Pakistan Frees Afghan Taliban Commander
TEHRAN (Tasnim) - Pakistan released Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the former Afghan Taliban second-in-command, from prison in an effort aimed at bringing peace to Afghanistan.
"Yes Baradar has been released," Omar Hamid, a spokesman for interior ministry told AFP news agency on Saturday, without elaborating.
The US and Afghanistan have long pressed Islamabad to free Baradar, a figure they believe could tempt moderate Taliban leaders to come to the negotiating table as US-led troops prepare to leave Afghanistan at the end of next year.
Pakistani sources said Baradar would probably be sent to Saudi Arabia or Turkey as part of that process, but Pakistan government officials would not confirm this.
Sartaj Aziz, a government adviser, told the Reuters news agency in Islamabad this month that Baradar would not be handed over to Afghanistan directly, as some in Kabul had hoped, and would instead be released into Pakistan.
He said it was important to make sure that released Taliban prisoners had a chance to establish contact with their leadership on the ground to persuade them to be part of peace talks - an idea he said Afghan President Hamid Karzai had agreed to.
Afghanistan is trying to inject life into its attempts to negotiate an end to the Taliban's campaign as most NATO combat troops prepare to pull out by the end of 2014, leaving the country to handle its own security.
A mid-level Afghan Taliban official told AFP that Baradar's release would not have any effect on events in Afghanistan.