Former Taliban chief to be released

worldafghantalibanfightersISLAMABAD – Former Afghan Taliban second-in-command Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar is to be released from prison in Pakistan on Saturday, the foreign ministry says.

A spokesman said the release was to “further facilitate the Afghan reconciliation process”.

Mullah Baradar is one of the four men who founded the Taliban movement in Afghanistan in 1994.

He became a linchpin of the insurgency after the Taliban were toppled by the US-led invasion in 2001.

He was captured in the Pakistani city of Karachi in 2010.

Afghan officials said at the time that he had been holding secret peace talks with the Afghan government and accused Pakistan of trying to sabotage or gain control of the process.

Correspondents say he has since emerged as a figure who Afghanistan and Pakistan believe could help persuade Taliban fighters to lay down their weapons and join peace talks.

It is not clear where Mullah Baradar will be sent after his release.

Afghanistan wants him repatriated but Pakistani sources said this month he was more likely to be sent straight to a third country such as Saudi Arabia or Turkey.

The Pakistani foreign ministry recently revealed that some 26 Taliban prisoners had been freed over the past year.

In a visit to Islamabad last month, Afghan President Hamid Karzai urged Pakistan “to facilitate peace talks” between his country and the Taliban.

He said the Pakistani government could provide opportunities for talks between the Afghan High Peace Council and the militants.

In response, Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said he wanted to help regional efforts to stabilise Afghanistan. (BBC)

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