Pakistan, Afghanistan reach deal on Mullah Baradar’s release
* President Karzai likely to visit Pakistan to finalise matters; two sides working on date
By Imdad Hussain
ISLAMABAD: In a bid to show full support to the reconciliation process, Pakistan and Afghanistan have reached a deal for the release of senior Taliban leaders, including their former deputy chief Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, Afghan official sources said on Monday.
The agreement was not made public until now, but according to the sources Afghan Foreign Minister Dr Zalmai Rassoul and Pakistani side discussed in details the pros and cons of releasing the Taliban leaders and agreed that all the leaders, including Baradar who was a former Taliban military chief and was arrested in Karachi in 2010, would be released at the right time. Pakistan and Afghanistan have already activated a joint commission on the prisoners’ release.
“There are several factors that Pakistan and Afghanistan want to assess,” the sources said. A senior Afghan official who was not authorised to speak to media told Daily Times on condition of anonymity that President Hamid Karzai is planning a visit to Pakistan to finalise all matters. “He would soon visit Pakistan.” The Afghan Embassy in Islamabad earlier confirmed the visit of Karzai, but said that the two sides were working on fixing a date.
In a joint press conference after having a meeting with President Asif Ali Zardari this month in Ankara, President Karzai had said, “We discussed various ways of putting into action the promises that we have made, with the hope that now we should be taking practical steps in bringing more confidence and trust.” During his address to a joint meeting of political and security council and the European Union Military Committee in Brussels, Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani reiterated Pakistan’s support to an Afghan-owned and Afghan-led reconciliation process in Afghanistan.
Pakistani leaders understand that any instability and insecurity in Afghanistan could adversely affect Pakistan. Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar has on several occasions said that a stable, united and peaceful Afghanistan is in national interest of Pakistan. The same message was conveyed to the Afghan delegation that visited Pakistan under the leadership of the Afghan foreign minister last month.
According to diplomatic sources, Rabbani had not stressed much on the release of Baradar but he did discuss release of Mullah Nooruddin Turabi, a senior Taliban leader. Though some reports claim that Turabi was freed but Afghan sources said that his release is still awaited. In a bid to have communication with Taliban leadership on reconciliation, M Matiullah, who is brother-in-law of Taliban supreme leader Mullah Omer, was also released, the sources added. The diplomatic sources said that Afghan Ambassador Umer Daudzai was in Kabul and would arrive in Islamabad on Monday night or Tuesday noon to prepare grounds for further talks on peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan.
This time the international community, including the US, also want closer ties between Islamabad and Kabul so that successful security arrangements could be managed after 2014, when NATO would quit Afghanistan. The Taliban also want a solution to the Afghan conflict in the long run. “We would continue efforts for political process with the international community, though jihad would continue until withdrawal of the foreign forces,” Mullah Omer said a few months ago.
The international community has also started efforts to encourage dialogue between Kabul and the insurgents groups, and also assured security to the Taliban willing to negotiate while the UN has de-listed some Taliban leaders from its sanctions list. Turkey has offered to allow Taliban’s political office in Ankara during a meeting in November with Afghan officials, while Qatar was already agreed to the proposal.
Afghan officials have publicly been demanding access to Baradar, who was the main day-to-day commander responsible for leading the Taliban campaign against US and NATO troops, plotting suicide bombings and other attacks. He was the right-hand man to reclusive Taliban leader Mullah Omar, who gave him the nickname Baradar (brother), providing him with great influence and prestige in Taliban circles.
Afghan officials hope Baradar could play a key role in any negotiations to end the war, acting as a go-between with Taliban leaders, including Omar. Afghan and US officials have publicly acknowledged little success in efforts to re-start peace talks, which the Taliban suspended after accusing the US officials of failing to honour confidence-building promises.