Wed, Jan 02, 2013 - Page 5 News List

Pakistan frees eight Taliban prisoners to aid peace efforts

AFP, ISLAMABAD

Pakistan has released eight Afghan Taliban prisoners, including senior former administration chiefs, in a bid to aid its wartorn neighbor’s peace efforts, officials said yesterday.

Former Afghan justice minister Nooruddin Turabi and the ex-governor of Helmand Province were among those freed, a government official said on Monday, putting the number released at four.

Pakistan’s foreign ministry later issued a statement to say eight detainees had been set free.

Pakistani foreign ministry spokesman Moazzam Ahmad Khan said the move was part of efforts “to further facilitate the Afghan reconciliation process.”

“Pakistan has today released eight Taliban detainees including Abdul Bari, ex-Governor Helmand; Nur-ud-Din Turabi, ex-Justice Minister; Allah Daad Tabib, ex-Minister; Mullah Daud Jan, ex-Governor Kabul; Mir Ahmed Gul, ex-Governor,” he said in a statement late on Monday.

“Last month [November] too, Pakistan released 18 Taliban prisoners on request of the Afghan High Peace Council,” Khan added.

Islamabad has agreed to release prisoners to help bring an end to an 11-year conflict between the Taliban and the Afghan government.

Afghan officials have said senior Taliban leaders held captive in Pakistan could help bring militants to the negotiating table and help end the war, as US-led NATO troops prepare to withdraw from Afghanistan next year.

Support from Pakistan, which backed the 1996-2001 Taliban regime in Kabul, is seen as crucial to peace in Afghanistan after NATO’s departure.

The Taliban, who have been fighting an insurgency since the 2001 US-led invasion, refuse to negotiate directly with Kabul, calling the government of Afghan President Hamid Karzai a US puppet.

Preliminary communications between the US and the Taliban in Doha, Qatar, were broken off in March last year when the militants failed to secure the release of five of their comrades held at the Guantanamo Bay prison on the US base in Cuba.

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