Taliban commanders refuse to meet Baradar
04 October, 2013
ISLAMABAD/PESHAWAR: Taliban commanders refused to meet their former chief in Peshawar on Thursday because he was accompanied by Pakistani security agents, dealing a blow to attempts to resume Afghan peace talks, security and militant sources said.
Afghanistan and the US believe Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, who has been held in Pakistan since 2010, holds the key to stopping the war in Afghanistan because he is influential enough to persuade his former comrades there to stop fighting.
Pakistan announced his release on September 20 but Baradar, the former Afghan Taliban second-in-command, is still in custody and watched closely by his Pakistani handlers, an arrangement which could undermine his role as a peacemaker.
Confirming these suspicions, an Afghan Taliban commander said Taliban figures refused to come to Peshawar to meet him because he was accompanied by Pakistani security officials.
"Following his release, he spent some time in Karachi and now arrived in Peshawar to hold meetings with senior members of the movement," the source said.
"Unfortunately, no one among senior Taliban leaders agreed to see him in Peshawar because security personnel are around him." It was unclear who Baradar wanted to meet and how long he would stay in Peshawar.
Two Pakistani security officials confirmed Baradar was in Peshawar for preliminary discussions about the peace process.
Officially talks have yet to start and there is still hope that formal discussions on the future of Afghanistan will resume once Baradar has left Pakistan. But many are sceptical, with the Taliban themselves suspicious of a man seen as close to Pakistani authorities. "He isn't a free man and that's why people are afraid of meeting him," said the Taliban official.
Another Taliban official said Baradar might be sent to Turkey and then on to Saudi Arabia where the Taliban were also planning to send a delegation for Hajj.