New Delhi: Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the co-founder of Taliban, is set to be named as head of the new Afghanistan government, to be announced on Saturday, as per media reports, quoting sources in the Islamist group, which is battling forces loyal to the erstwhile Afghan regime in Panjshir Valley.
A PTI report from Peshawar, said the formation of a new Afghan government by the Taliban has been delayed by a day (it was to be announced Friday), according to the spokesman of the insurgents Zabiullah Mujahid.
The government headed by Baradar, who heads the Taliban's political office, will be joined by Mullah Mohammad Yaqoob, son of late Taliban co-founder Mullah Omar, and Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanekzai, in senior positions, three sources told Reuters.
Stanekzai is considered closed to India (he trained in the Indian Military Academy long ago) and had met India’s envoy to Qatar recently for talks.
"All the top leaders have arrived in Kabul, where preparations are in final stages to announce the new government," one Taliban official was quoted by Reuters as speaking on condition of anonymity.
Media reports also cited Taliban sources as saying that Haibatullah Akhunzada, the Taliban's supreme religious leader, who will be the patron on the lines of Iran, “will focus on religious matters and governance within the framework of Islam”.
Reuters also cited sources saying that the new Taliban government comprise 25 ministries, with a consultative council, or shura, of 12 Muslim scholars.
“Also being planned within six to eight months is a loya jirga, or grand assembly, bringing together elders and representatives across Afghan society to discuss a constitution and the structure of the future government, the source said.”
China our most important partner: Taliban
Describing China as its "most important partner", the Afghan Taliban has said it looks to Beijing to rebuild Afghanistan and exploit its rich copper deposits as the war-ravaged country faces widespread hunger and fears of an economic collapse.
Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid said in Peshawar that the group supports China's ‘One Belt, One Road’ initiative that seeks to link China with Africa, Asia and Europe through an enormous network of ports, railways, roads and industrial parks, a PTI report said.
"China is our most important partner and represents a fundamental and extraordinary opportunity for us because it is ready to invest and rebuild our country," Geo News quoted Mujahid as saying in an interview to an Italian newspaper on Thursday.
There are "rich copper mines in the country, which, thanks to the Chinese, can be put back into operation and modernised. In addition, China is our pass to markets all over the world," said Mujahid.
The Taliban also view Russia as an important partner in the region and will maintain good relations with Moscow, Mujahid said.
The Taliban seized control of Afghanistan’s capital, Kabul, on August 15. The last of the foreign troops left the country on August 31, bringing an end to 20 years of war amid fears of an economic collapse and widespread hunger.
Following the chaotic departure, Western states have severely restricted their aid payments to Afghanistan.
Earlier this week, United Nations chief Antonio Guterres warned of a looming “humanitarian catastrophe” in Afghanistan and urged countries to provide emergency funding as severe drought and war have forced thousands of families to flee their homes.
‘Right to raise voice for Muslims, including Kashmir’
Amid concerns in India that Afghan soil under the Taliban regime can be used for terrorist activities against it, the insurgent group has said it has the right to speak out in favour of Muslims anywhere, including in Kashmir, though it does not have a policy of conducting "armed operations" against any country, a PTI report from Islamabad said.
Suhail Shaheen, Taliban spokesman for its political office in Doha, in an exclusive interview to BBC through video link on Thursday, said: "We will raise our voice and say that Muslims are your own people, your own citizens and they are entitled to equal rights under your law."
As Muslims, it was the group's right to speak out for Muslims living in Kashmir and any other country, Shaheen said while speaking from Doha.
While recalling the terms of the Doha agreement with the US, he said they had "no policy of conducting armed operations against any country".
Shaheen's remarks came days after the Ministry of External Affairs in New Delhi said Indian envoy to Qatar Deepak Mittal met Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanekzai, the head of the Taliban's Political Office in Doha, at the request of the group.
In the meeting, Mittal conveyed to Stanekzai that Afghanistan's soil should not be used for anti-Indian activities and terrorism.
It was the first publicly acknowledged formal diplomatic engagement that came two weeks after the Taliban seized control of Afghanistan.