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Pakistan to set free Taliban leader Abdul Ghani Baradar

Islamabad, Sep 11 (): Pakistan’s foreign policy chief said on Tuesday, Pakistan will release senior Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar later this month so that he can take part in Afghanistan’s stalled peace process.

The announcement has come two weeks after Afghan President Hamid Karzai visited Pakistan for talks with new Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, during when Baradar’s release was again requested. Some 26 Taliban detainees have been freed during the past year, the foreign ministry statement said.

Abdul Ghani Baradar is the former second-in-command of Taliban. He is one of the four men who founded the Taliban movement in 1994 in Afghanistan. Little is known about the most recent activity of Baradar. Interpol has said that he had been a member of the Taliban’s so-called Quetta Shura leadership since May 2007. It is hoped he could initiate a peace process between Kabul and hard line rebels who once ruled the country.

Kabul has been looking for the release of Baradar since he was arrested in Karachi in 2010, as he could lead the peace talks with President Hamid Karzai government’s High peace Council.

Sartaj Aziz, Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s adviser on foreign affairs, told however, Baradar would not be handed over to Afghanistan directly as some in Kabul had hoped, and would instead be released into Pakistan.

Pakistani foreign ministry spokesman Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry said that the decision had been taken to release Baradar “at an appropriate time”.

After the Taliban government was toppled by the US-led invasion in 2001, hundreds of Taliban hardliners are believed to have fled over the border to Pakistan.

Baradar was arrested in Pakistan’s southern port city of Karachi, reportedly in a secret raid by CIA and Pakistani agents, an operation that was described as a huge blow to the group. At the time, Baradar was reported to have been second or third-in-command of the Quetta Shura.