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Haqqani chief appears in public for the first time, ‘struggles’ in reciting Quran

This is 1st time that Taliban govt has released photos of minister Sirajuddin Haqqani, son of Haqqani Network founder, Jalaluddin Haqqani & organisation's current leader, who is 'wanted' by FBI.

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New Delhi: In a first since Taliban regained control of Afghanistan last year, the leader of dreaded Haqqani Network and the country’s minister of interior affairs Sirajuddin Haqqani, who carries a USD 10 million bounty on his head, made a public appearance Saturday.

However, it was not just his first pictured and video graphed public appearance that drew attention, but also his purported struggle in reciting verses from the Quran.

Haqqani is the son of Haqqani Network founder, Jalaluddin Haqqani, and currently handles the activities of the group.

The network — commonly described as a Sunni Islamist militant organisation — was designated a Foreign Terrorist Organisation by the United States in 2012. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has also put a bounty on Sirajuddin, offering up to $10 million for providing information leading directly to him.

Not only is this the first time that clear photos of Sirajuddin Haqqani have been released in the public media in decades, Saturday’s event was also the first time that the Taliban government is believed to have released images of the minister. Earlier, in October, his face had either been covered in all photos of an event in which he had been present, or were deliberately blurred.

On Saturday, however, a Twitter handle that is claimed to be of Zabihulla Mujahid, spokesperson of the Afghan government, tweeted videos of an event which clearly showed Sirajuddin.

The minister had been addressing the graduation ceremony of police personnel who had been recruited after the Taliban took over the control of the country.

Speaking at the ceremony, Sirajuddin, reportedly said that the “the international community should not see his government as a threat and that foreign aid was needed to revive the country”.

Videos shared on the social media also showed Pakistan’s Ambassador to Afghanistan, Mansoor Ahmad Khan, to be present at the ceremony and standing in attention as Haqqani walked in.

Problems in reciting the Quran

Apart from the rare release of his image, the other thing that has been making news about Sirajuddin’s Saturday event, was the minister’s alleged inability to recite properly from the Quran.

According to Hamid Haideri, editor in chief of the 1 TV News Afghanistan —  an Afghan news channel — “Haqqani began his speech at a graduation ceremony with a verse from Surah Al-Imran, but was unable to recite it correctly”.

In a 21-second video clip of the event shared by Haideri on Twitter, Sirajuddin appeared to be struggling to remember the exact verse and had to take help of notes.

A longer video posted by a Twitter handle named ‘Taliban Exposed’ (which posts anti-Taliban content) suggests that Haqqani had omitted saying ‘sadaq Allah Al-Azeem’ (meaning Allah Almighty speaks the truth) — as is uttered at the end of every recitation of a verse from the Quran. The minister later said it, after someone reminded him of it.

Haqqani’s struggle with the Quran recitation has not gone down well with many in Afghanistan

According to Sharif Hassan, a  New York Times reporter in Afghanistan, Haqqani is under attack by opponents for misreading the Quran verse.

(With inputs from PTI. ThePrint took the help of Siraj Hassoun — a Syrian student studying in India — in translating the videos.)

Also read: Empire of poppies: Why countries think stopping Taliban’s narco-state is not worth the cost


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