By Faika Kabir, WEEKLY PULSE MAGAZINE, November 04, 2013
Pakistan “released” former Afghan Taliban chief Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar on 21st September 2013. His release was intended to facilitate the “Afghan reconciliation process”.
He is a very important figure, as he is one of the founders of Taliban movement in 1994. He was captured in Karachi in 2010.
He is the main part of the reconciliation puzzle as both Pakistan and Afghanistan believe that he could not only persuade the Taliban to lay down their weapons, but to join peace talks as well.
Although the Afghan Taliban claim that Baradar is still not free, Pakistan assured them that he is being kept at an ISI safe house in Karachi. Baradar himself asked for security and is allowed to contact his family. I say he is free but not “completely” free.
Where both states are trying to consider peaceful ways to end this crisis, the US at the same time contradicts this approach. For US, return of Mullah Baradar is a serious threat, as Washington believes he might join the fight again and terrorism might escalate.
Also at present time the US is trying to sign a security deal with Afghanistan, which would allow thousands of US troops to remain in the country even after America’s planned withdrawal in 2014. This Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) is very important for US as this deal would allow American troops to still investigate Al-Qaeda remnants in Afghanistan; otherwise all US troops have to leave the country by 31st December 2014.
Afghan President Hamid Karazi has opposed signing this deal as per his words, “The United States and its allies, NATO, continue to demand even after signing the BSA [Bilateral Security Agreement] they will have the freedom to attack our people, our villages. The Afghan people will never allow it.” Karzai is strongly rejecting the BSA and is prone towards peace talks with the Taliban.
At the same time in Pakistan the current hot issue is also to conduct peace talks with Pakistani Taliban. Taliban in Pakistan and those in Afghanistan, although fighting for different goals, are very much influenced by each other.
Baradar’s capture, his freedom….but not complete freedom, peace talks, BSA all these aspects could be linked and the final outcome lies on the future of Mullah Baradar. Mullah is the last link; the US wants to sign BSA before he is completely released but Afghan President could not sign this agreement without approval of grand assembly. Karazi this time felt that, it is important that the people of Afghanistan feel that they have a voice in this. Karzai wants to please both his people and Taliban as he thinks peace talks with the Taliban would serve Afghan interests.
Karazi is waiting for the return of Mullah Baradar and for this he would raise the issue of Baradar’s whereabouts when he would meet PM Nawaz Sharif next week in a summit in London. Both the leaders would hopefully discuss how to end years of Taliban insurgency.
For Pakistan also Mullah could serve as a mediator for peace talks between the Pakistani Taliban and the government.
Pakistan cannot keep Baradar for so long under strict supervision, so the PM is trying to convince all political parties to initiate the negotiation process in consensus as soon as possible. The US pressure on Pakistan to keep Mullah further more won’t work as it is also not in the interest of Islamabad to prolong the peace process. The new democratic government is determined to resolve this terrorism problem by reaching a final decision.
Pakistan considers Mullah Baradar a tool who could help it to have a say in any future peace deal and this could also limit India’s influence in Afghanistan after the US withdrawal. Mullah is a hidden card for Pakistan as having hold of him, Pakistan could have an upper hand on both the US and Afghanistan. During the meeting next week in London, Karazi would also ask how Pakistan would facilitate direct talks between Baradar and the High Peace Council. The council was formed by Karzai in 2010 to find a negotiated end to the problem of Taliban insurgency.
Peace talks in Pakistan, Afghanistan and signing of BSA depends on Mullah Baradar. Pakistan should use this golden opportunity to overcome American pressure and drones. Use mullah to first conduct negotiations with the Taliban in our own country and later facilitate peace process in Afghanistan. Afghanistan if wants Pakistan’s facilitation must lessen India’s influence because if Karzai won’t go for a peace process and signs a BSA with US, then he would compromise on Afghanistan’s interest. As US influence in the country along with killings and bombings will continue, Pakistan should use Mullah Baradar’s custody in a skillful way and not only eliminate internal treat, but also external Indian threat. Hoping for Pakistan to use all options wisely and rationally, let’s see if Pakistan would be able to kill two birds with one stone or not.