Pak releases four more Taliban prisoners
Islamabad: Pakistan Monday freed four Afghan Taliban prisoners, including former ministers Mullah Nooruddin Turabi and Maulvi Allah Dad, as part of its efforts to give impetus to a slow-moving reconciliation process in Afghanistan.
Diplomatic sources confirmed the release, saying the move was part of an ongoing process that began before a visit to Islamabad by Afghan High Peace Council chief Salahuddin Rabbani in mid-November.
"The prisoners released today include former justice minister Nooruddin Turabi, former communications minister Maulvi Allah Dad, former Helmand province governor Abdul Bari and Mohammad Azim, a former security guard of Mullah Omar," a source said.
The Afghan Taliban too confirmed the release of the four prisoner.
With the release of the four men today, the total number of Afghan Taliban prisoners freed by Pakistan has gone up to 21.
Four prisoners were freed before Rabbani's visit to Islamabad, nine were released during the visit and four more were released last week, sources said.
Pakistan has been positioning itself for a greater role in the Afghan peace and reconciliation process ahead of the withdrawal of US and allied forces from Afghanistan in 2014.
The release of prisoners has been a key demand of the Afghan High Peace Council, which feels they could play an important role in pushing forward the reconciliation process.
However, Pakistan has yet to decide on the release of the most high-profile Taliban detainee, former deputy leader Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, despite persistent calls for him to be freed.
Baradar was captured in Karachi in February 2010. Recent reports have said Turabi was ailing.
He was appointed as a military commander in Afghanistan in mid-2009 and was a deputy to Mullah Omar, the supreme commander of the Afghan Taliban.
The US and its allies have indicated that Pakistan could play a key role in the reconciliation process.
The Taliban have so far refused to directly negotiate with the government of President Hamid Karzai.