An influential Pakistani cleric known as "Father of the Taliban" has endorsed the nomination of Mullah Akhtar Mansour as Taliban's supremo, amid growing dissent within Taliban ranks over succession following Mullah Omar's death.
Pakistani and Afghan Ulema or religious scholars, associated with Darul Uloom Haqqania in Akora Khattak of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, have sworn allegiance to Mullah Mansour whose election has ostensibly fragmented the Afghan Taliban, the Express Tribune reported.
The allegiance pledge was made at a function presided over by Maulana Sami-ul Haq, known as the 'Father of the Taliban' and the chief of his eponymous faction of Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam at the Islamic seminary Darul Uloom Haqqania at the start of the academic year.
The late Taliban supreme leader Mullah Omar is said to have graduated from the religious seminary along with several top cadres of the Afghan Taliban. Participants at the function also said prayed for Mullah Omar, whose death was officially confirmed by the Taliban and Afghan government in late July.
Haq, who is also the chancellor of Darul Uloom Haqqania, pledged allegiance to Mullah Mansour in a brief address.
In their speeches, Haq and another cleric Maulana Anwarul Haq called upon Afghan ulema and people to forge unity in their ranks and submit to the leadership of Mullah Mansour.
They also called upon the Afghans to protect their country against international conspiracies.
The backing to Mullah Mansour came amid a widening Taliban rift over his nomination as the group's supremo. Some top leaders, including Mullah Omar's son and brother, have refused to pledge allegiance to Mansour.
Tayeb Agha, the head of the Qatar political office set up in 2013 to facilitate talks with Kabul, also resigned on Monday in protest over Mansour's appointment.
Former diplomat Aziz Rehman and Mawlavi Nek Mohammad, who served as a deputy minister during Taliban rule, have also stepped down.