Mullah Obaidullah Akhund.
Pakistan has rearrested senior Taliban leader Mullah Obaidullah Akhund in Lahore. Obaidullah was detained by Pakistani security forces in the city of Lahore, Daily Times reported.
Obaidullah was in Pakistan raising money for the Taliban effort in Afghanistan, unnamed intelligence sources told the Pakistani daily. He was reported to be shuttling between major Pakistani cities along with an entourage of Taliban meeting with “financially strong business personalities continued for the sake of generating funds.” The Taliban have established a command and control network in and around the city of Quetta for senior leadership to direct operation in Afghanistan.
Obaidullah was the Taliban Defense Minister under during the reign of the Taliban from 1996 until the US toppled the government in the fall of 2001. He was the most senior Taliban figure captured to date and “is considered by American intelligence officials to have been one of the Taliban leaders closest to Osama bin Laden,” as well as part of the “inner core of the Taliban leadership around the Mullah Muhammad Omar who are believed to operate from the relative safety of Quetta.” Obaidullah was a member of the Taliban’s Shura Majlis, or executive council, and was thought to be third in command.
The timing of Obaidullah’s arrest and release are unclear. The Daily Times reported that he was arrested in early 2006 then released nine months later, after the signing of the North Waziristan Accord in December 2006. Yet, Newsweek and other news sources place Obaidullah’s arrest in early 2007 with a release date in later that year.
If Pakistan’s past history with freeing senior Taliban and al Qaeda leaders is any indication, Obaidullah may soon be freed. The Taliban, via spokesman Maulavi Omar, indicated it was now prepared to conduct negotiations with the soon-to-be-established coalition government of Pakistan. The release of Obaidullah will certainly be terms for peace. The Pakistani government recently revived the North Waziristan Accord, and the new government may seek a peace with the Taliban on a grander scale.
The Pakistani government may also be making a play to secure the release of Tariq Azizuddin, the ambassador to Afghanistan. Azizuddin was kidnapped by the Taliban just days after Pakistani security forces detained Mullah Mansoor Dadullah, the Taliban’s former military commander in southern Afghanistan. The Taliban have demanded Dadullah’s release in exchange for Azizuddin.
See The Fall of Northwestern Pakistan: An Online History for more information on the rise of al Qaeda and the Taliban in Pakistan and the peace agreements signed between the government and the Taliban.
Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD’s Long War Journal.