Mansoor Dadullah, Said Wali, Abdul Manan, Karim Agha, Sher Afzal, Gul Muhammad and Muhammad Zai are released
KABUL - In an effort to help get the Afghan peace process back on track, and improve strained relations with Afghanistan, the Pakistani government freed a group of seven Taliban detainees on Saturday in accordance to requests made by President Hamid Karzai last month during his trip to Islamabad.
"In order to further facilitate the Afghan reconciliation process, Pakistan is releasing seven Taliban detainees; namely Mansoor Dadullah, Said Wali, Abdul Manan, Karim Agha, Sher Afzal, Gul Muhammad and Muhammad Zai," said a statement released by Pakistan's Foreign Ministry. "These releases are in addition to twenty-six Taliban detainees released during the last year."
The releasing of the militants is expected to serve as a good-will measure to impel the Taliban to come to the negotiating table open to compromise. Moreover, with recent speculation regarding divisions existing within the Taliban itself – some hardliners refusing to negotiate while other more moderate members pushing for talks – the release of certain top leaders would hopefully encourage better coordination and consensus-building.
An official from the Afghan Ministry of Foreign Affairs offered the following comment in response to the news of the release: "The Afghan government welcomes the release of these Taliban prisoners, which is a positive but small step by the Pakistani government in support of our peace efforts in Afghanistan. We expect additional and more significant steps by Pakistan in the future, steps that Pakistani leaders can easily take if they so decide, including the release of Mullah Beradar and other senior Taliban leaders currently in Pakistani jails."
When President Karzai made the request for the releases last month in Islamabad, he and his officials pushed for the release of Baradar, who is considered the Taliban's second most senior leader. However, while the Pakistani government announced the recent releases as a sign of their commitment to helping Kabul in the peace process, they were unwilling to oblige the freeing of Baradar. According to reports, negotiations over his release are ongoing though unlikely as the U.S. has major concerns about the potential threat he may pose to its troops stationed in Afghanistan if he is turned-loose.
Mansoor Dadullah, who was reportedly released by the Pakistanis this week, is a key Taliban leader and brother of Mulla Dadullah Akhud, a former Taliban senior commander, who was killed by American and British troops in southern Afghanistan in 2007. Dadullah was arrested in Baluchistan by the Pakistani military forces in 2008.
Last month, President Karzai concluded a two-day visit to Pakistan where he attempted to bring Islamabad on board for peace talks with the Taliban and ease tensions ahead of Afghanistan's national elections early next year. With the reported release of the prisoners, it would seem at least that some agreement was reached on that trip. Whether or not the releases will have a positive impact on the peace process, however, is another issue entirely. (Tolo News)