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Pakistan may release Mullah Baradar if peace efforts advance

16 November, 2012

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KABUL: Pakistan will consider freeing former Afghan Taliban second-in-command, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, if current releases of lower level members help to advance peace efforts, officials from both countries said on Thursday.

"After releasing 13 Taliban, Pakistan promised to free Mullah Baradar if these releases prove effective in peace negotiations," a senior Afghan official close to talks between Islamabad and Kabul told Reuters.

Afghanistan has been pushing Pakistan to release Afghan Taliban captives who could provide leverage in any peace talks with the movement. Pakistan has gained credibility in the Afghan peace process by agreeing to release mid-level Taliban over the last two days. But Pakistan is under growing pressure to free senior Taliban figures such as Baradar to boost reconciliation efforts, as most NATO combat troops prepare to pull out of Afghanistan by the end of 2014 and anxiety grows over the country's security.

Afghan officials believe he may command enough respect to persuade the Taliban to engage in talks with the Kabul government. Asked if Baradar would also be freed, a senior Pakistani Foreign Ministry official said that was possible if the release of the Taliban figures "produced results".

"We've released about a dozen mid-level Taliban commanders now. The impact of this on reconciliation efforts and the peace process will determine the number and pace of future releases, as well as releases of high-level prisoners," the official added.

End.

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