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Pakistan, Afghanistan in talks on Taliban releases: FO

11 August, 2012

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ISLAMABAD: Pakistan and Afghanistan are in talks on the release of a key member of Taliban, whose 2010 arrest in Pakistan was blamed for sabotaging peace initiatives, a Pakistani Foreign Ministry official confirmed on Friday.

Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, a powerful Taliban military chief who has been described as the militia's second-in-command, was arrested in Karachi.

The Afghan government and the former UN envoy to Afghanistan said his detention had adversely affected efforts to talk to the insurgents. "The issue of prisoners is under discussion between the two countries," Foreign Ministry spokesman Moazzam Ahmad Khan told reporters when asked to comment on Afghan demands for access to Baradar and for his release.

The spokesman did not name any prisoner or give further details, but when asked, confirmed that Baradar was still in Pakistani custody.

Baradar is the most important Taliban leader to be captured since the 2001 US-led invasion ousted the Afghan militia from power in Kabul.

He was known as a trusted aide to the Taliban's elusive leader Mullah Muhammad Omar.

Shortly after Baradar's arrest, the Pentagon said two other Taliban officials were arrested, also understood to have been captured in Pakistan.

In March 2010, Kai Eide, the then just retired UN envoy to Afghanistan, said the arrest of key Taliban in Pakistan had stopped a secret channel of communication between the insurgents and the United Nations.

To a query, the spokesman said the visit of the ISI DG to US remained productive. "There are certain proposals under consideration but I don't have anything specific to share with you at the moment. But what I can tell you is that we are working on various proposals," said.

He dispelled the impression that the United States had released $280 million for power sector development in Pakistan in return for Islamabad's commitment not to pursue the Iran gas pipeline project. He said the United States had released the amount for Mangla Dam and Kurram Tangi Dam under Kerry-Lugar Bill. To a question about postponement of a visit by top Afghan peace negotiator Salahuddin Rabbani, he said that during the recent visit of Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf to Afghanistan, he had extended an invitation to the Afghan High Peace Council head to visit Pakistan.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai has repeatedly invited Taliban to open direct talks with his government and Pakistan to facilitate an end to the 10-year war.

Pakistan has said it will do anything required by Kabul to support an Afghan-led peace process, but there is a wide degree of scepticism in Afghanistan and the United States about the sincerity of the former Taliban ally.

End.

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