The Afghan government has spoken to Mullah Abdul Ghani Biradar, the former Taliban second-in-command, who has been in Pakistani custody since last December. This has been disclosed by its National Security Adviser Rangin Spanta while talking to an international news agency on Sunday. This disclosure also showed that Pakistan must now play an enhanced role in the Afghan peace process and that the Afghan government is now trying to restart a peace process that has been stalled since the breakdown of the Qatar talks. Mullah Biradar being the main day-to-day commander of the Taliban, giving Kabul access to him was obviously a major step.

However, Islamabad would not be the right place for celebration, even though the talks are a sign that the USA is trying to find a way out which would let it meet its commitment to withdraw in 2014. Though in Pakistani custody, Mullah Biradar’s release would enable the USA to open a channel of communication with the Taliban. However, in all this, it is not considered how far Pakistan’s national interests are being met. Pakistan does have him in custody, and the USA alone should not have its interests served. Pakistan comes third, as after the USA, it will be the Karzai regime which will obtain benefit from this negotiation.

Another dimension that must be considered is why the USA is so anxious to talk to the source itself, while at the same time pressing Pakistan to take military action against the branches. Whereas, by the negotiations with Mullah Biradar, the USA has shown its readiness to negotiate with the Taliban, it is at the same time pressing Pakistan to send its army into North Waziristan, and take action against the Haqqani network, which is acting in support of the Taliban the US is negotiating with. Pakistan should be talking to it, following the example of the USA in dealing with the Taliban.

Pakistan must be very careful that it does not fall into the role of a mere facilitator, as it seems to be doing at the moment. If it holds Mullah Biradar, it should not do so merely as a mere jailor, but should derive tangible benefit from doing so. If the USA and the regime it has imposed on Afghanistan derive any benefits from talking to Mullah Biradar, Pakistan should ensure that it too benefits. In this situation, Pakistan must remain wary of India lurking in the background. Brought into Afghanistan by both the USA and the Karzai regime, both will try to give it a role in the Afghan endgame.