Members of an Afghan delegation tasked with holding peace talks with the Taliban have met with the group's former deputy leader in Pakistan in an attempt to energize sputtering negotiations.
Officials in both countries have confirmed the contact between Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar and a delegation of Afghanistan’s High Peace Council led by Salahuddin Rabbani, but shared no other details.
Baradar spent more than three years in captivity in Pakistan before authorities there freed him from detention in September, a move that created hope among many Afghan and Pakistani officials that he could help forge a peace deal between the insurgents and the Afghan government.
The Afghan delegation also met Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Thursday.
An official statement issued by the prime minister’s office said Sharif “underscored Pakistan’s resolve to continue to extend all possible facilitation for the Afghan peace and reconciliation process.”
Afghan sources called the trip highly successful, saying its main objective was to see Baradar and “the mission was accomplished.”
Since late last year, Pakistan has released around 40 Taliban prisoners at the request of the High Peace Council, hoping they will join political reconciliation efforts in Afghanistan.
However, most of these freed men have preferred to stay in Pakistan and have not shown any readiness to talk to Karzai's government.
A sustainable peace process is considered vital for reducing violence ahead of NATO’s planned withdrawal of combat forces from Afghanistan by end of next year.