Pakistan quietly released three more Taliban prisoners on Tuesday as part of its attempt to facilitate the peace process in Afghanistan.
Though there was no statement on this, a government official confirmed the release of the three persons — Mullah Abdul Ahad Jahangirwal, who is reported to be an adviser to Taliban leader Mullah Omar, Mullah Abdul Manan, a leader from Helmand and Mullah Younus.
The peace talks seem to be mired in controversy with the Taliban claiming there was no headway. Recently, a five-member delegation of Afghanistan’s High Peace Council (HPC), led by Chairperson Salahuddin Rabbani, visited Pakistan from November 19-21 in a visit that was not much publicised.
Last month in London, Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai had met Prime Minister Muhammed Nawaz Sharif at a trilateral summit with the U.K. and announced the Council’s visit mainly to meet the released Taliban commander Mullah Baradar. The Council extended its stay by a day reportedly to meet Baradar who was set free in September. No official confirmed if the meeting took place, though the Council’s express reason for the visit was to meet Baradar. However, The Express Tribune confirmed that the meeting did take place, quoting Afghan sources.
Pakistan has faced criticism from Afghanistan that Baradar was being kept in prison and not allowed to interact with anyone. In response, Tariq Fatemi, special assistant to the Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs, had said Mullah Baradar is a free man and can go where he likes. He also said Pakistan was providing security to Baradar after his release but it was not going to escort him anywhere. He said the government did not want any harm to come to Baradar.
Baradar, a close associate of Mullah Omar, was freed to help peace negotiations with the Taliban in Afghanistan but there appears to be no headway on the talks after his release. The Afghan High Peace Council is mandated to carry out talks with the Taliban and Baradar was expected to play a key role. There are, however, different views on whether Baradar is still as powerful as he was before his arrest in 2010 and whether he can make a significant contribution to the peace process.
The Taliban has been quoted in news reports as saying that Baradar has not been freed.
During his meeting with Mr. Rabbani, Prime Minister Muhammed Nawaz Sharif reiterated the importance that Pakistan attaches to a peaceful and stable Afghanistan. Mr. Sharif is expected to visit Kabul soon at the invitation of Mr. Karzai.