Secret plan to relocate former Taliban chief to Saudi Arabia

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The former deputy commander of the Afghan Taliban could be relocated to Saudi Arabia or Turkey under a secret plan being established by Islamabad, Kabul and Washington, according to a Pakistani newspaper.

Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, who was one of four men that founded the Taliban and was considered the second most influential, has been held in Pakistan since 2010.

He was reportedly arrested by Pakistani authorities because he was conducting secret peace talks with the Afghan government that excluded its neighbour.

Despite being in captivity, Baradar is still considered a key Taliban leader who could play a vital role in brokering a peace deal, according to The Express Tribune, a partner of the New York Times’ International Herald Tribune.

He is also believed to have played a major role in persuading his leadership to set up a political office in Doha, Qatar, and could be influential in reinitiating talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government, which ceased earlier this year when the Afghan government objected to a Taliban flag flying outside the office and reference to it as the political office of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan.

“If everything goes according to plan, Baradar would not only be moved to another country but he would most likely spearhead talks with the Afghan government and the US,” a senior Pakistani official told the newspaper.

A second official said: “That is why his case is different from other detainees. So any decision regarding his release or transfer to another country will be taken very carefully.”

Saudi Arabia or Turkey are believed to have been identified as the likely locations for Baradar because that is also where a new Taliban office may be set-up.

The Afghan government reportedly said on Sunday that it was willing to resume peace talks with the Taliban at its Qatar office if it met its two preconditions: not to fly the flag and not to be referred to as the political office of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan.

Islamabad says it is motivated to assist the Afghan reconciliation and on Saturday it released seven Taliban prisoners.

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