Mon, Oct 28, 2013 - Page 5 News List

Karzai to push Pakistan on Taliban commander

AFP, KABUL

Afghan President Hamid Karzai will push Pakistan to reveal the location of key Taliban commander Mullah Baradar during trilateral talks to be held in Britain tomorrow, officials in Kabul said.

Baradar was released from jail in Pakistan as part of efforts to kickstart Afghanistan’s peace process, but he has since been kept under house arrest, reportedly in Karachi or Peshawar, to the fury of Afghanistan.

“We will look for explanations from the Pakistan government for the exact whereabouts of Mullah Baradar and how can Pakistan facilitate direct talks between Mullah Baradar and the High Peace Council,” Karzai’s spokesman Aimal Faizi said.

The High Peace Council is the Afghan body charged with opening negotiations with the Taliban insurgents as US-led NATO forces prepare for withdrawal from the country by the end of next year.

Afghan officials believe that Baradar, who had been held in jail in Pakistan since 2010, could encourage Taliban leaders to seek a negotiated settlement to end the 12-year insurgency if he were fully at liberty.

“[Pakistani] Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif promised the release of Mullah Baradar, which they did, but Mullah Baradar is still under very strict supervision by Pakistan authorities,” Faizi said.

Karzai, Sharif and British Prime Minister David Cameron are to meet tomorrow for the fourth trilateral summit designed to foster stability in the volatile South Asia region.

Apparent headway between then-Pakistani president Asif Ali Zardari and Karzai at the last summit hosted by Cameron in February quickly unravelled in a series of public rows.

“There have been ups and downs in the past but that should not stop us from working with Pakistan,” Faizi said late on Saturday. “The focus of the meeting will be Pakistan support for the Afghan peace process, fighting terrorism and extremism, and Pakistan support for the security of the Afghan 2014 election.”

He said Afghanistan expected Pakistan to stop militants crossing the border to launch attacks in the run-up to the presidential elections for Karzai’s successor.

“Pakistan can play a role to maintain Afghanistan security for upcoming elections because these terrorists are coming from the other side of the Durrand Line [border] to Afghanistan,” Faizi said.

Karzai, who must step down next year after serving two terms, will also give a speech at the World Islamic Economic Forum in London, and at the Oxford Union, the university’s debating society.

The search for a peace deal in Afghanistan is urgent as 87,000 NATO combat troops prepare to withdraw next year.

A Taliban office in Qatar that opened in June was meant to lead to talks, but instead it enraged Karzai after it was styled as an embassy for a government-in-exile.

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