WASHINGTON: Taliban leader Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar was released on a personal request of US special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad, diplomatic sources told Dawn.
The diplomatic sources in Washington said that it’s not just the Taliban who demanded the release of former deputy chief of Taliban Mullah Baradar, the demand also echoed in Mr Khalilzad’s several meetings with Afghan officials in Kabul this month.
US officials are refusing to comment on the release though they did acknowledge that it fulfilled a longstanding Kabul demand. In Washington’s diplomatic circles, the release is also seen as opening of new possibilities for improvement in US-Pakistan relations.
“We are aware of the reports and would refer you to the Pakistani authorities and to the Afghan government, which has repeatedly asked for his release to help facilitate a peace process,” a US State Department spokesperson told Dawn when asked to comment on Mullah Baradar’s release.
Mr Khalilzad had been appointed special envoy for Afghanistan in the first week of September to seek a peaceful end to America’s war that has already entered 18th year. The special envoy, whose previous assignments included US ambassador to Afghanistan and Iraq, visited Kabul, Islamabad, Doha, Riyadh and other capitals in the region earlier this month.
On Oct 25, Afghan Taliban confirmed media reports that Pakistani authorities had released their former deputy chief and that they “made no compromise” to get him out. Mullah Baradar co-founded the Taliban movement with Mullah Omar and was a prominent member of the Taliban government before it was toppled in October 2001.
Mullah Baradar, who was arrested in February 2010 in a joint operation of ISI and CIA, was the top most Taliban leader in Pakistan’s custody.