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Pakistan Releases Top Taliban Prisoner In Peace-Talks Bid


Afghan President Hamid Karzai (left) with Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif at the Prime Ministers House in Islamabad in late August.
ISLAMABAD -- Pakistan has released its most senior Taliban detainee, Abdul Ghani Baradar.

The preannounced release came in response to a request from Afghanistan to free Baradar "in order to further facilitate the Afghan reconciliation process," Pakistan's Foreign Ministry said on September 20.

Pakistani Interior Ministry spokesman Omar Hamid confirmed the next day that "Baradar has been released."

After the release was announced, Afghan presidential spokesman Aimal Faizi told RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan that "As a first step, our demand is that [Abdul Ghani Baradar] returns to Afghanistan and lives here like other Taliban leaders, who have joined the peace process, and cooperate with the process."

"If he wants to live in some other country, in a third Islamic country, we are not against it, but on conditions that he should have an address, he should be safe, and [Afghanistan's] peace council would be able to contact him whenever the council wishes," Faizi added.

Separately, a spokesman for the Afghan Peace Council, Shahzada Shahad, told Radio Free Afghanistan, "We hope Mullah Baradar will help with the peace [process], whether he will be in Afghanistan or outside the country."
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The Taliban movement has yet to comment on Baradar's release.

Jalil Jan, spokesman for Pakistan's conservative Jamiat Ulama-e Islam party, told RFE/RL that Baradar's release could further peace efforts in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

"The release of Mullah Baradar will support the ongoing negotiations for peace and security in Pakistan," Jan said. "I hope that these negotiations will be a source of peace in both Afghanistan and Pakistan."

Baradar is one of the co-founders of the Taliban movement, and reportedly was a close aide and one of the most trusted commanders of Mullah Muhammad Omar, the spiritual leader of the Taliban.

Pakistan has released at least 33 Taliban prisoners over the past year in a bid to boost peace negotiations between the insurgents and Kabul.

Former Afghan Taliban leader Akbar Agha, who currently lives in Kabul, told RFE/RL that Baradar's release will be significant only if he is willing, and allowed, to take part in Afghanistan's peace process.

"Yes [Mullah Baradar] is finally released," Agha said, "but if he stays in Pakistan or moves somewhere else based on Pakistan's desire, without consultancy with the Taliban or the Afghan government, his release won't have any role in the Afghan peace process."

Baradar was arrested in the Pakistani port city of Karachi in 2010 in a joint operation by Pakistani security forces and the CIA.

Details of that operation remain unclear.

Based on reporting by RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan, RFE/RL's Radio Mashaal, AFP, and AP
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