Secret Talks for Resumption of Peace Process
The Pakistani Express Tribune reported that Pakistani government is considering transfer of Mullah Baradar, former right-hand man to the Taliban leader, to another country – possibly Saudi Arabia Turkey. The news comes days after Pakistan released seven Taliban members, including Mansoor Dadullah, a former top military commander of the Taliban in southern provinces of Afghanistan. Undisclosed Pakistani officials have said that Kabul, Islamabad and Washington were secretly discussing the plan and that the discussions are at an advanced stage. The plan, if carried out, to move Baradar to a country other than Qatar is effectively validating relocation of the Taliban office from Qatar.
The latest moves by Pakistan – from releasing Taliban members to discussing on an initiative to move Mullah Baradar to a third country – is suggesting initial signs of Pakistan’s new phase of cooperation with the Afghan peace process. It seems that Islamabad is visibly moving forward with release of more Taliban prisoners including the ones that the Afghan government has long urged to be released from Pakistani jails. However, it is still premature to say that the countries would soon begin joint peace efforts that would lead to negotiations with the Taliban. Many efforts in the past failed to bring the two countries in close cooperation for working on the peace process in Afghanistan. Transfer or release of Mullah Baradar would be marked as a close cooperation between Afghanistan and Pakistan to bring peace in Afghanistan.
However, what is still unanswered is that how it will work to move Mullah Baradar to another country considering a role for him in the peace process. In this case, there is high chance that the militant leader may be able to exert any influence on the Taliban leadership who are commanding the battle on the ground. Both Afghanistan and Pakistan want to have an eye on Mullah Baradar if released from prison. For Afghanistan, it is because to assure that he will play a role in the peace process and won’t join the militants fighting on the ground. And for Pakistan, it is because Islamabad is not willing to release the top apprehended leader of the Taliban without being assured that its interests will not be harmed.
The plan to transfer Mullah Baradar is effectively meaning that a new venue for peace talks is considered which possibly will be in Turkey or Saudi Arabia. Any plan for relocation of the Taliban will put the Afghan government in a higher position as Afghanistan would have a direct role in the initiative, and the fact that the Qatar office was closed due the strong observations of the Afghan government. Qatar was opened amid high levels of distrusts from the Afghan government to the roles of Pakistan and the United States. If the new venue for peace talks with the Taliban opens in Turkey or Saudi Arabia, it would be carried out with consent and sufficient presence of the government of Afghanistan in the process. This is something that the Afghan government has been trying to achieve and agree on with Pakistan and the US for years. And most possibly, any relocation of Taliban office to another country would be a result of joint efforts by Pakistan and the Afghan government to resume the peace process.