Taliban defectors seek power-share in new Afghanistan

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The Independent Online

The Taliban are fleeing the sinking ship. No sooner has the militia lost Kandahar, the last city under its control, than some of its leaders who helped preside over years of repression have broken with the movement and have asked to share of power in the new Afghanistan.

Several senior figures in the deposed Taliban government have said they are leaving the militia and reviving a long-defunct Afghan political party. They say they want to attend the loya jirga, the traditional tribal assembly to be held in six months to decide the future government of Afghanistan.

If they get their way they could be back in power in six months, dealing with the West as partners for peace in Afghanistan. They include the Taliban's former deputy chief justice, a senior figure in one of the cruellest judicial systems of modern times, three Taliban government ministers and the militia's unrecognised ambassador to the United Nations. Their move will further weaken the shattered remnants of Mullah Mohammed Omar's once all-powerful Taliban. He, too, is on the run, possibly for his life, as US Marines scour southern Afghanistan.

The defectors have revived a political party which they say was one of the first Islamic movements in Afghanistan. Khuddamul Furqan was founded in 1966 but has been effectively dormant for many years since it merged with the Taliban. Pir Ahmad Amin Mojaddi a respected religious leader who had lived in exile in Pakistan since the Eighties has been named as president of the revived party.

But the new party leadership under him includes Abdul Hakim Mujahid, the Taliban's officially unrecognised representative at the UN in New York, Maulvi Abdul, Sattar Siddiqui, the Taliban's deputy chief justice and the former deputy ministers for information and culture, education and refugees' rehabilitation. The revived party used to be supported in many areas of southern Afghanistan inhabited by the Pashtuns the country's largest ethnic group, whose involvement in any future government is considered essential for stability.

¿ A videotape said to show Osama bin Laden relishing the 11 September attacks could be released tomorrow after consideration by President Bush and the US National Security Council.

Ari Fleischer, the White House press secretary, said earlier that Mr Bush "wants to share information with the American people. He thinks it?s important for people to know what Osama bin Laden has said in this regard. On the other side, we have not sought opportunities to provide Osama bin Laden with TV time".

Mr Fleischer said the President had read a translation of its ?disgusting?? contents. ?The President?s reaction that was this shows everything we?ve always known, that Osama bin Laden was behind the attacks."