Pakistan released several Afghan Taliban prisoners Wednesday as a sign of support for Kabul’s efforts to establish a dialogue with the insurgents.
“It is a gesture of support for the Afghanistan reconciliation process,” a Pakistani military official told Financial Times.
The number of prisoners – believed to be between seven and eight – is yet to be confirmed. Reuters quoted officials of the High Peace Council identifying three of the prisoners to be released as Mullah Noorruddin Toorabi, the former Taliban government justice minister; Mullah Jahangirwal, former secretary; and Allahdat Tayab, a former deputy minister. Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the former Taliban second-in-command behind Taliban spiritual leader Mullah Mohammed Omar, was not among those freed, officials said.
“We have asked Pakistan to release them because they were the policy makers of the Taliban and close aides to Mullah Omar,” Habibullah Fawzi, a senior member of the Afghan peace team, told Reuters.
Taliban insurgents have fought for more than a decade to topple the US-backed Afghan government and have profusely rejected negotiations with Afghan President Hamid Karzai.
Mr. Karzai has criticized Pakistan for its “support of terrorist attacks and militant operations” against Afghan and NATO troops. Whether Islamabad’s gesture will appease Kabul is yet to be seen.