Policemen patrol on a street in Karachi yesterday on the second day of first Islamic month of Muharram. Security was beefed up across the country to avert sectarian attacks during the month when Shias hold public processions.
KABUL: The Afghan government and Taliban said yesterday they wanted to see more Taliban inmates released from Pakistani jails, in a move seen as a step to bring militants to the table before Nato’s 2014 withdrawal.
Earlier this week an agreement was reached at a meeting between Pakistani government officials and Afghanistan’s High Peace Council (HPC) in Islamabad that resulted in the release of a group of Taliban in Pakistan.
“We hope the releasing of Taliban prisoners from Pakistani jails continues and more Taliban who are willing for talks are released,” the chief of Afghanistan’s HPC, Salahuddin Rabbani, told reporters yesterday in Kabul.
Afghan officials have pressed for the release of senior Taliban leaders held in Pakistan believing they could help bring militants to the negotiating table, to end over a decade of war ahead of the 2014 pull-out of US-led Nato troops.
Rabbani said nine members of the Taliban were released but the group did not include the group’s former deputy leader, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, who was captured in Pakistan in 2010.
“Those who were released were also important members and they can help us in peace and negotiations,” he said, however.
The Taliban, whose government was toppled by a US-led invasion in 2001, leading to an 11-year insurgency to regain power, welcomed the move, calling it a “positive step” to “increase trust between two neighbouring nations and people”.
They also “requested the rest of the prisoners... to be released”, in a statement posted on one of their websites.
The militants have always publicly refused to negotiate directly with Kabul, calling the government of President Hamid Karzai a US puppet.
Preliminary contacts between the US and the Taliban in Doha were broken off in March 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.
Support from Pakistan, which backed the Taliban regime that held power in Kabul from 1996 to 2001, is seen as crucial to peace in Afghanistan after the departure of Nato combat forces.