Mr. Motasim is one in every of only a few individuals on the earth who may legitimately function such a go-between. However his private experiences converse to the perils of making an attempt to barter peace. He walks with a limp after narrowly surviving an assassination try in 2010, his household lives in exile, and he leads a secret life.
Mr. Motasim, forty five, comes from the Taliban heartland of Kandahar Province, and bears the title of “sayed,” which denotes that his household is descended from the Prophet Muhammad. A spiritual scholar, he joined the mujahedeen for a yr on the finish of the warfare towards the Soviet Union after which joined the Taliban when it shaped in 1994 in Kandahar.
He was near Mullah Omar when he was in energy — consuming meals with him and overseeing his safety — however says he by no means noticed him after the autumn of the Taliban authorities in 2001. The Taliban management regrouped in Quetta in Pakistan, however he stated they by no means met with Mullah Omar. Solely two private messengers ever had direct entry to the chief, and even shut kin didn’t see him, he stated.
Mr. Motasim was on the coronary heart of the motion when it organized to struggle an insurgency towards the American army presence in Afghanistan, and the federal government it supported. He stated an early try to hunt reconciliation by means of the governor of Kandahar was rejected, so the Taliban had no different selection however to battle.
He led the monetary committee and later the political committee of the Taliban motion and traveled incessantly to Saudi Arabia on fund-elevating excursions. He turned recognized to the Saudi authorities, and when President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan requested the Saudi king to mediate peace with the Taliban, the Saudis enlisted Mr. Motasim’s assist.
He started again-channel negotiations as head of the Taliban’s political committee, and says he twice met with a brother of Mr. Karzai’s, in 2008 and 2009. The 2 efficiently labored on confidence-constructing measures that targeted on the Taliban ending assaults on faculties and authorities officers, and the federal government engaged on releasing Taliban prisoners and eradicating Taliban leaders from the sanctions record, Afghan officers and Western diplomats affirm.
Then in August 2010, as he was backing his automotive by means of the gate at his house in Karachi, Pakistan, a gunman opened hearth on him. As Mr. Motasim dived out of the automotive, the gunman walked round and pumped 12 bullets from a pistol into his head, abdomen and legs. It left him in a hospital unable to talk for months and ended the Saudi-led peace initiative.
“I noticed the hazard, and other people used to warn me concerning the attainable hazard,” he recalled. “However I advised them that for the sake of my nation and my individuals, I’ll settle for this hazard so we will convey our individuals peace and stability.”
Mr. Motasim left Pakistan together with his household for medical remedy in Turkey and returned to peacemaking.
He was faraway from the United Nations sanctions record, in addition to america needed-terrorist record in 2013. A yr later he gathered 22 Taliban ministers and leaders in Dubai to satisfy with senior Afghan officers and members of the Afghan Excessive Peace Council — proof, he says, of the extent of help for peace. “We had numerous discussions and we had achieved lots towards peace,” he stated.
However he had made enemies as properly. The Taliban denounced him and declared he was not a consultant of the motion. His deputy on the talks, Abdul Raqib Takhari, a former Taliban minister for refugees, was killed when he returned to his house in Peshawar, Pakistan. Two months later, Mr. Motasim was detained by the police in Dubai for 22 days, and was freed solely after the Afghan authorities lobbied for his launch.
He declines to call the supply of his trials, however he factors out that he needed to escape Pakistan. He says the best way ahead is for the Taliban and the Afghan authorities to carry direct talks, and to work out overseas relations afterward.
“It’s a lengthy course of,” he stated.
“For this we should have a lot of committees, gatherings of tribal elders, of the Taliban themselves, a lot of analysis is required, after which we’ll go step-by-step ahead.”
In individual, Mr. Motasim exudes a diplomatic endurance, and the diligent hospitality that’s the hallmark of influential Afghans. He answered hours of questions calmly and at size, personally serving his visitors kebabs and rice and handing out presents on the finish.
He appeared to talk no less than partly for himself when he stated that the Taliban have been able to share within the political lifetime of Afghanistan and need to return house with dignity.
He stated he didn’t obtain directions immediately from the brand new Taliban chief, Mullah Haibatullah, however he stated he understood the directions got here together with his sanction.
“Not directly it could be coming from his aspect,” he stated. “Up to now I used to be not requested or approached to wrestle for peace, however now the will has elevated.”
He says that regardless of their good points on the battlefield, the Taliban are beneath strain and are feeling their losses — together with Mullah Omar, whose dying was introduced final yr, and his successor Akhtar Muhammad Mansour, who was killed in an American drone strike within the Taliban’s longtime haven in Pakistan in Might.
“They are saying that if that they had chosen to make peace, their leaders can be alive,” Mr. Motasim stated.
He stated that an important shift in favor of peace was the primary American troop withdrawal after 2014. The Taliban couldn’t think about peace talks when tens of hundreds of overseas troops have been conducting offensive operations in Afghanistan, however the present association for much fewer troops serving beneath a restrained safety settlement can be extra acceptable to the Taliban usually, he stated.
“If there’s a real effort towards peace,” he stated, “then all Afghans would select to make peace.”
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