Pakistan agrees Taliban releases by chathuragw1986

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									Meeting between the Pakistani government and the Afghan High Peace
Council in Islamabad on 12 November Afghanistan's High Peace Council is
in Islamabad for talks with the Pakistani government over Taliban
releases Pakistan has agreed to free several jailed Afghan Taliban
officials during talks in Islamabad with Afghan peace negotiators,
officials say.

Afghan sources told the BBC the former Taliban justice minister Mullah
Turabi and two intelligence officials are among the group to be freed.

One Afghan official described the move as a positive gesture towards
peace.

Pakistan says it backs Afghan peace efforts and releasing the prisoners
is a tangible step to prove it.

The BBC's Orla Guerin in Islamabad says that, crucially, it appears that
the Taliban number two, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar is not among those
being released - at least for now.

Afghan officials describe him as someone who may still command enough
respect to persuade the Taliban to pursue peace after more than 10 years
of fighting US-led Nato and Afghan forces.
'Positive gesture'

Analysts say the releases are significant and the hope now is that when
the Taliban officials return home, they can influence others to enter
talks.

Afghan officials have long lobbied for the release of Taliban prisoners
by Pakistan in the hope that direct contacts with top insurgent
commanders could boost peace talks.

"We aren't too certain whether they can play an important role in peace
negotiations but it is a positive gesture from Pakistan in helping peace
efforts," an Afghan official told the Reuters news agency.
Haqqani network militant (file photo) Pakistan has been accused of
backing insurgent groups in Afghanistan

Officials say that it is not clear when the releases will occur and the
details are still being worked out.

A political settlement between the Afghan government and the Taliban is
widely seen by analysts as the most effective way of delivering stability
to Afghanistan before most Nato troops withdraw at the end of 2014.

In March, the Taliban suspended preliminary peace negotiations with the
US, saying that Washington's efforts to involve the Afghan authorities
were a key stumbling block.

Correspondents say that Wednesday's announcement is a major achievement
for Afghanistan's High Peace Council, which is in Islamabad to campaign
for Taliban releases and has been struggling to reduce mistrust between
the Taliban and the government in Kabul.
The 70-member peace council was set up more than two years ago by Afghan
President Hamid Karzai to open negotiations with insurgents.

It was given the task of reaching out to hundreds of Taliban field
commanders, but it has consistently failed to woo any senior figures away
from the insurgency.

In May, Arsala Rahmani, a key member of the council, was shot dead in
Kabul in an attack blamed on the Taliban. Officials said it was a major
blow to President Karzai.

In September 2011, the chief of the council, Burhannudin Rabbani, was
killed by a suicide bomber posing as a Taliban peace envoy.

Both Afghan and American officials have often accused Pakistan of backing
insurgent groups - including the Haqqani network - as its proxies in
Afghanistan to counter the influence of its rival India.

But Pakistan has rejected those claims.

Earlier this month, however, the UN Security Council's Taliban sanctions
committee added the Haqqani network to its blacklist.

								
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