— File Photo

ISLAMABAD: The Afghan High Peace Council (HPC) delegation returned to Kabul on Thursday after a ‘successful’ extended stay in Islamabad – securing release of a number of Taliban figures and a promise that the Pakistan government would also consider freeing Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the former Taliban number two.

On the last day of their visit, HPC Chairman Salahuddin Rabbani and members of his delegation followed up with senior Pakistani officials on the decisions taken during their three-day talks and pressed for release of Mullah Baradar and at least three other top aides of Taliban chief Mullah Omar, including Mullah Noorudin Toorabi.

Mr Rabbani may not have been able to immediately get key Taliban leaders freed, but his hosts did not disappoint him either. A source said Pakistani officials showed more flexibility and promised to consider request for release of Mullah Baradar, Mullah Toorabi and two other insurgent commanders.

However, any decision will depend on how the release of the first batch of about 10 mid-ranking Taliban commanders plays out.

Media organisations put the figure of Taliban commanders freed at 13, but there was no independent confirmation about the number.

The names of those freed were not made public by either side because of their security concerns. However, both Afghan and Pakistani officials confirmed that the most senior figure among them was Maulawi Anwar-ul-Haq Mujahid, who commanded Taliban fighters in Nangarhar province after the fall of the Taliban government in 2001.

Anwar-ul-Haq, son of former Hizb-i-Islami (Khalis) group chief Maulawi Mohammed Yunis Khalis, had been in detention in Pakistan since 2009. He was arrested from Shamshatoo camp in Peshawar.

Haq took over the leadership of Hizb-i-Islami after the death of his father in 2006 and renamed it Hizb-i-Afghanistan. He is said to have helped Al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden escape from a US attack in Tora Bora in 2001. Tora Bora and Khogyani districts were his strongholds.

There were reports in the past that Haq had been flown to Kabul from Peshawar for meetings with President Hamid Karzai and his advisers. He was accompanied by at least two other Taliban commanders — Maulvi Abdul Kabir, governor of Nangarhar, during the Taliban rule, and his deputy, Sadar-i-Azam.

The men were, however, returned to Pakistan’s custody after their talks apparently failed.