Pakistan yet to decide details on freeing former Taliban No. 2

Reuters News
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Posted: Sep 17, 2013 2:59 PM

ANKARA (Reuters) - Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif reiterated on Tuesday his country will free former Afghan Taliban No. 2, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, but that details of his release would be determined after he returned to Pakistan later this week.

The United States and Afghanistan have long pressed Pakistan to free Baradar and other senior Taliban figures who could be used to tempt moderate Taliban leaders to the negotiating table and transform the insurgency into a political movement.

Sharif's adviser on foreign affairs, Sartaj Aziz, told Reuters last week Islamabad planned to free Baradar this month.

Sharif, who is on an official visit to Turkey, told reporters he had agreed to release Baradar during a visit by Afghan President Hamid Karzai to Pakistan last month.

He said the government would decide on the "mechanics" of his release after he returned to Pakistan on September 19, but gave no further details.

Baradar's fate is at the heart of Afghanistan's efforts to kick-start the stalled peace process as most NATO combat troops prepare to pull out of Afghanistan by the end of 2014 and anxiety grows over the country's security.

Pakistan has said Baradar would not be handed over to Afghanistan directly as some in Kabul had hoped, and would instead be released into Pakistan. Sources have said he could be sent to another country, possibly Turkey or Saudi Arabia.

(Reporting by Gulsen Solaker; Writing by Jonathon Burch; editing by David Evans)