(This was originally posted in India Today)
Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanikzai, the Head of Political Office of Taliban, was once a gentleman cadet at the Indian Military Academy (IMA) in Dehradun where he was referred to as ‘Sheru’ by his batchmates who don’t remember him as a hardliner. After studying political science, Sher Mohammad Stanikzai joined the IMA where he trained for 1.5 years after the Indian military institute opened its gates for the Afghans. He is now one of the top Taliban political leaders who is touted to become a major part of the Taliban regime.
According to a report in The Times of India, ‘Sheru’ or Sher Mohammad Stanikzai was 20 when he joined the IMA in Dehradun in its 1982 batch. A retired Major General of the Indian Army has recollected him to be a likeable guy who was a little older than the other cadets and would always sport a striking moustache. “He certainly had no radical views at the time,” Major General (retd) DA Chaturvedi told TOI.
Colonel (retd) Kesar Singh Shekhawat, also a batchmate of Stanikzai, remembered their weekend hiking expeditions and short trips to the riverside. “There is a photograph of him in his swimming trunks from a day we had gone to the river in Rishikesh and bathed in the Ganga,” recalled Col Shekhawat.
After completing his training at the IMA, Stanikzai went on to join the Afghan National Army as a lieutenant. He fought the Soviet-Afghan war and the Islamic Liberation of Afghanistan. During the previous Taliban regime, Stanikzai served as a deputy minister of foreign affairs and had also travelled to the US during the Bill Clinton regime for diplomatic talks on behalf of the Taliban. In 2015, Stanikzai was appointed the head of Taliban’s political office in Qatar.