Pakistan released eight Taliban members from prison on Monday, including former Taliban justice minister Nooruddin Turabi, in order to facilitate peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban.
Pakistan is considered as an important party in bringing peace to war torn Afghanistan as foreign troops get ready to depart in 2014. Afghan officials have been pushing Islamabad to release more Taliban prisoners, which they hope would facilitate peace talk efforts.
Pakistani authorities said that an additional 18 Taliban prisoners were set free in November, at the request of a high profile Afghan peace delegation that visited Pakistan.
However, former Taliban deputy leader Abdul Ghani Baradar, whose release has been a long standing demand from the Afghan government, was not among those freed in this deal. Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s government believes that releasing of Baradar, who was arrested by Pakistani authorities in Karachi in 2010, would convince Taliban leaders to become party to the slow-progressing peace and reconciliation process.
Pakistan’s government seems to have an interest in supporting peace in Afghanistan, as the effects of a recommencement of the civil war there after foreign troops exit the country could be felt in Pakistan as well.
The former justice minister Mullah Turabi, was one of the key members of the Taliban rule before it was overthrown in 2001. In Kabul, he was known for monitoring people walking around his ministry building to make sure if were following the dress codes. Turabi hails from southern Afghanistan’s Uruzgan province, the same area as the Taliban spiritual leader Mullah Umar. The two are thought to be related.
The Pakistani move symbolizes progress in the peace process in Afghanistan, a step the majority of Afghans consider very difficult. The Taliban has so far declined to recognize the authority of President Karzai’s government.
According to reports, a recent meeting took place between Afghan officials and alleged Taliban members outside of Paris. But Karzai government officials have lately expressed reservations regarding the state of peace negotiations with the Taliban.
As foreign forces prepare to leave Afghanistan, Western officials are endorsing political means as the only solution to Afghanistan’s conflict. However, Afghan authorities recently accused the US of taking a lead role in talks with the Taliban, which they consider a violation of Afghanistan’s sovereignty.