Mohammad Hassan Akhund, one of the founding members of the Taliban, will lead Afghanistan's new interim government while some of the movement's top officials have been appointed to key positions.

Hassan Akhund, seated with a group of men, makes a video statement, in this still image taken from a video recorded in an unidentified location and released on August 16, 2021.
Hassan Akhund, seated with a group of men, makes a video statement, in this still image taken from a video recorded in an unidentified location and released on August 16, 2021. (Social media / Reuters)

The Taliban has announced UN-sanctioned Taliban veteran Mohammad Hasan Akhund as the leader of their new government, while giving key positions to some of the movement's top officials.

Chief spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told a press conference that Taliban co-founder Abdul Ghani Baradar will be the deputy leader.

Mullah Yaqub, the son of the Taliban founder and late supreme leader Mullah Omar, was named defence minister, while the position of interior minister was given to Sirajuddin Haqqani, the leader of the feared Haqqani network who also doubled up as a Taliban deputy leader.

"The cabinet is not complete, it is just acting," Mujahid said at the Government Information and Media Centre in Kabul.

"We will try to take people from other parts of the country."

The Taliban, who swept to power last month, had been expected to announce a government since the US-led evacuation was completed at the end of August.

They have promised an "inclusive" government that represents Afghanistan's complex ethnic makeup – though women are unlikely to be included at the top levels. So far though, there was no evidence of non-Taliban in the lineup, a big demand of the international community.

Amir Khan Muttaqi, a Taliban negotiator in Doha and member of the first regime's cabinet, was named foreign minister.

As they transition from insurgent group to governing power, the Taliban have a series of major issues to address, including looming financial and humanitarian crises.

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'Lasting peace, prosperity and development'

The Taliban's secretive supreme leader on Tuesday told the newly appointed government to uphold sharia law, in his first message since the grouo swept to power.

"I assure all the countrymen that the figures will work hard towards upholding Islamic rules and sharia law in the country," Hibatullah Akhundzada, who has never been seen in public, said in a statement released in English.

Akhundzada told Afghans that the new leadership would ensure "lasting peace, prosperity and development", adding that "people should not try to leave the country".

"The Islamic Emirate has no problem with anyone," he said.

Protests in Kabul 

The announcement of Cabinet appointments came hours after members of the group fired into the air to disperse protesters and arrested several journalists, the second time in less than a week Taliban used heavy-handed tactics to break up a demonstration in the Afghan capital of Kabul.

The demonstrators had gathered outside the Pakistan Embassy to accuse Islamabad of aiding the Taliban's assault on northern Panjshir province. 

The Taliban said on Monday they seized the province — the last not in their control — after their blitz through Afghanistan last month.

Afghanistan's previous government routinely accused Pakistan of aiding the Taliban, a charge Islamabad has denied. Former vice president Amrullah Saleh, one of the leaders of the anti-Taliban forces, has long been an outspoken critic of neighbouring Pakistan.

Dozens of women were among the protesters on Tuesday. Some of them carried signs bemoaning the killing of their sons by Taliban fighters they say were aided by Pakistan. One sign read, “I am a mother when you kill my son you kill a part of me.”

On Saturday, Taliban special forces troops in camouflage fired their weapons into the air to end a protest march in the capital by Afghan women demanding equal rights from the new rulers.

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Source: TRTWorld and agencies