An old photograph of Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the former leader of the Quetta Shura who was detained in Karachi. Image from The New York Times.
Reports from Pakistan indicate that Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, Mullah Omar’s deputy and the former leader of the Quetta Shuara, has been “freed” from Pakistani custody (it is somewhat debatable that Baradar was ever in detention in the first place, and not cooling his heels at an ISI guesthouse after accidentally being picked up during a joint raid with US forces in Karachi in February 2010). The Asia Times broke the news earlier today, and Daily Times backs up the report. From the Asia Times:
Pakistan has freed the supreme commander of the Taliban in Afghanistan, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, so that he can play a pivotal role in backchannel talks through the Pakistani army with Washington, Asia Times Online has learned.
The release of Baradar, who was arrested in the southern Pakistani port city of Karachi in February, was confirmed by a senior Pakistani counter-terrorism official. He added that the United States was fully aware of the development although he gave no indication of the Americans’ reaction.
A senior Taliban leader, speaking to Asia Times Online on Thursday from the southern AfPak region, also confirmed that Baradar “had reached the safely of his people”. The implication is that he is back with Taliban leader Mullah Omar.
And this from Daily Times:
Daily Times has learnt from credible sources that Mullah Ghani Baradar, who was arrested earlier this year from Karachi, had been “freed” due to mediation with the Taliban leadership. Mulla Baradar was caught by a special team of the ISI and the CIA hit squad in Karachi in an action, which resembled any Hollywood flick.
Earlier, it was Daily Times which broke the news about certain Arab envoys, who were active in the back-channel diplomacy with the consent of Pakistani and American leadership to solve the Afghan crisis.
Talking to Daily Times, a Taliban leader did not confirm or denied the reports about Mullah Baradar, but commented “Baradar was never arrested in the first place”.
The prevailing thought is that Baradar represents the “moderate” wing of the Taliban, and that he will be instrumental in brokering peace talks with his faction. Also, the hope is that Baradar will be able to engineer the much-sought-after split between the Taliban and al Qaeda, thus allowing a US withdrawal. But Baradar’s replacement, Mullah Zakir, a former Gitmo detainee, is closely allied to al Qaeda, and he has promoted commanders who see eye to eye with him. And finally, no one knows exactly where Mullah Omar stands on all of this. The US has said there is no place for Omar in peace talks…. There are certainly a lot of angles in this (if true) and we didn’t even touch on Pakistan’s involvement here.
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