With Ashraf Ghani fleeing the country after the Taliban claimed a nationwide military victory, Mawlawi Hibtullah Akhundzada has been announced as the President of Taliban-ruled Afghanistan. The Afghan government collapsed on August 15 with the Taliban seizing control of Kabul and the presidential palace.

Who is Hibtullah Akhundzada?

Mawlawi Hibatullah Akhundzada, popularly known as "Leader of the Faithful," is the Taliban's leader and has final authority over the group's political, religious, and military matters. He is the Taliban's highest leader and an Islamic legal scholar.

He succeeded Akhtar Mansour, who was assassinated by a US drone attack near the Afghan-Pakistan border in 2016. Hibtullah means "God's gift" in Arabic. However, Akhundzada, contrary to his name, is a ruthless commander. 

He is known for his harsh punishments like executing murderers and those with illegitimate relationships, as well as cutting the hands of thieves.

Personal Life

Akhundzada was born in the Panjwayi district of Kandahar Province, Afghanistan, in the year 1959. He is a member of the Noorzai tribe. Mullah Mohammad Akhund, his father, was a religious scholar and the imam of their small mosque.

Akhundzada received his education from his father. After the Soviet invasion, the family relocated to Quetta, where Akhundzada resumed his studies in one of the first seminaries in the Sarnan district.

Also Read: Explained: Who is Taliban Leader Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the ‘liberal’ among fundamentalists?

One of the first members of Taliban

In the 1980s, Akhundzada was involved in Afghanistan's fight against the Soviet military camp. Akhunzada had been one of the early Taliban members in the 1990s.
Akhundzada was appointed in charge of fighting crime in the region after the Taliban controlled the province of Farah. He was appointed as a member of the Department of Virtue Promotion and Vice Prevention in 1996 by the Taliban as they captured Kabul.

He moved subsequently to Kandahar and became an instructor at the seminary Madrasa. 

Known to follow harsh Islamic punishments

Akhundzada has been a major figure in the Taliban courts for several years and is known to have given judgments in support of Islamic punishments - such as public executions and amputations of convicted murders and theft perpetrators.

He is considered more a religious leader than a military commander who has issued the majority of the Taliban fatwas.

Assassination attempt

As per the reports, in 2012 there was an assassination attempt against Akhundzada in Quetta and the Taliban blame the Afghan's Intelligence Agency of the National Directorate of security for it.

The New York Times quoted one of Akhundzada's students saying, "During one of his lectures in Quetta one day, a man stood among the students and pointed a pistol at Mawlawi Akhundzada from a close range, but the pistol stuck."

"He tried to kill him, but he could not, and the Taliban rushed to tackle," he said.

Son involved in suicide bombing

Sources report that Hibtullah Akhundzada's son Abdurrahman was killed on 20 July 2017, in a suicide attack on the Afghan military base.
The brother Hafiz Ahmadullah of Akhundzada was killed in the bombing in August 2019.

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