Peshawar, Pakistan — Sami ul-Haq, also known as the spiritual father of the Taliban, was assassinated near his house in the suburbs of Islamabad.
The prominent Muslim cleric was found dead by his relatives. Thus far, the identity of his attackers remains unknown.
Haq was the teacher of numerous high-profile Afghan and Pakistani Taliban leaders. Recently, the Muslim cleric was returning to the spotlight as the key intermediary in the peace talks between the Afghan government and Taliban leadership.
“Recently, when the Afghan government sent him a delegation and sought his help in bringing the Afghan Taliban to the negotiation table, he offered them his madrassa to sit with each other and build trust,” said a relative of Haq about the cleric’s role in the peace talks.
Yousaf Shah, Haq’s deputy, couldn’t explain why the cleric’s bodyguard team was absent when the attack took place. Mohammad Bilal, the nephew of the deceased, said that Haq was both stabbed and shot.
“When the assailants entered his house, they first started hitting mullah Sami ul-Haq with knives and daggers and then shot him dead,” he said. It’s still unclear if he was present during the attack.
Haq also operated an Islamic seminary in northwestern Pakistan. The Darul Uloom Haqqania seminary is situated close to the border with Afghanistan in what is also known as Pakistan’s tribal areas. Mullah Mohammad Omar studied under Haq during the 1980s, when the Soviets were occupying Afghanistan. Thereafter, Omar and many of his classmates went to join the Mujahideen movement that managed to defeat the Soviet occupation forces with considerable U.S. technological and logistical support.
Mullah Omar, also known as “One-eyed Omar”, was the founder of the Taliban movement, which seized power in Afghanistan in 1996 after years of civil strife that came as a result of the Soviet withdrawal. He was still the leader when the 9/11 terrorist attacks took place. He refused to hand over al-Qaida’s leadership to the US government and thus triggered the American and allied intervention. Mullah Omar allegedly died in 2013.
An Afghan Taliban representative lamented the death of Haq and branded his killers as enemies of Islam. Pakistani government and military officials also expressed their condolences. Hundreds of Haq’s followers took to the streets and began riots over his death.
Haq’s seminary had remained influential even after 9/11 and the fall of the Taliban regime. Haq had become politicized and supported various Pakistani politicians in the provincial government. Having political friends means making political enemies as well. Therefore, it’s unclear if Haq’s killers were driven by petty provincial political motives or by the highly sensitive and important peace talks in Afghanistan.
The US war in Afghanistan is in its 17th year. It’s the longest war in US history.