Pakistan released former second-in-command of the Afghan Taliban on Sept 21. The ultraorthodox militia didn’t say a word for nearly three weeks. On Wednesday however, they broke their silence.
“With great regret he [Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar] is still spending days and nights locked up behind bars in worrying health condition – his condition is deteriorating by the day”, Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid said in a statement.
“The Islamic Emirate and his [Mullah Baradar’s] family believe it is his legitimate right to be freed on humanitarian grounds from wrongful detention,” he added.
Islamabad freed Mullah Baradar hoping that he would encourage moderate Taliban leaders to join the Afghan reconciliation process. He had been in detention since his arrest in an operation jointly conducted by Pakistani and American spy agencies from Karachi on February 2010.
Pakistani officials have repeatedly made statements about his release despite him being in detention therefore “we earnestly ask the Pakistani government and officials to clarify their position”.
Pakistan’s foreign ministry disputed the Taliban claim.
“Pakistan has released Taliban detainees to facilitate the reconciliation process in Afghanistan. Mullah Baradar has also been freed,” said foreign ministry spokesperson Aizaz Ahmed Chaudhry. “As far as we are concerned, he (Mullah Baradar) is free to meet and contact anyone to advance the cause of reconciliation,” he said in a text message when contacted.
A senior Taliban member, however, told AFP that Mullah Baradar was being held at a house in Karachi run by Pakistan’s premier intelligence agency. “He doesn’t have any freedom, and his family can’t even visit him,” he said. “The Pakistan government says he has health problems which are being treated, and then his family will be able to visit.”
A security source in Pakistan confirmed Mullah Baradar’s house arrest.
“He is in protective custody in an ISI house in Karachi, he cannot meet anybody or move anywhere on his own, he needs permission of security officials,” the source told AFP.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 10th, 2013.