The appointment comes a day after the head of Taliban’s political office in Qatar, Sayed Tayyeb Agha, resigned citing differences over the election of the ultraorthodox militia’s new supremo Mullah Akhtar Mansoor.
“I and other members of the Political Office of the Islamic Emirate declare allegiance to the honourable Mullah Akhtar Mansoor. We consider this decision in accordance with Islamic Sharia and will follow his instructions,” Stanekzai said in a statement.
“We assure our full support to the new chief,” the statement added.
Stanekzai’s appointment will put a pause on the longstanding tensions between Tayyeb Agha and Mansoor and their understanding could help in the peace process.
Taliban officials told The Express Tribune that the new leaders are “not in a hurry” to resume negotiations and will first focus on organisational matters.
“There is also a strong opinion among the leaders to opt for indirect talks instead of direct negotiations,” a Taliban leader said.
Stanekzai’s appointment is said to bring an end to the longstanding tensions between Tayyeb Agha and Mullah Akhtar Mansoor and their understanding could contribute to the peace process.
Stanekzai, who had also served as deputy minister for health during Taliban rule, was the founding member of the Qatar office. He was later appointed as deputy to Tayyeb Agha.
Believed to be aged between 55 and 60 years, Stanekzai is a former member of the Harkat-e-Inqilab-e-Islami of Muhammad Nabi and holds a masters’ degree in political science.
Late on Monday, Sayyed Tayyeb Agha resigned from his position of chief negotiator. Tayyeb Agha, who was a close confidant of the deceased Taliban spiritual leader, described Mullah Mansoor’s election outside Afghanistan as a ‘historic mistake’ and accused the leadership of keeping the death of Mullah Omar secret despite his repeated demands for the voice of the elusive Taliban chief.
Earlier, the Taliban office in Qatar had distanced itself from the Pakistan-brokered peace talks. Taliban representatives had met face-to-face with Afghan government officials in Murree on July 7.
According to Taliban sources, Mullah Mansoor had approved the talks. However, in his first audio after becoming Taliban chief, Mullah Mansoor cast doubts on peace talks, saying that “peace talks are the enemy’s propaganda”.