ISLAMABAD, Pakistan -- The Pakistani government said Friday that it would release a senior Taliban commander on Saturday to facilitate peace talks in neighboring Afghanistan.
The commander, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, one of the founding members of the Taliban, has been in Pakistani custody since his arrest in a joint Pakistani and American intelligence raid in the port city of Karachi in 2010.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced his impending release in a brief statement on Friday evening. The statement said Mr. Baradar would be set free on Saturday but did not give further details.
Pakistani officials previously said Mr. Baradar would not be handed over to the Afghan authorities despite longstanding demands from the Afghan government.
President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan raised the issue during a recent visit to Islamabad, the Pakistani capital, when he met with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.
Pakistani officials portrayed the move as a good-will gesture that would help bring the Taliban and Afghanistan to the negotiating table as the United States prepares to withdraw from Afghanistan in 2014.
"The timing is quite significant," said Senator Mushahid Hussain Sayed, chairman of the defense committee in the Pakistani Senate, "as he is an important, credible figure who has the potential to have outreach to the Taliban leaders."
Mr. Sayed, who led a Pakistani delegation this month to Kabul, the Afghan capital, said, "There was a positive response on this from the Kabul regime, which seems to have high hopes and greater confidence in the new Pakistani government's ability to deliver on Afghan-related issues."
Pakistan has been steadily releasing Taliban prisoners, most recently during the first week of September, when seven were freed.
But the release of Mr. Baradar, who is the former top military commander of the Taliban movement, is the most significant, as it is seen as crucial to initiating the peace talks.world
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.