`Taliban prisoners` release on halt due to distrust`

Pakistan had put on hold the release of Afghan Taliban prisoners to boost the troubled peace process in Afghanistan.

Updated: Mar 07, 2013, 12:51 PM IST

Islamabad: Pakistan had put on hold the release of Afghan Taliban prisoners to boost the troubled peace process in Afghanistan due to "renewed distrust" between Islamabad and Kabul, according to a media report on Thursday.

Difference over the efficacy of the release of the Taliban prisoners was the "major factor in the momentary suspension of the process", unnamed officials familiar with the developments were quoted as saying by the Dawn newspaper.

The release of the Afghan Taliban prisoners by Pakistan was once seen as a "critical move to bolster peace process", the report said.

Pakistan has so far released 26 middle-ranking Afghan Taliban leaders but Afghan authorities have said that many of them have returned to the Taliban ranks.

"They (Afghans) contend that the release was causing more damage than benefit because of the absence of a monitoring mechanism," an unnamed Pakistani diplomat told Dawn.

An Afghan official in Kabul was sceptical about the effectiveness of the release of Taliban detainees, a process that was started last year at the request of the Afghan High Peace Council.

"The biggest indicator before us is that there has been no major progress towards reconciliation and violence continues unabated," the Afghan official said.

Pakistani officials, however, dismissed this as "Afghan propaganda".

The two sides have agreed to chalk out a new mechanism for the release of prisoners that gives the Afghans a say in who will be released.

Under the new mechanism, Pakistan will send lists of Taliban prisoners that it intends to release to the Afghan High Peace Council, which will approve or disapprove the names.

Afghan Ambassador to Pakistan Umer Daudzai said the new mechanism had not been activated as yet. He attributed this to "problems in scheduling of meetings" of officials.

A source told the daily the delay in operationalising the procedure for future releases was due to mistrust between the two sides.