Mullah Baradar, former Taliban second-in-command released by the government this weekend, is being kept in a safe house in Karachi as regional powers debate what role he could play in the Afghan peace process, sources said on Sunday.
Afghanistan sees Baradar as a respected figure who could use his influence among the Taliban to help coax moderate commanders to the negotiating table and convince warring parties to stop fighting after more than a decade of war.
The whereabouts of Baradar, one of the founders of the Taliban insurgency, has been the subject of speculation since the government announced he would be released some time on Saturday.
There has been no official confirmation of his location.
“Mullah Baradar was flown to Karachi from Peshawar early on Sunday. He is being kept in a safe location in Karachi,” one Pakistani intelligence source told Reuters.
A government source with knowledge of the situation said separately, “He will not be sent to Afghanistan. He is in a safe house in Karachi. Everything will be decided between Pakistan, Afghanistan and the United States.”
It was unclear how long Baradar would stay in Karachi. Sources had earlier said he might eventually be sent to Turkey, Saudi Arabia or Dubai to help kick-start peace talks with Taliban representatives.
The government source said Pakistan decided to announce his release to coincide with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s visit to New York, where he is expected to meet US President Barack Obama on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly.
“The timing of his release was tied to his (Nawaz’s) departure so that Pakistan is seen as doing all it can (for the Afghan peace process),” said the government source.
A source in Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s administration said Baradar was kept in “protective custody” by Pakistani intelligence but did not say where exactly.
A source with the Taliban-linked militancy in Pakistan said Baradar had now been reunited with his family in Karachi, where he was arrested in 2010 in a joint US-Pakistani raid.
“Our brother Baradar has been freed and it is our great victory,” the source said.