News / Asia

Pakistan Denies It Is Holding Taliban's No. 2

VOA News
Pakistan has denied the Afghan Taliban's claim that its second-in-command, Mullah Baradar, has not been freed, as Pakistan promised.

In a text message to journalists, a spokesman for Pakistan's Foreign Office, Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry, said Baradar was a free man.

"As far as we are concerned, he is free to meet and contact anyone to advance the cause of reconciliation," Chaudhry's message read.

The Taliban in Afghanistan disputed Pakistan's announcement last month that Baradar was released from custody. A Taliban spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, said Wednesday that Baradar is still in a Pakistani prison, in failing health.

As a founder of the Taliban insurgency, Baradar is seen as someone who could play a key role in restarting stalled peace talks between Afghanistan and the Afghan Taliban. He was a close associate of the Taliban's reclusive chief, Mullah Mohammad Omar, and held key military and political posts during the years when the Taliban controlled Afghanistan, from 1996 to 2001.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai said Monday that Baradar's freedom is still restricted, and that his government is trying to contact him.

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