UK & World News
Taliban's Mullah Baradar Released From Custody
The most senior leader of the Taliban in Afghanistan has been released from custody in Pakistan to help the struggling Afghan peace process.
According to a Sky News source, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, who is second to Taliban chief Mullah Omar, will have to remain in the country, although he is free to move around any city.
He will be provided with high security, although the source claimed this is a way for authorities to keep him under watch.
Before his release, preparations had been made for Baradar to be taken to Qatar or Saudi Arabia where he could actively work on the peace process.
But the source said Pakistan objected to such a move because it wants to remain pivotal and influential in any future peace talks between Hamid Karzai's Afghan government, the Taliban and western powers.
Sartaj Aziz, advisor on foreign affairs and national security to Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, said: "Handing over the key Taliban commander to Afghanistan will sabotage the purpose behind the decision of releasing him."
Pakistan authorities have resisted immense pressure for his release since his arrest in Karachi in February 2010.
Many believe the arrest was made to stop him negotiating with the Afghan government and cutting Pakistan out of the talks.
His arrest infuriated Mr Karzai, who last month reiterated demands for his release when he travelled to Pakistan for talks with Mr Sharif.
Baradar, 55, was born in the southern province of Uruzgan and fought the Soviet forces in the late 1980s.
He co-founded the Taliban and became a trusted friend of Omar, rising to become his top military strategist.
After the fall of the Taliban, he fled to Pakistan and became the most senior leader in the organisation's Quetta Shura branch after Omar.
He is credited with bringing together all factions of the Taliban under one umbrella and commands great respect and influence in the movement both in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Even before his detention, he had reached out to the Karzai government and steps to begin peace talks had been taken.
Baradar is the first Taliban prisoner released under the mechanism agreed by the two sides at the Chequers summit in the UK earlier this year.
Pakistan has released at least 33 Taliban inmates over the last year at the request of the Afghan government.