Pakistan’s Foreign Office denies Afghan militants’ claims, as terrorists taunt Washington over federal government shutdown.
The Taliban on Wednesday claimed Pakistan had failed to free Abdul Ghani Baradar, the former rebel commander whose release was meant to boost Afghanistan’s peace process.
Baradar, often described as the Taliban’s former second-in-command, was supposedly set free last month, according to the Pakistan government, after months of negotiations between the two governments
“However, with great regret, he is still spending days and nights locked up behind bars in worrisome health conditions which are deteriorating by the day,” the Taliban said in a statement on their website.
A senior Taliban member said that Baradar was being held at a house in Karachi run by the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), Pakistan’s leading intelligence agency. “He doesn’t have any freedom, and his family can’t even visit him,” he said. “The Pakistan government says he has health problems which are being treated, and then his family will be able to visit.”
A separate Taliban source alleged that the ISI was trying to “soften up” Baradar so that he would play a role in the Afghan peace process that may benefit Pakistan.
Baradar has been touted by some as an influential Taliban voice who could persuade the militants to end the bloody insurgency they have waged since being ousted from power in 2001.
A security source in Pakistan confirmed Baradar’s house arrest, which will set back efforts to bring peace to Afghanistan as NATO troops withdraw by the end of next year. “He is in protective custody in an ISI house in Karachi, he cannot meet anybody or move anywhere on his own, he needs permission of security officials,” the source said. “He has the freedom of having the food of his own choice, but he is restricted to the safe house.”
Pakistan’s Foreign Office, in a statement, denied these claims. “Pakistan has released Taliban detainees to facilitate the reconciliation process in Afghanistan,” it said. “Mullah Baradar has been similarly freed.” The former Al Qaeda chief is “free to meet and contact anyone to advance the cause of reconciliation,” it added.
The Afghan government has long demanded that Pakistan free Baradar, who was arrested in Karachi in 2010. At the time of his detention, Baradar was reported to have been the right hand man of the supreme commander Mullah Omar. But some analysts say he has lost influence with the current Taliban high command and would have little effect on the current peace efforts.
Also on Wednesday, the Taliban taunted Washington over the American government shutdown, accusing U.S. politicians of “sucking the blood of their own people.”
The Islamist militants issued a statement describing how U.S. institutions were “paralyzed,” the Statue of Liberty was closed and a fall in tourist numbers had hit shops, restaurants and hotels in the capital. “The American people should realize that their politicians play with their destinies as well as the destinies of other oppressed nations for the sake of their personal vested interests,” the Taliban said.
The insurgents accused “selfish and empty-minded American leaders” of taking U.S. citizens’ money “earned with great difficulty” and then “lavishly spending the same money in shedding the blood of the innocent and oppressed people.”
“Instead of sucking the blood of their own people … this money should be utilized for the sake of peace,” they added.
The U.S. embassy in Kabul has said that it expects “to function normally in the short term” due to the shutdown, though its Twitter feed would not be regularly updated.
Embassy press staff was not immediately available to comment on the rebels’ statement.
The U.S. shutdown has seen hundreds of thousands of workers sent home without pay after Congress failed to pass a budget for the 2014 fiscal year that began Oct. 1.