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When does “release” mean “release” – Taliban’s Mullah Barader still not free…?

October 9, 2013

Summary:  Taliban second in command, Mullah Barader, still seems to be a guest of the Pakistani government, according to the Taliban themselves. 

Taliban flagPakistani flagApparently the Afghan Taliban are deeply unhappy that one of their own, Mullah Barader, remains in Pakistani custody despite promises by the Pakistani regime, that he was to be released:

Express Tribune, 9 Oct 2013:

“Afghan Taliban Wednesday claimed for the first time that their former second-in-command, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, has not been freed by Pakistan despite its official announcements.

Pakistan had announced on September 21st that Mullah Baradar was released to help in the peace process. Baradar was arrested in Karachi in February 2010.

Foreign Secretary Jalil Abbas Jilani, claimed last week that Baradar was released, and this claim was angrily rejected by the Taliban who had been silent about his release until now.

“It is very sad that Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar is still spending days and nights in detention in Pakistan and we are deeply concerned at his deteriorated health condition,” the Taliban’s spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid said.

“The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, Baradar’s family and his sympathizers consider freedom as Baradar’s right and we want his immediate release on Islamic and humanitarian grounds,” the Taliban spokesman said in a statement in Pashto to The Express Tribune.

The Taliban spokesman regretted that senior Pakistani government officials had formally announced Baradar’s release claiming “he has not yet been set free.”

“As senior Pakistani government officials have repeatedly announced his (Baradar’s) release, we seriously demand that Pakistani officials clarify what they mean by release. They (Pakistani officials) should honour their commitment of Baradar’s release,” the Taliban spokesman said.”

Mullah Barader is seen as a key co-founder of the Afghan Taliban movement and a deputy of Mullah Omar.  He was captured in Pakistan in 2010.  He has become an important negotiating chip in the efforts of the international community, the Afghan government, the Taliban and the Pakistani government to secure some form (as yet, very unspecified) of negotiation and deal wth the Taliban.  Berader’s release has been presented as crucial to securing a peace deal with the Taliban.  In late September, Berader’s release was reported by many news outlets:

BBC, 21 Sept: Pakistan has freed its highest-ranking Taliban captive, Mullah Baradar – but where does he go from here?

Daily Telegraph, 21 Sept : Taliban leader Mullah Baradar freed by Pakistan – Mullah Baradar, founder of the Afghan Taliban and its former military commander, was released today to improve the prospects of peace talks, Pakistan’s foreign ministry has confirmed.

CNN, 21 Sept: Pakistan has released Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, one of the founding members of the Afghan Taliban, foreign ministry spokesman Aizaz Chaudhry told CNN on Saturday.

It seems that the definition of “released” needs to be tightened up.   Difficult to know exactly what the situation is (is Berader in a safe house, a hospital, an ISI-guarded compound, in transit…???), other than to note that while Pakistan ‘s intentions and actions will remain opaque their goal will be to secure as much influence (still perhaps best known as “strategic depth”?) as possible in the internal politics of their Afghan neighbour.  If Berader is fully released into Taliban arms, Pakistan stand to lose some of this control, although I find it hard to believe that the Pakistan government will lose touch of his location as long as he remains inside Pakistan.  Optimistic press specualtion that Berader’s release will automatically trigger peace deals should also be treated as the optimistic press speculation that it is, given the major difficulties in getting any kind of talks underway thus far.  “Talks about talks” still sums it up, with little clarity on who talks to who, about what, when, how and why.  What might or might not be on the table is highly uncertain – let alone who is empowered to agree, monitor or enforce anything.

The Afghan Taliban’s relationship with their Pakistani safe haven providers still looks to be the fractious partnering highlighted in Mullah Zaeef’s book

Update: The Taliban statement in full:

Taliban, 9 Oct:

New statement from the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan: “Clarification Regarding Rumors About the Release of the Honorable Mullah Baradar Akhond”

A hot subject spread by media outlets in the recent past has been rumors regarding the release of the honorable Mullah Baradar Akhond (may Allah hasten his release) which say that he has been released from prison and is living with his family and some media outlets have gone as far as claiming that he is busy in political activities.  However and with great regret!! he is still spending days and nights locked up behind bars in worrisome health conditions which are deteriorating by the day. The Islamic Emirate and his family believe it to be his legitimate right to be freed under humanitarian and Islamic sympathy from his wrongful imprisonment and due to his deteriorating health condition and also calls for his immediate release. Since high ranking Pakistani officials have repeatedly made statements about his release despite him being in detention therefore we earnestly ask the Pakistani government and officials to give clarification and just as they have announced, he should be released and the subject cleared up.

Spokesman of Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan


17/07/1392 09/10/13

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