Afghan reconciliation: Pakistan may release ‘former chief of Quetta Shura’

Published: August 8, 2012

Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, who was captured in Karachi in February 2010, is ranked second in influence only to Taliban head honcho Mullah Omar. PHOTO: NYT/FILE

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan may release a key Afghan Taliban commander to provide impetus to Afghanistan’s ongoing reconciliation efforts with the Taliban, a move signalling Islamabad’s latest approach to seek an end to the decade-long conflict in its neighbouring country.

Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, who was captured in Karachi in February 2010, is ranked second in influence to Taliban head honcho Mullah Omar.

American officials believe that in addition to overseeing the Taliban’s military operations, Mullah Baradar was the head of the so-called Quetta Shura. At the time of his arrest, Baradar was believed to be holding peace talks with the Afghan government and also reportedly met President Hamid Karzai.

The United States initially hailed Baradar’s arrest as a significant blow to the insurgency, but later learnt that Pakistan allegedly captured the Taliban commander in an effort to scuttle secret peace talks he had been conducting with the Afghan government.

The Afghan government sought Baradar’s release during Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf’s recent visit to Kabul, a source claimed, adding that the talks attended by Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) chief Lt-Gen Zaheerrul Islam were ‘candid and frank’.

Until now, Islamabad has resisted Kabul’s demand for access to Baradar and some other key Taliban members, believed to be in Pakistan’s custody. However, sources disclosed that the government has been actively considering the release of Mullah Omar’s ‘deputy’ to boost Kabul’s peace negotiations with insurgents.

“The proposal is under consideration and modalities are being worked out, such as how and when to release or extradite the Taliban commander,” said an official familiar with the development. The official, requesting anonymity, pointed out that certain legal issues were currently hindering Mullah Baradar’s release.

Even though Afghan authorities sought Baradar’s extradition, the official revealed that the detained Taliban commander was not ready to accept such an arrangement.

“If his release is being sought for the reconciliation process, then we need to work out a mechanism of how it can be done,” he added.

Asked about Mullah Baradar’s release, the Foreign Office said Pakistan was committed to facilitating an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned reconciliation process. “We are willing to go all-out to achieve this objective,” said spokesperson Moazzam Ali Khan without referring to Baradar’s case.

The development comes on the eve of a crucial visit by the head of Afghan High Peace Council to Islamabad. Salahuddin Rabbani, who is heading the delegation, recently said that he would seek the release of Mullah Baradar and other Taliban leaders during his upcoming visit to Pakistan.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 8th, 2012.

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Reader Comments (15)

  • Ninja
    Aug 8, 2012 - 3:21AM

    that picture is of Mullah Zaeef

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  • Malaiz
    Aug 8, 2012 - 5:26AM

    The picture is not that of Mullah Baradar. It is Mullah Zaeef’s picture.

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  • Raj - USA
    Aug 8, 2012 - 7:29AM

    Good to see positive policy change from the Army. It would be important for Pakistan to take bold steps and align completely with US and NATO. Playing both sided or half hearted attempts would make enemies of both US/NATO and Talibans/Terrorists and Pakistan will get crushed from both. Sincere and complete cooperation will only reward Pakistan with good relations with Afghanistan and lots of economic opportunities in the future. Hope good sense prevails.

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  • Iqbal
    Aug 8, 2012 - 8:49AM

    Good news at least for Afghans and hope he would soon be released and join his Afghan brethrens to work for everlasting peace in the country.

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  • Confused
    Aug 8, 2012 - 8:49AM

    All nations opposed to Pakistans stance on the War on Terror should give themselves a tight slap. Reconciliation with the Taliban was the only way for sustaining peace in Afghanistan. Pakistan has been saying this all along. You cannot train, cajole, support and arm a people to help you fight your wars of the 1980s against the communists and then turn against those very Mujahideen fighters and refuse to even speak to them patiently. 12 years and 1 trillion dollars could have been saved by listening to Pakistan from day 1.

