Pakistan to free senior Taliban leader Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar


Former Taliban fighters display their weapons as they join Afghan government forces during a ceremony in Herat province on June 23, 2012. Ten fighters left the Taliban to join government forces in western Afghanistan.


Aref Karimi

Pakistan said Tuesday that it would free senior Taliban leader Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar in order to help neighboring Afghanistan in its peace efforts.

"In principle, we have agreed to release him. The timing is being discussed. It should be very soon ... I think within this month," Sartaj Aziz, Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's adviser on foreign affairs, told Reuters.

Aziz also said that Baradar would be released into Pakistan and would not be handed over to Afghanistan directly. President Hamid Karzai agreed to the idea of allowing those Taliban prisoners who have been freed the chance to contact their group's leaders still on the ground in order to persuade them to participate in peace talks.

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"Obviously Karzai wanted him to go to Afghanistan, but we feel that if they are to play a positive role in the reconciliation process then they must do it according to what their own Shura (Council), their own leadership, wants them to do," Aziz said.

"That they can't do unless they are released. ... I think he (Karzai) accepted this point that they should play a constructive role in the peace process."

Pakistan freed another group of Taliban on Saturday in an attempt to improve its relations with Afghanistan, but again did not hand them over directly to Kabul.

Afghanistan's government has demanded Baradar's release since his arrest in 2010 and accused Pakistan of sabotaging its peace initiatives.

Baradar's capture was seen as significant for the CIA and the Pakistani intelligence service.