Mullah Omar and Bin Laden: Family ties

The Religious Assembly of the Taleban begins its session today to decide the course of action to take over whether to hand over Bin Laden. Mullah Omar, the Leader of the Taleban, and Bin Laden have strong links, not only as comrades in arms and friends, but also have close family ties.

Mullah Mohammed Omar is the religious and political leader of the Students (Taleban) of Theology. He appeared in 1994 when the Taleban surged forward from the Koranic Schools (Madrassah) in Afghan refugee camps in Pakistan and stormed northwards to seize control of the southern half of Afghanistan. Two years later, in 1996, the Taleban took control of Kabul, the capital.

It is in Kandahar, however, where Omar feels at home. Kandahar is the heartland of the Pashtun ethnic group, to which he and most of the Taleban belong. This figure rules the country with a curious style of leadership, issuing orders hand-written on little scraps of paper, sometimes torn from newspapers. Not yet 40 years old, he is blind in one eye, a reminder of the Jihad against the Soviet troops called in by president Najibullah to support the Democratic regime in Kabul against terrorist incursions from the south backed by Pakistan and the United States of America.

Not only is Omar the protector of Bin Laden, he also married his elder daughter in 1998, after which Bin Laden strengthened the ties between the two by taking one of Omar’s daughters as his fourth wife.

Mohammed Omar has been accused by his opponents of being more interested in creating a Pashtun hegemony in his country against the Tadjik peoples of the north than in any greater desire for Islam. Indeed, the Pakistani journalist Ahmid Rashid, in his book “Taleban: Militant Islam, Oil and Fundamentalism in Central Asia” states that Omar knows indeed very little about Islam.

This obscure character forces women to wear the oppressive burqah (a complete veil which hides the face, through which there is a lighter patch for the wearer to see through) and supports the practice of death by stoning and punishment by amputation.

It is the Religious Assembly which will choose whether to give up Bin Laden or to follow the more obtuse path of confrontation, hoping that the more radical elements in the rest of the Moslem world will support the regime in Afghanistan in their continued fight against reason. The decision reached by the end of this week will be a sign to the outside world as to the strength of Omar’s grip on this country, which continues to defy logic on the threshold of the Third Millennium.


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