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Tuesday, 4 December, 2001, 10:46 GMT
Taleban 'defectors' in Kandahar appeal
Kandahar has been under sustained US attack
By Zafar Abbas in Islamabad

Several prominent members of Afghanistan's Taleban movement are trying to persuade their leader, Mullah Mohammed Omar, to hand over control of Kandahar to local Pashtun commanders to avoid further bloodshed.

Taleban fighter
The Taleban have clung on to their southern stronghold
Most members of this unannounced pressure group, formed in the Pakistani city of Peshawar, have so far refused to go public with their criticism of Taleban policies.

However, they are trying to find a role in the future political set-up in Afghanistan.

Among Taleban members who have arrived in Pakistan in the last week are a number of former ministers and other prominent figures in the movement.

No open criticism

They include Mullah Abdul Jan, who was the Minister for Mines and Industries, and Hakim Mujahid, who was the Taleban UN representative.

They appear to have been the motivating force in creating this pressure group although, as yet, none of them has issued any statement criticising Mullah Omar.

They have not even said that they have defected.

But they clearly disagree with Mullah Omar's war strategy, and support the idea of a negotiated surrender of Kandahar to local Pashtun commanders.

Future role?

Most of the Taleban members who now form part of this pressure group have in the past been allied to a highly respected former mujahideen commander, Mullah Nabi Mohammadi.

It is not clear if they have decided to abandon Mullah Omar on Nabi Mohammadi's advice, but they seem to have the blessing of the Pakistani authorities.

Observers of Afghan politics in Peshawar say most of these senior Taleban members want to remain relevant to Afghanistan's politics.

They are hoping to find some kind of role in the Pashtun-dominated provinces in Afghanistan - even if Mullah Omar and his supporters are driven out of the country.

See also:

04 Dec 01 | South Asia
'Breakthrough' at Afghan talks
04 Dec 01 | South Asia
US denies bombing civilians
03 Dec 01 | Asia-Pacific
Coalition troops 'prepare Tajik bases'
02 Dec 01 | South Asia
Taleban told 'surrender or die'
03 Dec 01 | South Asia
In pictures: Afghan refugee misery
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