Musharraf Releases Top Taliban Official in Custody

Rick Moran
Does Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf have a death wish?

While cracking down on lawyers, dissidents, and human rights activists by throwing them in jail, Musharraf has opened the back door to his prisons and allowed several Taliban their freedom - including the notorious Mullah Obaidullah Akhund, number 3 in the group's hierarchy and a member of its ruling 10-man shura (council):

Intelligence reports of Obaidullah's release have raised concern among American officials. At the moment they're still checking whether it was in fact the senior Taliban official who was freed and not someone else by the same name. A Pakistani military source denied to NEWSWEEK that Obaidullah had been released—but in the next breath claimed to be unaware that Obaidullah had ever been captured. At least two important Taliban commanders have confirmed to NEWSWEEK that Mullah Omar's third in command is back on the loose. Another Taliban operative says Obaidullah spoke to one of his fellow fighters on the phone several days ago.
Evidently, the release of Obaidullah was part of a prisoner exchange involving more than 200 Pakistani troops who ahd been captured by the Taliban in the rugged Northwest Frontier Provinces where fierce fighting has been raging for weeks.

This is a move sure to enrage Washington and make them question whether supporting Musharraf is worth it. But chances are, the Bush Administration will grit its teeth and continue backing the General's moves, seeing him as the only game in town at the moment.

What all this boils down to is quite simple; Musharraf is losing his war against the militants. Releasing the third ranking Taliban in the country won't get him any closer to victory and may, in fact, contribute to a stunning defeat. Will the extremists settle for a deal similar to the ones that Musharraf has made in the past where he gives the Taliban a free hand to conduct business as they see fit? If so, I doubt that the Genearl has long to govern. The military is already upset with him for mkaing them look bad in the eyes of the Pakistani people due to the crackdown. But a surrender to the militarnts as he has done in the past, can only increase calls in the military for his head.

And if that were to happen. who knows who would succeed him.
Does Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf have a death wish?

While cracking down on lawyers, dissidents, and human rights activists by throwing them in jail, Musharraf has opened the back door to his prisons and allowed several Taliban their freedom - including the notorious Mullah Obaidullah Akhund, number 3 in the group's hierarchy and a member of its ruling 10-man shura (council):

Intelligence reports of Obaidullah's release have raised concern among American officials. At the moment they're still checking whether it was in fact the senior Taliban official who was freed and not someone else by the same name. A Pakistani military source denied to NEWSWEEK that Obaidullah had been released—but in the next breath claimed to be unaware that Obaidullah had ever been captured. At least two important Taliban commanders have confirmed to NEWSWEEK that Mullah Omar's third in command is back on the loose. Another Taliban operative says Obaidullah spoke to one of his fellow fighters on the phone several days ago.
Evidently, the release of Obaidullah was part of a prisoner exchange involving more than 200 Pakistani troops who ahd been captured by the Taliban in the rugged Northwest Frontier Provinces where fierce fighting has been raging for weeks.

This is a move sure to enrage Washington and make them question whether supporting Musharraf is worth it. But chances are, the Bush Administration will grit its teeth and continue backing the General's moves, seeing him as the only game in town at the moment.

What all this boils down to is quite simple; Musharraf is losing his war against the militants. Releasing the third ranking Taliban in the country won't get him any closer to victory and may, in fact, contribute to a stunning defeat. Will the extremists settle for a deal similar to the ones that Musharraf has made in the past where he gives the Taliban a free hand to conduct business as they see fit? If so, I doubt that the Genearl has long to govern. The military is already upset with him for mkaing them look bad in the eyes of the Pakistani people due to the crackdown. But a surrender to the militarnts as he has done in the past, can only increase calls in the military for his head.

And if that were to happen. who knows who would succeed him.