Pakistan agrees Afghan Taliban releases in Islamabad talks

Meeting between the Pakistani government and the Afghan High Peace Council in Islamabad on 12 November Afghanistan's High Peace Council is in Islamabad for talks with the Pakistani government over Taliban releases

Pakistan has agreed to free several jailed Afghan Taliban officials during talks in Islamabad with Afghan peace negotiators, officials say.

But the Afghan delegation has extended its stay for an extra day, amid disagreements about who will be freed.

Afghan sources told the BBC the former Taliban justice minister Mullah Turabi and two intelligence officials are among the group who will be released.

One Afghan official described the move as a positive gesture towards peace.

Pakistan says it backs peace efforts. The BBC's Orla Guerin says the releases are a tangible step to prove this.

Our correspondent, reporting from Islamabad, says that the key issues are who is being freed, and how much power they have.

Crucially, it appears that the Taliban number two, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar is not among those being released - at least for now.

However, Afghan officials hope that Mullah Turabi can bring field commanders into talks. But one Taliban leader told the BBC he no longer has any influence over the movement.

Afghan politicians have given a mixed reaction to reports of the releases.

A senior official said the release of the Taliban detainees will help the push for a peace deal, but analysts caution it is the beginning of a long process.

'Positive gesture'


Since the Taliban pulled out of preliminary negotiations with the US in March, there has been little sign of movement in peace efforts in Afghanistan.

At a minimum, Pakistan's decision to release several Taliban prisoners could generate some momentum.

Islamabad has plenty of high-ranking Taliban to choose from.

It is holding as many as 50 significant figures, according to one source, including shadow governors - part of a parallel Taliban power structure - and the Taliban number two, Mullah Baradar.

But Pakistan appears unwilling to give him up yet.

There is dispute about the relevance of some of those who are expected to be freed, including the former Taliban Justice Minister, Mullah Nooradin Turabi.

An Afghan Taliban commander told the BBC that freeing him would make no difference, because he has no influence over the organisation.

They say that the releases are significant and the hope now is that when the Taliban officials return home, they can influence others to enter talks.

Afghan officials have long lobbied for the release of Taliban prisoners by Pakistan in the hope that direct contacts with top insurgent commanders could boost peace talks.

"We aren't too certain whether they can play an important role in peace negotiations but it is a positive gesture from Pakistan in helping peace efforts," an Afghan official told the Reuters news agency.

Officials say that it is not clear when the releases will occur and the details are still being worked out.

A political settlement between the Afghan government and the Taliban is widely seen by analysts as the most effective way of delivering stability to Afghanistan before most Nato troops withdraw at the end of 2014.

In March, the Taliban suspended preliminary peace negotiations with the US, saying that Washington's efforts to involve the Afghan authorities were a key stumbling block.

Correspondents say that Wednesday's announcement is a major achievement for Afghanistan's High Peace Council, which has been campaigning in Islamabad for Taliban releases and has been struggling to reduce mistrust between the Taliban and the government in Kabul.

The 70-member peace council was set up more than two years ago by Afghan President Hamid Karzai to open negotiations with insurgents.

It was given the task of reaching out to hundreds of Taliban field commanders, but it has consistently failed to woo any senior figures away from the insurgency.

In May, Arsala Rahmani, a key member of the council, was shot dead in Kabul in an attack blamed on the Taliban. Officials said it was a major blow to President Karzai.

In September 2011, the chief of the council, Burhanuddin Rabbani, was killed by a suicide bomber posing as a Taliban peace envoy.

Both Afghan and American officials have often accused Pakistan of backing insurgents - including the Haqqani group - as its proxies in Afghanistan to counter the influence of its rival India.

But Pakistan has rejected those claims.

Earlier this month, however, the UN Security Council's Taliban sanctions committee added the Haqqani group to its blacklist. The US state department designated the group as a terrorist organisation in September.


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  • Comment number 166.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

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    Comment number 165.

    Mods out in force: Fact, Taliban shot a girl, Fact, she is being treated in UK, Fact, ISI have been accused by US of training Jihadists. Fact, We give Aid to nuclear power Pakistan. Final Fact, NATO soldiers killed by Taliban. If the truth is censored, your left with lies.

  • rate this

    Comment number 164.

