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Nov 15, 2012 at 04:20am IST

Pakistan releases Afghan Taliban prisoners for peace process

Islamabad: Pakistani authorities on Wednesday freed eight to 10 Afghan Taliban prisoners at the request of peace negotiators to help boost the troubled peace and reconciliation process in war-torn Afghanistan, official sources said.

The prisoners, all junior cadres of the Taliban, were freed in response to a request from Afghan High Peace Council chief Salahuddin Rabbani, who arrived in Islamabad with a delegation on Monday for talks with Pakistan’s top civil and military leadership.

The exact number of prisoners freed could not be ascertained. Some sources said eight prisoners had been released while others put the figure at 10. Sources said the release was intended to signal Pakistan's desire to play a positive role in the reconciliation process that has made little headway since it began almost four years ago.

Pak frees Afghan Taliban prisoners for peace process

The prisoners were freed in response to a request from Afghan High Peace Council chief Salahuddin Rabbani.

A joint statement issued at the conclusion of Rabbani's visit merely said a number of Taliban detainees are being released in support of the reconciliation process. The two sides called on the Taliban and other armed groups to sever all links with Al Qaeda and other international terror networks.

The Afghan Taliban's former deputy leader, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, was not among the released prisoners. He was captured by Pakistani security forces in Karachi in 2010. Several reports have suggested that Baradar was arrested as he had initiated peace talks without informing Pakistan’s powerful military and intelligence set-up. The Afghan government has repeatedly asked Pakistan to release Baradar because he is seen as crucial to the reconciliation process.

The joint statement said Pakistan and Afghanistan would work closely with international partners to remove the names of potential negotiators amongst the Taliban and other groups from the UN sanctions list to enable them to participate in talks.