Taliban co-founder and deputy leader Mullah Baradar has arrived in Afghanistan, a spokesman for the Taliban’s political bureau has announced.
This is the first time Baradar has set foot in Afghanistan in 20 years, and comes 11 years after he was arrested in neighboring Pakistan by the country’s security forces.
Baradar’s return will fuel concerns that the nature of the new government will mirror the pre-2000 era when the Taliban imposed Sharia law in Afghanistan.
Born in Uruzgan province in 1968, he fought in the Afghan mujahideen against the Soviets in the 1980s. After the Russians were driven out in 1989 and the country fell into civil war between rival warlords, Baradar set up a madrassa in Kandahar with his former commander and reputed brother in law, Mohammad Omar. Together, the two mullahs founded the Taliban, a movement spearheaded by young Islamic scholars dedicated to the religious purification of the country and the creation of an emirate.
The Taliban swept to power in 1996 after a series of stunning conquests of provincial capitals that took the world by surprise, just as the movement has done in recent weeks.
Baradar, Mullah Omar’s deputy who was widely believed to be a highly effective strategist, was a key architect of those victories.
Across Afghanistan, people are waiting to find out what kind of regime they will live under, and whether those who supported the US-backed government over the past 20 years will face retribution from the Taliban.
In televised briefings, statements and press conferences, Taliban officials announced that retribution was not part of their plans.
Its spokesman said the Taliban would grant a “blanket amnesty” for all in Afghanistan, including members of the Afghan military and interpreters.
“We don’t want Afghanistan to be a battlefield,” Zabihullah Mujahid told a Tuesday press conference in Kabul.
“Today the fighting is over….whoever was against the opposition has been given blanket amnesty. The fighting should not be repeated.”
“Those families who are in the airport in fear right now, they should be returning… I assure them in their lifetime no one will be going to them and asking them what they have done and not done,” he added.
The group’s deputy leader Maulvi Mohammad Yaqub also told fighters not to “enter into homes of people or confiscate their cars”