The rumor that Mullah Omar had been killed in Pakistan seems to have been a product of wishful thinking from the Afghan National Directorate of Security, or NDS. No evidence has turned up to support this rumor, but Afghan media are still promoting it. It's easy to understand why.
Every since Osama bin Laden was killed, there has been a powerful expectation here that the United States would strike next at the Afghan Taliban leader who is sheltering in Pakistan.
Many people I've spoke to in Kabul believed Omar's death would so weaken the Afghan Taliban that many local Taliban might accept reintegration into society. They also think Omar's death might make a negotiated peace settlement with remaining Taliban leaders easier to achieve, because the movement would be weakened. And if Omar were killed on Pakistani soil, it would smash Pakistan's efforts,to dominate any peace talks.
Stories had surfaced last week here that Pakistan's ISI intelligence agency was going to move Omar out of his hiding place – in Quetta or Karachi – to a safer spot.
Lutfullah Mashan, the NDS spokesperson, went as far to tell reporters: "The ISI had told Omar's aides and companions that for security reasons they wanted to shift him from Quetta to North Waziristan." But neither U.S. civilian nor military officials have seen any evidence that Omar is dead, and Taliban leaders have denied it.
So that nascent peace process will have to inch along on the assumption that Mullah Omar is still living – and without firm knowledge of where the one-eyed leader now is or what he wants. I will write more about the peace process in my column this week. And I will blog about the concerns that many Afghans, including women and civil society activists, have about the outcome of any talks with the Taliban.