ISLAMABAD - Pakistan on Monday released a group of eight Afghan Taliban prisoners, including former justice minister Mullah Nooruddin Turabi, while the Mullah Omar-led Afghan Taliban are also likely to set up their ‘political offices’ in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) as part of a process designed to kickstart peace efforts in war-ravaged Afghanistan.
“Eight Taliban prisoners have been released,” the Foreign Office said in a statement. “They include former Taliban justice minister Nooruddin Turabi, ex-governor of Helmand province, Abdul Bari, Allah Daad Tabib, ex-minister Mullah Daud Jan and former Kabul governor Mir Ahmed Gul.”
However, two sources close to the Afghan Taliban in northwestern Pakistan said that four prisoners had been released but said they did not include Pakistan’s most high-profile Taliban detainee, former deputy leader Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar. Baradar was captured in 2010 and Pakistani officials have said in the past that no decision has been taken for his release.
It may be recalled here that Pakistan Today was the first to report the release of the former Taliban justice minister Mullah Turabi.
TALIBAN OFFICES: Currently, Taliban representatives are operating from Doha, Qatar, where they held month-long negotiations with the United States, but the talks collapsed in March 2012 due to Washington’s reluctance to free key Taliban leaders from the Guantanamo Bay prison. The US is once again trying to restart dialogue process with the Taliban representatives such as Tayyab Agha in Doha and as many as five Taliban leaders from Gitmo could be handed over to Qatari authorities to pave the way for the resumption of talks.
The KSA and UAE have also been playing a vital role along with Pakistan to push forward the sluggish Afghanistan reconciliation process and help start peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban.
In past, Turkey also tried to have a Taliban office being set up on its soil so that it could play a major role in the restoration of peace and stability in the war-ravaged country but that objective of Turk authorities could not be obtained owing to the Taliban reluctance as Ankara was part of the US led NATO alliance in Afghanistan.
“The Taliban are likely to open their offices in Saudi Arabia and UAE now and that development would go a long way in giving a thrust to the slow Afghanistan reconciliation process,” said a diplomatic source, seeking anonymity.
He said that like Qatar, the KSA and the UAE were also of strong desire to help facilitate the Afghan peace process and the Taliban offices in these two important Islamic states would be a helpful step in this regard. Source also said that efforts were also being made for a round of peace talks between the Taliban representatives and the Afghan authorities in the KSA, but there had been no progress on that front. He said that one major reason of sluggish Afghan peace process was the Taliban’s unwillingness to engage in negotiations with the Karzai administration as they (Taliban) believed the Afghan government was not the real player, but it was the United States which had still the real power and authority to take important decisions. However, he said that important nations such as the KSA and UAE were trying for the start of negotiations between Kabul and Taliban believing that all Afghan groups, including the Karzai government, should be taken onboard in the peace process for durable peace in Afghanistan.