    The Northern Alliance johnnies are not strong enough to rule Afghanistan alone. Peace, collaboration, patient discourse is the only way forward… If it could happen in Europe (between Germans, French, English and others) and the Far East (Japan, Korea) — why can it not happen in Pakistan, Afghanistan and even India???

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  • Mirza
    Aug 8, 2012 - 9:09AM

    Every action of govt is challenged in the court. Now the independent judiciary should take a suo motu action against the release of known Talib leader. Just like the prompt release of Ray Davis they would not dare to this. All their ambushes and assaults are against elected leaders of PPP.

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  • Polpot
    Aug 8, 2012 - 10:35AM

    If “Pakistan allegedly captured the Taliban commander ”
    +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
    then allegedly “Pakistan may release ‘former chief of Quetta Shura”

    If the capture is alleged then so must the release be!

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  • DevilHunterX
    Aug 8, 2012 - 11:42AM

    Install a GPS device in him before releasing him

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  • IZ
    Aug 8, 2012 - 12:23PM

    @Polpot – the alleged part is not about his capture but the reason for it. Please read the entire sentence again.

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  • Aug 8, 2012 - 1:22PM

    @Confused:

    The United States initially hailed Baradar’s arrest as a significant blow to the insurgency, but later learnt that Pakistan allegedly captured the Taliban commander in an effort to scuttle secret peace talks he had been conducting with the Afghan government.

    If Pak was interested in reconciliation, they wouldn’t have sabotaged the peace talks. But they did and been insincere.

    Pak wants to be selfishly in control and have power over Afghan matters, therefore the talks are forced on their terms. They could deliver the entire Quetta Shura, the Haqqani network, etc, if they wanted to. However, these violent Afghan militants are crazily seen as ‘assets’ and bargaining chips for Pak for regional power and more influence. Hence the foot-dragging, double games, etc.

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  • Polpot
    Aug 8, 2012 - 4:05PM

    @IZ: “Pakistan allegedly captured the Taliban commander in an effort to scuttle secret peace talks”
    +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
    Sir/Madam, here ‘ alleged’ qualifies the verb captured.

    If what you say was correct the phrase would be:Pakistan captured the Taliban commander in an alleged effort to scuttle secret peace talks.

    So many allegations and so small life!

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  • Ozymandias
    Aug 8, 2012 - 5:11PM

    @bigsaf:
    Of course, all the other actors are selfless and have Afghanistan’s best interests in mind. ROFL!!!

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  • amjad khattak
    Aug 8, 2012 - 5:17PM

    why not expelling all the afghan refuges from pakistan and making a strong fence in the border so that they can’t come back?? this will make them realize that they have only one country afghanistan to live on and so they have to live peacefully. these refuges are troublemakers in pakistan as well as afghanistan.

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  • Aug 9, 2012 - 11:53AM

    There is insurmount obstacle in the way leading to peace negotiation with Taliban on the issue of decade long war.
    According to the main demands of Taliban,they want release of all Taliban prisoners kept in Cuba jails,second demand is removal of president Hamid Karzai and total recall of foreign forces from Afghan territory.

    Total withdrawal is not a matter,united States has already fixed the date of repatriation at the end of December 2014,they may go back before the set date if needed.

    It is essential for successful negotiation that parties/stake holder come to the negotiating table with delightful mood,for this purpose Taliban should stop all the activities comes under domain of insurgency,cross border strikes and suicide attacks.
    In the same time United States should express good will gesture and release all the Taliban prisoners passing through punishment in Cuba jails.
    Third stake holder ,Pakistan break military operation in Waziristan and other lawless tribal areas bordering Afghanistan and release all Taliban prisoners.

    Peace is better for all,sincere efforts does not go wast.

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  • F Rabi
    Aug 9, 2012 - 3:38PM

    Afghans have witnessed many promises and commitments by neighboring countries to help bringing peace to Afghanistan but they have never been sincer to put them into practice. Promises are made but not fulfilled. This time we hope the recent progress could help and neighboring countires to be sincer and help bringing all Afghans into negotiation table and to put an end to the Afghan long term tragedy.

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