    So what the heck are we still doing in there, risking our soldiers being murdered by disguised Taliban or being blown up by Taliban-placed IEDs or shot to pieces by Taliban 'insurgents'? Obviously the Afghanis want Sharia Law and uneducated woment. What on earth is the Government thinking? Bring our soldiers back NOW - save them and the money, start re-building our economy with the money saved.

  • Comment number 163.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

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    Comment number 162.

    153 saj : I have a problem with the constant blaming of all problems in the middle east on the West and/or their influence
    What does that have to do with the teachings of imams that keeps people using hate to kill their fellow human beings
    That is what I think is crazy and makes the charge silly
    Peaceful Muslims must speak out against the extreme teachings of imams that encourage killing innocents

  • rate this

    Comment number 161.

    @153. I also agree that the numbers are terrible but what you're saying is not the whole picture. Don't get me wrong I can sympathise but you also have Sunni/Shia violence, repercussions from the war in Waziristan and violence from other disputed border regions and other terrorists vying for power in Pakistan. You have armed many of these groups.

  • rate this

    Comment number 160.

    Desiderius Erasmus
    ISI trained Taliban for who ? For America? a war against soviet union?
    I have a copy of The Independent news paper which was published after the cold war. the main heading of the page was “ANTI-SOVIET WARRIOR PUTS HIS ARMY ON THE ROAD TO PEACE”. you can google it. I hate Taliban and extremists but i do not think it is fair to slate Pakistan for all this.

  • rate this

    Comment number 159.

    Over 200,000 Pakistani troops were deployed at the frontline and 90,000 soldiers are fighting against militants on the Afghan border.
    And yet Pakistan is getting slated for everything ?//

    Probably because Pakistan's govt's record just looks so dodgy, and a large part of Pakistani society actually seems to accept people being killed for 'blasphemy'. Makes you doubt their values.

  • Comment number 158.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 157.

    150 SeeDubya : 142 saj had posted numbers of suicide bombings and people killed in Pakistan, there must be a high percentage of terrorists in Pakistan to create statistics like saj quoted
    Luxembourg does not suffer from suicide bombings so it strikes me a obvious that there must be a high percentage of terrorists in Pakistan to produce statistics like those in post #142
    Elementary my dear Watson!

  • rate this

    Comment number 156.

    150. SeeDubya

    You should go there, Its a eye opening if not scary proposition.. I would not want to go back.. The Religious Police watch for even the slightest transgression

  • rate this

    Comment number 155.

    Releasing former Taliban leaders may be an attempt to create a rift and divide Talibans otherwise I don't see any sanity releasing the prophets of dark ages.

  • Comment number 154.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

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    Comment number 153.

    Looney Limey.
    i do agree with you that numbers are terrible but it is reality. people in Pakistan are suffering the same whether you believe me or not. 3 millions refugees emigrated from Afghanistan to Pakistan.And they do believe that war could have not happened if Pakistan was not a western ally. Talibans are doing all suicidal attacks in Pakistan.

  • rate this

    Comment number 152.

    The UN an all bodies of government are nothing more than men an women that we allow them to be our voice in the world.
    The one thing I learned early on from my dealings with other cultures an people. Is we are not so different.Although governments disagree.Basic humanity finds common ground and agree. So rational thought says get rid of government an those who claim to be the peoples voice.

  • rate this

    Comment number 151.

    @ 145.saj 'damage to the Pakistani economy is est $68 billion. Over 200,000 Pakistani troops were deployed at the front line and 90,000 soldiers are fighting against militants on the Afghan border.'

    ISI trains the Islamists in Afghanistan. Most Pakistan Troops are on Indian border, not Afghan. Bin Laden lived in compound next to military academy ... nuff said.

  • rate this

    Comment number 150.

    148. Looney Limey
    So Pakistan seems doomed because a high percentage of the population are extreme religious terrorists

    Have you any proof of that outlandish statement? I hate muslim terrorists as much as anyone else but to suggest that all muslims and hence most Pakistanis are terrorists is a ridiculous allegation.

  • rate this

    Comment number 149.

    God bless the USA

  • rate this

    Comment number 148.

    142 saj : Your numbers are terrible & a reflection of how deeply divided the people are
    Any group who believe that killing their fellow human beings is acceptable are basically Terrorists
    So Pakistan seems doomed because a high percentage of the population are extreme religious terrorists
    Pretty frightening when you consider that they have nuclear weapons
    & the Army are arming the Taliban?

  • rate this

    Comment number 147.

    wonderful they can sit down and talk hart warming


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