Pakistan freed Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, former Taliban military commander and second in command to Taliban leader Mullah Omar. The release came on Saturday and was welcomed by the Afghan High Peace Council (HPC) as a move to reinvigorate stalled peace negotiations with the Taliban militia before the withdrawal of U.S. troops in 2014.
Afghan women leaders have criticized the prospect of Taliban peace negotiations and the release of Taliban detainees. Female MP Shukria Barakzai expressed concern to the BBC that the Afghan government wanted to make a peace deal “whatever the price,” even if it meant sacrificing the women of Afghanistan. Pakistan has already released 33 Taliban prisoners this year. Senator Lailuma Ahmadi cautioned, “The released prisoners will join the Taliban again.”
Her fears are not unfounded. Just this month, Tolo news reported that Mullah Ghulam Mohammad–released this August by the Afghan government from Bagram Prison–had rejoined the Taliban and was responsible for the killing of 13 Afghan local police in the Badghis province. Several experts have warned that the release of Taliban prisoners could lead to further insecurity and violence and pressed that the government should have proper mechanisms in place to ensure that former prisoners do not return to the battlefield.
The Afghan Ministry of Foreign Affairs confirmed that Pakistan released Mullah Baradar but would not comment on his location. HPC deputy head Attaullah Ludin noted, however, that Baradar had not been handed over to the Afghan government.