By Arun Anand

The Taliban Story: Haqqani Nexus, Deoband and the ideological fulcrum (Part 5)
Photo Source: The Tribune

This is fifth of the 30 part series on ‘The Taliban Story’ that we are bringing to our readers. You can share the feedback at [email protected]. Here is the fifth part:

It is important to understand the origin of the Haqqani network and the way it has grown and how it operates if one wants to understand the ideological fulcrum of Taliban. The present victory of Taliban wouldn’t have been possible without support from Haqqani nexus.

Sarmad Ishfaq provided some interesting details in his analysis on South Asia’s Most Notorious Militant Groups’ in December, 2019 in ‘The Diplomat’1: ‘The group is well organized and has been lethal in its attacks on Afghani and international forces in Afghanistan. America has alleged that the group operates from the tribal belt of Pakistan, specifically Miran Shah in North Waziristan Agency (although Pakistan refutes this). The group maintained private autonomy even when Mullah Omar(the first chief of Taliban) was alive, but since his death, their influence has grown further. They exert complete influence on the Miran Shah Shura; have significant control on the Peshawar Shura; and even control key commissions in the Quetta Shura. This makes them the chief group among the modern-day Taliban.’

The Haqqanis’ influence can be gathered from the fact that the Taliban had demanded and secured the release of Anas Haqqani, younger brother of Sirjauddin, in their negotiations with the Americans – which the Americans and Afghanis did in November 2019.

‘The Haqqani ideology, similar to that of other groups within the Taliban, follows the Deobandi interpretation of Islam and focuses on jihad to expel Western forces in Afghanistan and re-impose Taliban rule. For the Haqqanis, the methodology to realize their ideology has generally been via armed struggle. The current emir of the Taliban, albeit not nearly as widely accepted as Mullah Omar, Hibatullah Akhundzada, is pro-negotiations but the Haqqanis are generally seen as favoring a military-centric approach.

Although the organizational structure of the Taliban is decentralized, the Haqqani Network enjoys a centralized system. Out of all the Shuras of the Taliban, only the Miran Shah Shura (which is exclusively composed of the Haqqanis) is a homogenous organization under absolutely unified leadership of the Haqqani network. The core structure of the Haqqani network is mainly familial and hierarchical. The hierarchy is as follows: Tier 1 are the senior Haqqani commanders (they provide finances and strategic guidance); Tier 2 are senior local commanders who are present in Afghanistan (in charge of districts); Tier 3 are locally based group leaders (handle recruiting, logistics, etc.); Tier 4 is comprised of the core fighters (ideological fighters); and Tier 5 are the cash fighters (mercenaries).’2

‘The founder of the group was Jalaluddin Haqqani, a veteran anti-Soviet mujahideen commander who was a valuable CIA asset and later a minister in the Taliban government of Afghanistan. Since the group is bound by familial ties, it is not surprising the group is currently led by his son, Sirajuddin, who is not only the most influential person in the Haqqani network but is the second in command of the entire Taliban behind only the emir.

Favoring a centralized and militarist approach, Sirajuddin opposes the use of finances on nonmilitary functions such as clinics, courts, and so on. Jihad is the principal tenet of victory, according to his stance. Sirajuddin’s sphere of influence goes well beyond the Haqqani Network itself. The leader’s influence can be estimated by the fact that he not only leads the HN (Miran Shah Shura), but is also deputy in the Quetta Shura (comprised of the leadership of the Talban) in which he controls all key commissions, such as military and finance. Other top leaders include Haji Mali Khan, an uncle of Sirajuddin, who was released in a prisoner swap in November 2019 along with Anas Haqqani.’3

Origin of the Haqqani network

The Haqqani network/nexus was founded by a cleric Jalaluddin Haqqani in 1970s and it grew rapidly after Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in 1979 as it became an important player in the war of Mujahedeen’s against Soviet troops.

The uniqueness of this network, which increases its lethalness multiple fold, lies in the fact that it changes its colors swiftly depending on which side of the Durand line it is operating-Afghanistan or Pakistan. It has a strong base in North Waziristan in Pakistan as well as in the Loya-Paktia region of Afghanistan (consisting of the provinces of Pakita, Paktika, Khost, and some parts of Ghazni).

Jalaluddin Haqqani, the founder of this network was an important player in the previous Taliban regime in 1990s where he was appointed as the Minister for border regions. This suited him perfectly fine as the Haqqanis were operating on both side of the border.

His sons -Sirajuddin and Anas are playing a key role in the present day Taliban regime. After his father’s death in 2018, the Haqqani network is being led by Sirajuddin.

Origin of Haqqani network:The Deoband connection

‘Beginning in 1964 Jalaluddin embarked on a program of Advanced religious studies at the Dar al-’ Uloom Haqqaniyya Madrasa in the North West frontier province of Pakistan graduating in 1970 with the equivalent of a doctoral degree and qualified to be addressed as a Maulvi. This Deoband seminary was the birthplace of a distinctively Pashtun Islamism embodied in an alumni social network of religious and political elites that has had tremendous political success and far-reaching social influence in both Afghanistan and Pakistan.

It was also the birthplace of the Haqqani network and the institution from which the Haqqanis take their name.

The Dar al-’ Uloom Haqqaniyya was established in 1947 in the village of Akora Khattak, 30 miles Southeast of Peshawar by Abdul Haq Akorwi, a graduate of the Dar al-’ Uloom Deoband in Northern India from which the Deobandi movement originated in the late 19th century. This site of the Dar al-’ Uloom Haqqaniyya school is significant as it was in the same location in 1826 where .. 19th century Mujahid Syed Ahmed Shahid won the first major Battle of a Jihad against the British-backed Sikhs of the frontier.The School has always been closely affiliated with Jamiat Ulema e Islam (JUI), one of the two large Pakistani Sunni Islamist political parties…By the 1960s Dar al-’ Uloom Haqqaniyya had become the main institution for the production of graduates of the Deobandis in Pakistan and between 1966 and 1985 roughly a third of Deobandi clerics in Pakistan graduated from Haqqaniyya.’4

(to be continued)


  4. Fountainhead of Jihad by Vahid Brown and Don Hassler, Hacheete India(Pp38-39)