WASHINGTON: Abdul Ghani Baradar, the Taliban co-founder and now deputy prime minister of Afghanistan, has been named among the “100 Most Influential People” of 2021 by Time magazine.
Baradar’s profile for Time’s list, written by veteran journalist Ahmed Rashid, noted that he “is revered” among the Afghan Taliban as a founding member, “a charismatic military leader and a deeply pious figure”.
It said that when the Taliban took over the Afghan capital in August, it was on the terms negotiated by Baradar, which included amnesties offered, the lack of bloodshed upon seizing power and contacts and visits with neighbouring states such as Pakistan and China.
“A quiet, secretive man who rarely gives public statements or interviews, Baradar nonetheless represents a more moderate current within the Taliban, the one that will be thrust into the limelight to win Western support and desperately needed financial aid. The question is whether the man who coaxed the Americans out of Afghanistan can sway his own movement,” the profile said.
Baradar was once a close friend of the movement’s reclusive first leader, Mullah Mohammad Omar, who gave him his nom de guerre, “Baradar” or “brother”.
Following the fall of the Taliban government in 2001, Baradar served as a senior military commander responsible for attacks on coalition forces, a UN sanctions notice said.
He was arrested and imprisoned in Pakistan in 2010. After his release in 2018, he headed the Taliban’s political office in Doha, becoming one of the most prominent figures in peace talks with the United States.
Baradar appears to be the first Taliban leader to make it to the list, although the publication has made no such mention in its write-up. The full list can be viewed here.
According to the United Nations Security Council Consolidated List, Baradar was born in about 1968 in the Yatimak village of Deh Rawood District in Uruzgan Province of the Kingdom of Afghanistan. He is a Zirak Durrani Pashtun of the Sadozai tribe, a sub-tribe of the Popalzai.
Imprisonment in Pakistan, 2010–2018
According to Wikipedia information, Baradar was arrested by Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) in late January or early February 2010 in Karachi. Pakistan only confirmed the arrest a week later and Pakistani Interior Minister Rehman Malik denied reports that US agents had been involved in the arrest. According to New York Times reporting soon after the arrest, American intelligence agencies had tipped off Pakistani counter-terror officers about a meeting of militants with a possible link to Baradar, but that it was only after several men had been arrested that they realised one was Baradar himself. According to New York Times reporting months later, Pakistani officials were then claiming that they had been targeting Baradar himself, because he had been secretly discussing a peace deal with the Afghan government without the involvement of Pakistan, who had long supported the Taliban. They claimed that the ISI tracked Baradar’s cell phone to an area of Karachi, called on the CIA to use a more sophisticated tracking device to find his precise location, and then the Pakistanis moved in to arrest him. The New York Times concluded that events and motives were still unclear. The story was only lightly covered in the Pakistani press when it initially broke, except for the newspaper Dawn, which published detailed information. Abdul Qayyum Zakir became the Taliban military leader after Baradar’s arrest.
Although some analysts saw Baradar’s arrest as a significant shift in Pakistan’s position, others claimed that Pakistan arrested Baradar to stop his negotiations with the Karzai government, so that Pakistan would get a seat at the table – because an agreement between the Taliban and the Karzai government could deprive Pakistan of influence in Afghanistan. Another view contended that Pakistani General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani was using the series of Taliban arrests to help extend his own career beyond his slated November 2010 retirement date, the theory being that this would raise his standing among American policymakers and thus pressure the Pakistani government to retain him. The Afghan government was reportedly holding secret talks with Baradar and his arrest was said to have infuriated President Hamid Karzai.
Despite repeated claims that Pakistan would deliver Baradar to Afghanistan if formally asked to do so, and that his extradition was underway, he was expressly excluded from a group of nine Taliban prisoners that Pakistan released in November 2012. They eventually released him in mid-October 2018. Washington special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad said that he had asked Pakistan to release him, as Khalilzad believed Baradar could help in the Afghan peace process.
Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, also known is a co-founder of the Taliban movement in Afghanistan. He was arrested by Pakistani authorities in the southern port city of Karachi in 2010.
After release, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, and he joined his family on Tuesday (25th October 2018). It is stated that Pakistanauthorities released Baradar on the solicitation of the government of Qatar, where the political office of Taliban is based.
Qatar’s Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed Bin Abdulrahman Al Thani visited Islamabad last Friday and held meetings with Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan and Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi.
Other personalities featured on 2021 list
It is not the first instance that Time has named a controversial figure on its annual list. In 2004, Al Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden was included in the list, with the magazine noting that he “galvanized disparate organisations in dozens of countries into one network, sharing a vision, logistics and Afghan training camps”.
Also included in this year’s list is Afghan women’s rights activist Mahbouba Seraj, US President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, Chinese President Xi Jinping, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, former US president Donald Trump and Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi.
The UK’s Prince Harry and Meghan Markle have also made the list, under the section devoted to “icons” alongside popstar Britney Spears and countrysinger Dolly Parton.
Athletes Simone Biles — who withdrew from the Tokyo Olympics to focus on her mental health— and tennis star Naomi Osaka have also made the cut as well as Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny.
Actors Scarlett Johansson and Daniel Kaluuya, and musicians Lil Nas X and Bad Bunny also made this year’s list. Prime Minister Imran Khan was included in the list in 2019, while Nobel Laureate Malala Yousafzai has been featured twice, in 2013 and 2015.