Pakistan releases former Taliban No2
Islamabad, September 21, 2013
Pakistan on Saturday released former Taliban second-in-command Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, a man Afghanistan believes could help tempt moderate Taliban leaders to the negotiating table and bring peace after more than a decade of war.
Pakistan's foreign ministry announced late on Friday Baradar - one of the founders of the Taliban insurgency - would be released a day later, and on Saturday, Pakistani television reported Baradar had been set free.
There was no official confirmation of his whereabouts.
"The Afghan government welcomes Pakistan's decision to release Mullah Baradar," said Aimal Faizi, a spokesman for Afghan President Hamid Karzai.
"This release has occurred because of the Afghan government's consistent pressure requesting that Mullah Baradar be set free," he said.
Baradar is at the heart of Afghan efforts to kick-start a stalled peace process as U.S.- led troops prepare to pull out at the end of next year and anxiety grows over the country's security.
Baradar was once a close friend of the reclusive Taliban leader, Mullah Mohammad Omar, who gave him his nom de guerre, "Baradar" or "brother".
Known as a pragmatic operator, he is believed to be willing to play the role of a peace ambassador, having once reached out to Kabul to seek a peace settlement. He was arrested in Pakistan in a joint U.S.-Pakistani security operation.
But critics say his years in detention may have eroded his sway over the fast evolving insurgency and there are doubts whether Mullah Omar would agree to talk to his former protégé.
He is still hugely respected by field commanders in Afghanistan, however, and a call from Baradar to lay down arms is likely to be treated seriously.
It is also not clear where Baradar would travel following his release. Sources in Pakistan have said he could be sent to Turkey or Saudi Arabia to help kick start peace talks with the Taliban after the breakdown of the Doha round of talks.
Afghanistan wants Baradar to be handed to authorities there, but Pakistan has refused to do so. "We hope that Mullah Baradar decides to come to Afghanistan," Faizi said.-Reuters
More INTERNATIONAL NEWS Stories
- Malaysia formally asks for international help
- MASSACRE: Gunmen kill 100 in central Nigeria
- Tense Crimea votes on Russia referendum
- Libyan port rebels say ready for talks
- India puts on hold search for missing plane
- Alibaba plans US listing in third-quarter
- Lost airliner was diverted deliberately: Malaysian PM
- Saudi demands Qatar shut down Al Jazeera
- Labour stalwart Benn dies aged 88
- Bahrain boat show postponed over development work
- Korean steel maker Posco set for revamp
- Harsh winter hits US consumer sentiment
- Sanctions set as Russia presses on with Crimea takeover
- India inflation at nine-month low
- Missing plane: It's deliberate act says Malaysia PM
- Lost plane 'flown deliberately toward Andamans'
- Gold hits fresh six-month highs
- Iran not open for business, affirms Kerry
- Barclays 'to cut thousands of jobs'
- Jet sent 'pings' after going missing
- China premier warns on economic slowdown
- Gunmen fire on army bus in Cairo, 1 killed
- Lost jet 'may have flown for four hours'
- Gold up as Ukraine, China prompt safe-haven bids
- Search finds no sign of lost plane at suspect spot
- Missing jet may have strayed to Andaman
- Gold hits near 6-month high
- 2 killed in Manhattan building blast
- Cameron pushes for travel bans on Russian MPs
- Indian coastguards join Malaysia jet search