Abdul Ghani Baradar, the Taliban co-founder and now deputy prime minister of Afghanistan, has been named among the “100 Most Influential People” of 2021 by Time magazine.
Baradar’s profile for Time’s list, written by veteran journalist Ahmed Rashid, noted that he “is revered” among the Afghan Taliban as a founding member, “a charismatic military leader and a deeply pious figure”.
It said that when the Taliban took over the Afghan capital in August, it was on the terms negotiated by Baradar, which included amnesties offered, the lack of bloodshed upon seizing power and contacts and visits with neighbouring states such as Pakistan and China.
“A quiet, secretive man who rarely gives public statements or interviews, Baradar nonetheless represents a more moderate current within the Taliban, the one that will be thrust into the limelight to win Western support and desperately needed financial aid. The question is whether the man who coaxed the Americans out of Afghanistan can sway his own movement,” the profile said.
Baradar was once a close friend of the movement’s reclusive first leader, Mullah Mohammad Omar, who gave him his nom de guerre, “Baradar” or “brother”.
Following the fall of the Taliban government in 2001, Baradar served as a senior military commander responsible for attacks on coalition forces, a UN sanctions notice said.
He was arrested and imprisoned in Pakistan in 2010. After his release in 2018, he headed the Taliban’s political office in Doha, becoming one of the most prominent figures in peace talks with the United States.
Baradar appears to be the first Taliban leader to make it to the list, although the publication has made no such mention in its write-up. The full list can be viewed here.
In 2004, Al Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden was included in the list, with the magazine noting that he “galvanized disparate organisations in dozens of countries into one network, sharing a vision, logistics and Afghan training camps”.
“The malcontented son of a wealthy Saudi construction magnate, bin Laden found meaning in the Afghan war,” wrote Richard Clarke, the former head of counterterrorism for America’s National Security Council.
Other personalities featured on 2021 list
Also included in this year’s list is Afghan women’s rights activist Mahbouba Seraj, US President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, Chinese President Xi Jinping, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, former US president Donald Trump and Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi.
The UK’s Prince Harry and Meghan Markle have also made the list, under the section devoted to “icons” alongside popstar Britney Spears and countrysinger Dolly Parton.
Athlete Simone Biles — who withdrew from the Tokyo Olympics to focus on her mental health— and tennis star Naomi Osaka have also made the cut as well as Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny.
Actors Scarlett Johansson and Daniel Kaluuya, and musicians Lil Nas X and Bad Bunny also made this year’s list.
Additional input from Reuters