Mullah Baradar’s expected release stirs series of speculations

The insurgent leadership says Afghan president is mistaken to think Baradar will switch sides and ‘betray the cause’.

Tahir Khan September 20, 2013
“His (Baradar’s) popularity will diminish among the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan and the respect will turn into hate if he changes sides,” said the Taliban leader. PHOTO: NYT/FILE


Afghan President Hamid Karzai is eager to see Afghan Taliban second-in-command Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar out of Pakistani custody. Karzai remains confident Baradar’s release could woo Taliban insurgents to join the peace process.

The insurgent leadership, on the other hand, says the Afghan president is mistaken to think Baradar, 50, will switch sides and ‘betray the cause’. A founding member of the Taliban movement, Baradar has held key military positions and was a dedicated commander till his arrest in February 2010 in Karachi, a senior Afghan Taliban member told The Express Tribune.

“His (Baradar’s) popularity will diminish among the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan and the respect will turn into hate if he changes sides,” said the Taliban leader, who is also among the founding members of the movement.

The Taliban leader claimed Karzai’s insistence of Baradar’s release is an attempt to defame him by taking credit for his release. The Taliban movement has also made repeated calls to Pakistan to release all Taliban prisoners in the country’s custody.

“The second objective of Karzai is to encourage Baradar not to rejoin Taliban fighters, and to use his release to win some sympathy from the Popalzai tribe, to which both of them belong,” he added.

Some believe Karzai is trying to claim credit for Baradar’s release after Pakistan implied it may release him. The Afghan president adopted a similar manner to get Taliban prisoners released from Bagram airbase.

The Afghan Taliban say Karzai has never campaigned for the release of Taliban prisoners being held at the US prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba because he knows America would never pay heed to such demands.

In the few months left of his presidency, Karzai has failed miserably to persuade the Taliban to talk to his government-sponsored Afghan High Peace Council. Sources close to former Taliban leaders residing in Kabul say the president had repeatedly requested them to establish contact with the Taliban’s supreme leader Mullah Mohammad Omar.

So far, the Afghan government has only succeeded in facilitating Mutasim Agha Jan, the former head of Taliban’s political commission. Jan now resides in Turkey after being shot and injured in Karachi in 2011. However, he too has failed in his efforts to convince the insurgent movement to engage in peace talks.

Some Afghan media outlets reported Baradar may join Jan in Turkey. “There are speculations that efforts are underway to make Mullah Baradar part of Mutasim Agha Jan’s group. It is said an office will be set up for them after which they will join the peace process,” private-daily Sarnawesht said in an editorial last week.

The editorial also stated Baradar will remain ineffective as “Pakistan will try to use him (Baradar) for talks with the Pakistani Taliban.”

The Afghan Taliban, in a series of interviews, have also rejected the notion that Baradar had been in contact with Karzai’s administration before his arrest.

Baradar, who has served as the deputy defence minister, corps commander Kabul and chief of military unit in Kandahar, may have two options. Either he could part ways with Mullah Omar and become irrelevant to the insurgent movement; or be restored to his position and follow decisions taken by the supreme leader.

Expressing optimism over Baradar’s release, peace council member Habibullah Fawzi said: “Baradar would not [be able] do anything if he quits Mullah Omar’s group.”

Pakistani leaders, including the prime minister and his national security adviser Sartaj Aziz, seem to have engaged in point scoring by announcing the release of Taliban prisoners weeks in advance. The Pakistani government started releasing Taliban detainees since November last year and 33 have been freed so far. None of them, however, have joined the peace process yet.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 21st, 2013.


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