Islamabad: Senior Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, currently being held by Pakistani authorities, was instrumental in bringing the militant leadership to the negotiating table, according to a media report on Monday.
Baradar, Mullah Omar`s former second-in-command, was captured in Karachi in 2010 by a joint team of CIA and Pakistani intelligence officers, was quietly communicating with the Taliban leadership and with US and Afghan officials over the past few months, an unnamed Foreign Ministry official was quoted as saying by The Express Tribune.
Kabul has been seeking the release of Baradar, a former Deputy Chief of the Afghan Taliban, to expedite the Afghan peace process.
However, Pakistan appears to have its "reasons to keep" Baradar in custody at this stage, the report said.
Officials familiar with the Afghan reconciliation efforts were quoted as saying that Baradar was "instrumental" in bringing the Afghan Taliban leadership to the negotiating table.
"Baradar has been allowed to talk to all stakeholders. He played a major part in persuading the Taliban leadership," the Foreign Ministry official said. "(Baradar) in fact has been acting as the go-between the Taliban leadership and the US," he added.
Another official claimed Baradar had decided against returning to Afghanistan since he felt he could play a better role in the peace process while staying in Pakistan.
At the time of his arrest, Baradar was reportedly engaged in talks with the US and the Afghan government to broker a peace deal.
According to reports, Baradar was the day-to-day commander responsible for leading the Taliban campaign against US and NATO troops before his capture.
On Saturday, Afghanistan renewed its demand for Pakistan to free all Taliban prisoners, including Baradar, to facilitate peace talks.
Though Pakistan has released 26 Taliban prisoners over the past few months, Afghanistan has long been seeking the release of the remaining detainees.
Asked whether Pakistan would consider the latest request from Afghanistan, Foreign Ministry spokesman Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry said Islamabad is committed to considering all necessary steps and efforts that could further the reconciliation process.
The US has acknowledged that Pakistan was "genuinely" making efforts to bring peace to Afghanistan. It said Pakistan had persuaded the Afghan Taliban to come to the negotiating table.
Months-long efforts led to the opening of a Taliban office at Doha in Qatar, though the process is in limbo due to reservations expressed by the Afghan government over the nature of the office.