ISLAMABAD: Afghanistan is ready to hand over a senior Pakistani Taliban leader Mufti Khalid in exchange of Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the former deputy to Mullah Omar, Afghan officials say. Afghan security forces had arrested Mufti Khalid, who had served spokesman for the banned Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan as Mohammad Khurasani, was arrested in Afghanistan days after the brutal 2014 attack on Army Public School Peshawar. Nearly 150, almost all students, were martyred in the attack. Minutes after the gunmen entered the APS, Mufti Khalid contacted reporters in Pakistan, including this correspondent, to claim responsibility for the attack. Militant sources said Khalid was arrested in a joint raid by the US-led NATO and Afghan forces in Nangarhar’s Shinwar district near the Pakistani border. Khalid, belonging to Gilgit-Baltistan, had worked as the TTP spokesman under fake names of Ehsanullah Ehsan and Mohammad Khorasani in North Waziristan until security forces launched a major operation in June 2014. Like many other Pakistan and foreign militants, he also fled to neighbouring Afghanistan and would later regularly contact the media to claim responsibility for attacks in Pakistan. The militants, who knew Khalid, say he was previously a teacher at a Karachi ‘seminary. He headed the TTP media centre in North Waziristan and later in Nangarhar. Pakistan and Afghanistan have no agreement on prisoner exchange and Kabul had in the past rejected Pakistan’s requests for the handover of two key TTP leaders Latifullah Mehsud and Haji Faqir Muhammad, the TTP deputy chief. American military officials, who had reported snatched Mehsud from the Afghan intelligence operatives, handed him over to Pakistan in December 2014. Hamid Karzai’s spokesman Aimal Faizi had condemned the US action to what he called abduction of Latifullah, who had served as the deputy of Hakimullah Mehsud, who was killed in a drone strike in Miranshah in 2013. Afghan intelligence officials had arrested Haji Faqir in Nangarhar in February 2013 along with some of his associates. He is still in detention in Kabul and Afghan government has refused to hand him over to Pakistan despite repeated requests. Like Afghanistan, Pakistan is seemed unwilling to accept Afghanistan’s calls for the repatriation of the Afghan Taliban detainees. Afghanistan has long been demanding the handover of the former Taliban second-in-command Mullah Baradar, who Afghan officials believe is still in Pakistan’s custody. Taliban have the same stance on Baradar’s detention. However, Pakistan had announced his release in 2013 when Pakistan had freed dozens of senior Afghan Taliban leaders in late 2013 on the request by then president Karzai and his peace council in a move to encourage the Taliban to join the peace process. But no Taliban freed official had joined the peace process as they believed Karzai had no powers to make independent decision. Some Taliban leaders insisted they do not trust Karzai as he had violated an agreement with them in late 2001 that his regime will not touch those Taliban leaders who live in peace in Afghanistan after the US military had toppled their government. Baradar, who was appointed by Mullah Omar, was among the few of his close confidant. Baradar was arrested in February 2010 in Karachi in a joint operation by the Pakistani and American security officials. In an informal interaction with a group of Pakistani journalists at his residence in Kabul in May, Karzai confirmed his agreement with the Taliban in Kandahar but shifted the blame to the Americans to frustrate his peace deal with the Taliban as his government was weak that time and the Americans would not listen to him. Published in Daily Times,September 25th 2017.