possible”.

Mr. Motasim is believed to been among the seminary students who founded the Taliban in 1994, and is reported to have been injured thrice in battle. He disappeared into Pakistan, along with Mullah Omar in 2001. In 2003, though, he gave an online interview, saying he had been given charge of the Taliban’s new political affairs commission.

Ex-head of Quetta shura

In 2009, Mr. Motasim took charge of the Taliban’s key decision-making body, the Quetta shura. He laid down several preconditions for talks in an interview to al-Jazeera, calling for complete western troop withdrawal, the release of all Taliban prisoners and the end of United Nations sanctions. Reports of negotiations between the Taliban and the West, Mr. Motasim said, were “a pure fabrication and a lie and baseless.”

Later that year, though, Mr. Motasim was reported to have been tried and found guilty by a Taliban council on allegations of maintaining unauthorised contact with European diplomats. The allegations, Kabul-based intelligence sources have told The Hindu, came about because of Mr. Motasim’s secret talks that began in 2007. His key rival, Abdul Ghani Baradar, then took control of the shura. It remains unclear whether the contacts were sanctioned by elements the Taliban hierarchy.

Both Mr. Motasim and Mr. Baradar were arrested by Pakistan in 2010, as part of a series of raids alleged to have been conducted to stop the Taliban from striking an independent deal with the United States. The men were released last year, following intense pressure from the United States

In an interview given to The Daily Beast earlier this year, Mr. Motasim suggested that the subsequent attempt on his life was carried out by “some of my colleagues and friends [who] did not agree with my concept that the Taliban should be a political movement.”

Two types of Taliban

In a separate interview to The Associated Press, Mr. Motasim said there were now “two kinds of Taliban.” “The one type of Taliban who believes that the foreigners want to solve the problem but there is another group and they don’t believe, and they are thinking that the foreigners only want to fight.” “I can tell you, though, that the majority of the Taliban and the Taliban leadership want a broad-based government for all Afghan people and an Islamic system”.

Later this month, the United Nations’ sanctions committee is expected to release the findings of a full internal review of the sanctions list. The review could open the way for delisting more Taliban figures such as Mr. Baradar, who are thought to be engaged in peace talks but remain on the sanctions list.

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