Foreign Office spokesman Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry said Baradar's release is part of efforts to "help promote the Afghan peace process".

Baradar will be released at an "appropriate time", Chaudhry said. The announcement came a day after an All Party Meeting convened by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif endorsed the government's plans to end militancy through dialogue and discussed the Afghan reconciliation process.

Pakistan freed seven Afghan Taliban leaders on Saturday, taking the total number of commanders released so far to 33. Media reports said Baradar, arrested by Pakistani security agencies and the CIA in Karachi in 2010, could be released by the end of this month.

President Hamid Karzai's government has been pushing Pakistan to free Baradar in the hope that he could lead talks with the Afghan High Peace Council. After Baradar's arrest, Pakistan was accused of sabotaging the Afghan peace process. Reports at the time said Baradar was a key commander who favoured peace and that he was detained as he was operating independently without consulting Pakistan's intelligence agencies.

Baradar was once considered the most influential Taliban leader after Mullah Muhammad Omar. He was one of four insurgents who founded the Taliban movement and was leading the day-to-day campaign against US and NATO troops.

Reports said that at the time of his arrest, Baradar was holding peace talks with the Afghan government and had even met President Karzai. Washington initially hailed his arrest but found out later that Islamabad captured Baradar to scuttle secret peace talks.

(Agencies)

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