Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif will visit Kabul on Saturday after he accepted an invitation by Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai.

Foreign office spokesperson Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry on Thursday said the agenda of the visit would cover a broad spectrum of bilateral relations, peace and reconciliation process and regional cooperation. Pakistan attaches high importance to its relations with Afghanistan, he added.

Pakistan is hoping to play a facilitating role in the peace process in Afghanistan which has elections next year, along with a drawdown of coalition forces. It has released several Afghan Taliban prisoners so that they can mediate in the talks with the militants.

On Tuesday too it released three more Taliban prisoners 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 the 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 Mr 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, the government said Mullah Baradar is a free man and can go where he likes. Pakistan was providing security to Baradar after his release the government did not want any harm to come to him.

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.