Who is Mawlawi Zarif Muzaffari of Taliban?

The rifts between the Taliban commanders and its leadership in Kabul have increased more than ever, with its commanders cutting their ties with the group one after another.

The first commander to split from the group was Mawlawi Mahdi Mujahid, a former Taliban commander in northern Sar-e-Pul province. He stood against the group on June 11 and criticized the Taliban’s treatment of the Hazaras and Shias under their rule in Afghanistan.

Mahdi, who origins from the Hazara ethnic group, was appointed as the head of the intelligence office of the Taliban government in Bamiyan province, but soon was removed from the post. Later, he returned to Balkhab district in Sar-e-Pul and started collecting his supporters to stand against the Taliban.

Efforts were made by the Taliban to solve the issue through talks by sending their delegates to the district to negotiate with Mahdi Mujahid, but the negotiations failed, and the Taliban sent its soldiers to arrest the commander and capture areas under his control.

Following Mahdi Mujahid, another commander Mawlawi Zarif Muzaffari has gone to Balkhab district to join hands with Mahdi against the Taliban, two local sources said.

Muzaffari so far has not announced his break up with the Taliban but reports indicate that the commander has also started efforts to besiege people in his support to fight the Taliban in Kohistanat district in Sar-e-Pul, where he belongs to.

A former lawmaker from Sar-e-Pul province who wished not to be named in this report said that Muzaffari has confirmed his opposition to the Taliban and that he is besieging people in areas under his control in Kohistanat district.

“Mawlawi Zarif has been one of the biggest and most influential Taliban commanders in the last few years and now he has cut his ties with the Taliban government and is collecting people in his favor,” he said.

But another source who had served under the previous government said that the report on the separation of Muzaffari from the Taliban is nothing more than a rumor.

“Muzaffari’s brother is a Taliban elder and has not separated from the group so far. This is propaganda from those who don’t have good relations with Mawlawi Zarif,” said the source.

Muzaffari is ethnically a Tajik and was a key Taliban commander in Sar-e-Pul province and played an important role in capturing areas in the north ahead of the fall of the previous government last year.

He belongs to Kohistanat district in Sar-e-Pul which has been under the control of the Taliban for a long time under the previous government.

A tribal elder from Kohistanat said that Muzaffari has at least 3,000 people under his command in areas under his control.

“Mawlawi Zarif Muzaffari is one of the elders of Kohistanat and has more than 3,000 fighters,” the tribal elder said. “These people will stand along him if he asks them to do so.”

Muzaffari has served as Taliban governor for Sar-e-Pul after the group took over Afghanistan, and later, he was appointed as the Herat corps commander in western Afghanistan.

In June, Muzaffari sustained injuries in a roadside bomb blast, something that sources say he sees an attempt by the Taliban to remove him from their way as a Tajik commander. This issue, the sources said, strained his ties with the group.