Pakistan frees eight Taliban prisoners

Pakistan has released eight Afghan Taliban prisoners, including senior former administration chiefs, in a bid to aid its wartorn neighbour's peace efforts, officials said Tuesday.

Former justice minister Nooruddin Turabi and ex-governor of Helmand province were among those freed, a government official said Monday, putting the number released at four.

Pakistan's foreign ministry later issued a statement to say eight detainees, including Turabi and Bari, had been set free.

"A total of eight Afghan prisoners were released on Monday," a senior Pakistani official confirmed to AFP on Tuesday.

Foreign ministry spokesman Moazzam Ahmad Khan said the move was part of efforts "to further facilitate the Afghan reconciliation process".

"Pakistan has today released eight Taliban detainees including Abdul Bari, ex-Governor Helmand; Nur-ud-Din Turabi, ex-Justice Minister; Allah Daad Tabib, ex-Minister; Mullah Daud Jan, ex-Governor Kabul; Mir Ahmed Gul, ex-Governor," he said in a statement late Monday.

"Last month (November) too, Pakistan released eighteen Taliban prisoners on request of the Afghan High Peace Council," Khan added.

Islamabad has agreed to release prisoners to help bring an end to an 11-year conflict between the Taliban and the the Afghan government.

Afghan officials have said senior Taliban leaders held captive in Pakistan could help bring militants to the negotiating table and help end the war, as US-led NATO troops prepare to withdraw from Afghanistan in 2014.

Support from Pakistan, which backed the 1996-2001 Taliban regime in Kabul, is seen as crucial to peace in Afghanistan after NATO's departure.

The Taliban, who have been fighting an insurgency since the 2001 US-led invasion, refuse to negotiate directly with Kabul, calling the government of President Hamid Karzai a US puppet.

Preliminary communications between the US and the Taliban in Doha were broken off in March when the militants failed to secure the release of five of their comrades held at the Guantanamo Bay prison on the US base in Cuba.

 

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