Amid scepticism over the outcome of the all-party conference (APC) on national security on Monday, the government has agreed to release Taliban leader Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, who was arrested in 2010.

Prime Minister’s adviser on National Security and Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz told PTV in an interview on Tuesday that the Taliban leader would be released later this month.

Baradar’s release was discussed when Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai visited Pakistan in August. He is a close aide of Taliban’s top leader Mullah Omar. The government released seven Taliban leaders, including Mansoor Dadullah, recently and more are expected to be set free to facilitate the peace process in Afghanistan.

Meanwhile, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan said the offer for talks first came from the Taliban but the drone attacks were a setback. He said a mechanism was in place to deal with the Taliban and the first interaction in a few weeks would determine what the demands were.

Talks get go-ahead

The APC which discussed the national security situation on Monday resolved to repose full confidence in efforts of the Prime Minister in this behalf and authorised the federal government to initiate dialogue with all stakeholders.

In the past too, several all party meetings have been held with little result. The resolution approved at the end of the meeting was perturbed to note the continued non-implementation of the recommendations relating to national security contained in the Declaration of All-Parties Conference organised by the Jamiat Ulema Islami(Maulana Fazlur Rehman) on February 28, 2013; the Joint Declaration of the All Parties Conference for Peace convened by the Awami National Party on February 14, 2013; the Resolution of the conference of the leaders of all the political parties convened by then Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani on September 29, 2011; the Resolution adopted by the Joint Sitting of Parliament on May 14, 2011; the Consensus Resolution passed by the in-camera Joint Sitting of Parliament on October 22, 2008; recommendations of the Parliamentary Committee on National Security (PCNS) in April 2009; and Resolution adapting the Guidelines framed by the PCNS passed by the Joint Sitting of Parliament on April 12, 2012.

However, this time there was a faint hope that things would be different though questions are being asked about what is on offer for the Taliban and what exactly is the government plan of action. Jan Achakzai, spokesperson for the JUI (F) said that it was the first time the government had called his party, which was for a dialogue with the Taliban. “The military and the government have realised the need for a dialogue with the Taliban for which we have been lobbying since long. This meeting is important and different from the past and it is a good gesture to facilitate reconciliation between the Taliban factions in Afghanistan as well since Mr. Karzai’s successor needs to have peace too,” he said.

However, a sense of deja vu prevails.

The devil is in the detail, said Rustom Shah Mohmand, former Pakistan ambassador to Afghanistan. The government would have to constitute a task force to negotiate with the many groups who are fighting, he pointed out. For instance in the Khyber agency it was not Taliban but the Ansar ul-Islam or Lashkar-e-Islam. The interlocutors must have a flexible mandate and the government and militants must abide by all decisions. An oversight mechanism would also be useful. The military option has not worked for 10 years and unless some new steps are taken, the future looks very bleak for the tribal and frontier areas, he said. The government could talk to some of the main groups and reach a major agreement for peace which will make it difficult for smaller groups to operate.

The government had to be tough on drone strikes which would also continue, and that’s in keeping with the larger U.S. strategy, he said.

The tribesmen had to renounce violence and, in turn, the security forces had to be withdrawn from the tribal areas and the 1.6 million tribal refugees should be encouraged to come back. There had to be a massive rehabilitation programme as well, he added.