The Taliban negotiating team held their first meeting on Sunday to discuss the peace talks with the Afghan government’s team in Qatar, said a statement from the group. The talks were expected to begin this week, but have faced delays.
The Taliban stated that the meeting was chaired by Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, and Mawlawi Abdul Hakim Haqqani was introduced as the new head of the Taliban's negotiating team, and Mohammad Naeem Wardak as the office's spokesperson.
Mawlawi Abdul Hakim Haqqani, 53, is the son of Mullah Khodaidad Akhund and was born in Panjwai district of Kandahar province. He is a member of the Ishaqzaee tribe.
Abdul Hakim Haqqani was a judge in Kandahar’s court during the Taliban regime and taught in schools including those for the disabled in Kandahar and the Haqqani Madrassa in Pakistan.
He was appointed as the Taliban's chief justice five years ago, and is known for holding aggressive views. He has issued many significant fatwas (a ruling on a point of Islamic law given by a recognized authority) on the war over the last five years.
Like Haqqani, many of the members are said to be over 40 years old.
“Seven members of the delegation were former Taliban cabinet members, some of whom were military chiefs and commanders, so the only member of the new generation of the delegation is Hussein Haqqani,” stated Sami Yousafzai, a freelance journalist.
Mohammad Naeem Wardak, the newly appointed spokesman for the Taliban office in Qatar, is 35 years old and a resident of Maidan Wardak province.
Wardak received his Ph.D. in Arabic from the Islamic University in Islamabad, and, in addition to Arabic, is fluent in Farsi and Pashto and speaks English.
He has been in charge of strategic and foreign relations from the group since the establishment of the Taliban office in Qatar.
"He has the experience of working with the media. Mohammad Naeem made lots of efforts to integrate the activities of (the Taliban's) Qatar office when it faced problems," said university lecturer Faiz Mohammad Zaland.
The Taliban is not sharing the list of their 21-member negotiating team, but the group has announced that Abdul Hakim Haqqani will lead the team. The group says that 13 members of the team are members of the leadership council.
"Our negotiating team will move forward based on the authorities given to them by the people... There is a political consensus in its support under the name of the High Council for National Reconciliation. And then it is the people of Afghanistan who will decide on the peace process," said Sediq Sediqqi, presidential spokesman, at a press conference on Monday.
This comes as despite the preparations by the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and the Taliban team's preparations, the exact date of the talks has yet to be announced.