The much awaited decision of releasing Mullah Baradar – the Taliban’s second in command, came into practice on Saturday, when Pakistan released him from detention in Karachi, where he was put in 2011 after being arrested by CIA and Pakistani agents. There are great expectations from his release and it is thought that he would play a key role in proceeding with peace talks with Afghan government headed by High Peace Council (HPC).
After President Karzai’s visit to Pakistan last month, the Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had promised that Islamabad would play its role in supporting reconciliation process with Taliban. And the step of releasing brother is undoubtedly a major step in the same regard and Afghan authorities have been waiting for the same. Though since November 2012, Pakistan has released around 33 Taliban prisoners, Baradar’s release is the most vital of them.
Afghan authorities highly welcomed the decision from Islamabad and the spokesperson for President Hamid Karzai, Aimal Faizi, confirmed that Baradar was an influential person and he would help boost the peace drive. He said, “Our first demand is that he should come to Afghanistan to meet his compatriots,” and if he did not want to return home, the released militant leader should go to a secure place where High Peace Council members could approach him for talks without any problem.
It is important to see how the release of Baradar would support the stalled peace talks, which so far have not been able to achieve something worthwhile. It largely depends on whether Baradar wills to talk to Afghan government and whether he would have the sort of influence within Taliban’s current ranks.
And most importantly, would the stakeholders in the talks be able to divert them towards a better solution?
It is important to note that though there have been efforts every now and then by HPC, it has not been successful to a large extent. The basic reason has been that it has faced some major issues during its efforts. A couple of years earlier, the former head of the Council (Burhan ud din Rabbani) was assassinated by Taliban at his own house. After his demise his son Sallah ud Rabbani took the charge of the Council. It faced another setback last year when one of its most senior members Arsala Rahmani was shot dead in Kabul. He was also a sitting member of Senate. These incidents clearly showed that Taliban have not been in the mood to accept the invitations of HPC for negotiations.
Another major problem has been the unwillingness of Taliban to pursue peace efforts. The Afghan government and the international community have been earnest to bring Taliban to negotiation table while Taliban have been earnest to show that they would prefer otherwise. The talks of peace and reconciliation process to them are a game that they are playing so as to have a good bargain. It is difficult to believe that Taliban will ultimately settle for a political solution and will adhere to their promises of maintaining peace and tranquility in the country once they are given a share in the political authority sharing. And now as they see the withdrawal process to be completed soon, they prefer not to have peace talks at all and win a larger share through war.
Moreover, there are reservations on the conditions that are set for the peace talks. HPC has set certain conditions for Taliban to accept before talks can be started with them. The conditions involve the basic demands that Taliban must respect the constitution of Afghanistan; they must give up violence and respect the human rights, most importantly the rights of women. However, it is difficult to be presumed that Taliban would respect those conditions eagerly. Moreover, the growing distrust among the parties on the other side of the process has made Taliban take advantage of the situation and they have already started dictating their own conditions.
One of the most important factors in reaching to any conclusion regarding reconciliation is that both Afghanistan and Pakistan need to realize that terrorism has been affecting both the countries; both of them have to realize the importance of each other and have to understand that they cannot solve the issue individually. Rise of terrorism and discontent in one country will definitely affect the other and vice versa. Therefore, joint efforts would be required and both the countries can start from this opportunity in hand.