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Pakistan Releases More Taliban Members

Taliban In jail

In response to Afghan government’s demands for Islamabad cooperation with the Afghan peace efforts, Pakistan announced release of seven Taliban members from Pakistani jails on Saturday. The latest release of Taliban senior members from Pakistani jails is taking place after a recent Karzai’s visit to Islamabad, where he urged Pakistani leaders to help with the peace negotiations with the Afghan insurgent groups. In Islamabad, Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said that Pakistani would sincerely support the Afghan peace process. Pakistani officials say the seven members of the Taliban are released as part of Pakistan’s efforts to cooperate with the peace efforts in Afghanistan. A Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry statement said that “In order to further facilitate the Afghan reconciliation process, Pakistan is releasing seven Taliban detainees; namely Mansoor Dadullah, Said Wali, Abdul Manan, Karim Agha, Sher Afzal, Gul Muhammad and Muhammad Zai”.

Among those Taliban members who are released by Pakistan, only Mansoor Dadullah is considered a top figure of the Taliban. As a brother to Mullah Dadullah, he has served as a top military commander of the group in the most in the most insurgency-hit provinces of the south before 2008. This release adds to the previous release of 26 Taliban members who were freed last year by requests from the Afghan government. The latest release takes place as those Taliban members who were freed previously have ended up in the battlefield against Afghan and foreign forces or remained unaccounted for. Most likely, the new released Taliban members also may join the Taliban fighters, resuming fighting against the Afghan government.

In the past, Afghanistan welcomed Pakistan’s release of Taliban members, who are believed to have influence on Taliban leadership and play a role in the peace process, however, this time it seems that the release of seven Taliban members would not be welcomed by Kabul, since those released are not senior members of the Taliban, and this cannot be helpful in peace negotiations between the Taliban and the government of Afghanistan. The Afghan government believes that some senior detained members of the Taliban by Pakistan assumes high level of influence on the Taliban leadership, and if released, the can forge a negotiation link between the government of Afghanistan and the Taliban leadership.

Therefore, one of the main demands of Afghanistan from Islamabad is to release senior leaders of the Taliban, including the once second-in-command figure Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, from Pakistani detention, and do so in contact with the government of Afghanistan. But the Afghan High Peace Council says Pakistan so far has acted alone in releasing the Taliban and has not responded to Afghanistan’s demand to release the members of the Taliban in contact with the Afghan government. Though, the latest move by Pakistani in releasing seven Taliban members would be considered as a good-will gesture by Afghanistan, but it is not something that satisfies the Afghan High Peace Council. The release might be seen as a cautious move by Islamabad to gradually start cooperating with the Afghan peace process; however, it might also be seen as Pakistan’s unwillingness to have a genuine support to the peace efforts in Afghanistan.

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