On October 2, Mullah Abdul Latif Hakimi–media spokesman and close aide to Taliban leader Mullah Omar–was arrested by Pakistani security forces, reportedly near Dera Ismail Khan in southwestern Baluchistan province. The arrest is something of a coup for Pakistani intelligence; he can provide valuable information on Taliban structures and capabilities, both in Afghanistan and Pakistan. In addition, Afghan President Hamid Karzai has stated his intention to seek the extradition of Hakimi for his personal involvement in violence in Afghanistan (www.paktribune.com).
Hakimi rose to prominence in the media after the U.S.-led war in 2001, and has been quoted by local and international news agencies as “the voice of the Taliban” since early 2004. He is thought to be a high-ranking figure within the remaining Taliban regime, although the exact nature of his ties is unclear. According to some Afghan and U.S. military officials, he is believed to speak for factions within the rebel group.
What is certain, however, is that tension between Afghanistan and Pakistan will be eased by such an event. Relations between the two countries have often been strained. Pakistan, an erstwhile ally of the Taliban, withdrew its support for the movement and became a chief ally of the U.S.-led coalition forces that ousted the militia, but suspicions remain that rebels are using Pakistan as a staging area for cross-border attacks. The information thus far made public from Hakimi indicates that Mullah Mohammed Omar is hiding in Afghanistan and remains in contact with top commanders by satellite phone. The more valuable information, which Pakistani authorities may be less inclined to reveal, pertains to the nature and depth of the Taliban infrastructure in Pakistan.