September 21, 2013 - 12:54 AMT
PanARMENIAN.Net - Former Afghan Taliban second-in-command Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar is to be released from prison in Pakistan on Saturday, Sept 21, the foreign ministry said, according to BBC News.
A spokesman said the release was to "further facilitate the Afghan reconciliation process".
However, the Taliban's spokesman in Afghanistan, Zabihullah Mujahid, said they could not yet confirm the release. "We have not received any official confirmation about his release," Mujahid told AFP in Kabul.
Mullah Baradar is one of the four men who founded the Taliban movement in Afghanistan in 1994. He became a linchpin of the insurgency after the Taliban were toppled by the US-led invasion in 2001. He was captured in the Pakistani city of Karachi in 2010.
Afghan officials said at the time that he had been holding secret peace talks with the Afghan government and accused Pakistan of trying to sabotage or gain control of the process.
A mid-level Afghan Taliban official told the AFP that Mullah Baradar's release would not have any effect on events in Afghanistan.
"[It] won't change anything: he will be just a simple guy with no position in the Taliban network," he said. It is not clear where Mullah Baradar will be sent after his release.
A Pakistani official and a Taliban source in north-west Pakistan said that he is likely to stay at home in Karachi where his family lives.
"He will be kept as a simple guy in the network who can convey messages from time to time, but who will not be able to reintegrate the shura [Taliban council] and regain power," the Taliban official said.
Afghanistan wants him repatriated but Pakistani sources said this month he was more likely to be sent straight to a third country such as Saudi Arabia or Turkey.
The announcement was welcomed by the Afghan government.
"We welcome that this step is being taken," Aimal Faizi, spokesman for Afghan President Hamid Karzai told AFP. "We believe this will help the Afghan peace process. This is something we have been calling for a long time. It was on the agenda when the president visited Pakistan, so we are pleased."
Some 26 other Taliban detainees have been released over the last year in an attempt to revive the troubled process, but some have questioned whether those freed have enough influence to convince the Taliban to negotiate. There are also concerns that some of the released men may be returning to the fight.
Earlier this month, Pakistan announced the release of 7 more Taliban prisoners.
Pakistan helped the Taliban seize control of Afghanistan in 1996, and many insurgents fled across the border following the U.S.-led invasion in 2001. Islamabad is widely believed to have maintained its ties to the Taliban, despite official denials.