Mullah Akhund, who is on a UN sanctions list, was the foreign minister in the previous Taliban regime in the 1990s.
The Taliban have named Mullah Mohammad Hasan Akhund to lead their new interim government, nearly three weeks after the group seized control of the country.
Mullah Akhund is the longtime head of the Taliban’s powerful decision-making body Rehbari Shura, or leadership council. He was first the foreign minister and then deputy prime minister during the Taliban’s last rule from 1996-2001 before being appointed to head the new government on Tuesday.
Akhund, who is on a UN sanctions list, was the foreign minister in the previous Taliban regime in the 1990s.
Taliban co-founder Abdul Ghani Baradar was named Mullah Akhund’s deputy.
Like many in the Taliban leadership, Mullah Akhund derives much of his prestige from his proximity to the movement’s reclusive first leader, Mullah Mohammad Omar.
He hails from Kandahar, the birthplace of the Taliban.
A UN sanctions report described him as a “close associate and political adviser” to Omar.
Akhund is highly respected within the movement, especially by its supreme leader, Haibatullah Akhunzada, a Taliban source told Reuters.
Some observers viewed Akhund, believed to be in his mid-60s and possibly older, as more of a political than a religious figure, with his control over the leadership council also giving him a say in military affairs.
Mullah Akhund has Pashtun lineage from Ahmad Shah Durrani – the founder of modern Afghanistan (circa 1700s).
He played a crucial leadership and guidance role in the Rahbari Shura council of leaders, often called the Quetta Shura, formed after the Taliban was driven out of power in a US-led military invasion in 2001.
He is the author of several works on Islam.