Pak sets preconditions for release of senior Taliban militants
Pakistan has set preconditions for the release of high-profile Taliban prisoners, including former Taliban No. 2 Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar who, Afghan and US officials believe, can help break the deadlock in the nascent Afghan peace process.
The Express Tribune quoted a senior Pakistani official as saying that Pakistan will only release Mullah Bardar and other senior Taliban members when all key players, including the US, were on board.
"At the moment, the US has not come up with a clear position on this issue, so we can't take risk," the official said.
"What if talks fail even after we release all the Taliban? Chances are that Pakistan will be held responsible for this. We want to preempt this scenario. That is why we are seeking a clear-cut policy not only from Afghanistan but also from the US," he added.
Pakistan and Afghanistan have been discussing for months the release of Mullah Baradar. Although Pakistan released eight mid-ranking Taliban leaders last month, the fate of Mullah Baradar is yet to be decided.
The official said the US appears to have reservations on the release of Mullah Baradar. In the past, Washington sought his extradition but the request was turned down by Pakistani authorities.
It has been learnt that during the recent high-level interactions between Pakistan and Afghanistan, both sides decided to take up the issue with the US.
Pakistan has proposed a mechanism under which senior Taliban cadres will be released to facilitate peace talks with militants.
Another Pakistani official has claimed that Mullah Baradar himself was not willing to be handed over to either Afghanistan or the US.
"His stance has not changed much since he was arrested. He appears to be still loyal to the Taliban," the official said.
Mullah Baradar was arrested from Karachi in 2010. At the time of his arrest he was reportedly engaged in talks with the US as well as Afghan government to broker a peace deal.