Afghan peace process: Pakistan agrees to free more Taliban prisoners

Published: December 1, 2012

Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar seals the deal with her Afghan counterpart Dr Zalmai Rassoul in Islamabad. PHOTO: AFP

ISLAMABAD: 

Pakistan has agreed to release another batch of Taliban prisoners in a bid to facilitate the nascent peace process in war-torn Afghanistan.

The announcement was made following talks between Afghan Foreign Minister Dr Zalmai Rassoul and his Pakistani counterpart Hina Rabbani Khar on Friday. Rassoul also met with Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf and Army chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani on Friday.

It was the second high-powered Afghan delegation to visit Islamabad this month to press for the release of Taliban inmates. Earlier this month, talks between Pakistani officials and the Afghan High Peace Council resulted in the release of nine mid-level Taliban cadres.

A joint statement issued after Friday’s talks did not specify the number of Taliban prisoners to be released. However, a senior security official said former Taliban No 2 Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar was not among them.

“This is a very delicate process and we need a step-by-step approach to deal with this issue,” the official told The Express Tribune.

Appearing at a news conference with his Pakistani counterpart, the Afghan foreign minister demanded the release of all Taliban prisoners who could help bring the militants to the negotiating table.

“We want all Afghan Taliban to return to their country, join the constitutional political process there and play their part in furthering the construction and development of our nation,” said Rassoul.

According to diplomatic sources, the Afghan side appreciated the earlier release of mid-ranking Taliban cadres, but wanted to see an early return of Mullah Baradar who, they believe, could invigorate the fledgling peace process.

Mullah Baradar was arrested from Karachi in 2010. At the time of his arrest, he was reportedly engaged in talks with US and Afghan government officials to broker a peace deal.

Foreign Minister Khar told reporters that the issue of Afghan prisoners was discussed “thoroughly [at the talks], and I’m quite sure that we would all agree that we are making forward movement.”

She disclosed that the two sides had agreed to revive a joint commission formed last year to address the issue of prisoners.

While Islamabad and Kabul attempted to resurrect the peace talks, they also agreed to hold a joint conference of religious scholars in Kabul in January next year. The proposed “Ulema Conference” would help evolve a consensus among different schools of thought against the Taliban ideology.

Hina Rabbani Khar

The conference would issue a fatwa (religious decree) declaring suicide attacks un-Islamic, a senior Pakistani official told The Express Tribune.

Zalmai Rassoul’s visit also marked the start of formal negotiations between the two neighbours to finalise a long-term strategic partnership agreement.

Khar said Pakistan shared a draft proposal on the strategic pact with the Afghan side. She hoped the two countries would conclude the deal at the earliest. “We hope that, as we start this journey today, this will contribute to stronger bilateral track between the two countries.”

The proposed strategic pact, one official pointed out, would lead to increased security and intelligence cooperation between the two neighbours.

The two sides also discussed the issue of cross-border incursions and shelling and agreed to have an institutionalised mechanism to address this issue.

While expressing satisfaction at the current volume of annual bilateral trade ($2.5 billion), the two countries agreed to take facilitative steps to achieve the target of $5 billion annual trade by 2015.

Recognising the need for jointly pursuing trade and transit agreements with Central Asian states, the statement said the two sides agreed that as a first step a trilateral transit and trade agreement will be negotiated with Tajikistan, to be extended to other countries as appropriate and mutually determined.

Both countries agreed to work together for phased, dignified and voluntary return of Afghan refugees and stressed the need for creating “pull factors” for this purpose.  Afghanistan thanked Pakistan for hosting the largest number of refugees in the world for more than three decades.

Published in The Express Tribune, December 1st, 2012.

Reader Comments (11)

  • umar
    Dec 1, 2012 - 4:08AM

    Why are we freeing up these barbarians. They should have been given summary trials and punished just the way they used to do to people who were living under their rule. For America it might be convenient to make peace with the Taliban but we will have to live with them. No doubt their flawed ideology will spread into Pakistan which will further aggravate the intolerance in our society. One outrageous solution is to build a Chinese wall on the Pak Afghan border with the help of the Chinese. Atleast it will keep these people away if not their ideas.

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  • Dec 1, 2012 - 4:49AM

    You have to take these hard decisions. We should give full credit to GOP.

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  • Ramem
    Dec 1, 2012 - 5:21AM

    Note all, these prisoners are not convicted criminals. They have been prisoned simply because they got caught being on the wrong place ant the wrong time. There are 100s of similar chargeless “suspected” Pakistani prisoners who have no relief because their government is holding them criminally themselves. Freeing some of these non convicted suspects is only fair and just. Justice is required to prevail before peace can be achieved.

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  • Its (still) Econonmy Stupid
    Dec 1, 2012 - 5:48AM

    This is the first time Pakistan has agreed to honor the request of “Do More”.
    Gee I wonder why?”
    it’s elementary my dear watson.

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  • Nadia
    Dec 1, 2012 - 8:39AM

    Another dumb decision by PPP my question is what is pak government do in 2014 when the US leaves AFG! What are they negotiate on with the afghans!!

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  • syed baqar ahsan
    Dec 1, 2012 - 9:01AM

    This progress is positive but weak because all real stake holders are not on board ie Iran,China,Russia, uzbik & Tajiks(all around).This is the serious flaw in their(AF-PAK)approach towards longer lasting peace.If these peace talks is on the wish of USA/UK/KSA/UAE/India then they are non state actors (spoilers) in this region of conflict.

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  • Basit
    Dec 1, 2012 - 10:07AM

    Liberal thought process is in disarray

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  • Dec 1, 2012 - 11:47AM

    Acoording a senior official,inregard to the peace process,conference would be held and declared suicide attacks unislamic.

    What is being done,it mean they are putting islamic values before the world for joking,in fact suicide attacks are basically unislamic.

    there is no concept of suicide attacks in islam,no permission to take life of innocent people,old men,women and children.

    The cleric attributed to Taliban convince teenagers by giving lecture on islam then send them to public places for commission of suicide crime

    It embarrassed me when see there are islamic clerics on both sides,one side justify such attacks and other side says it is totally unislamic and described such acts totally against the fundamental principle of islam.

    The fact is that islam does not allow of any kind of act that destroy innocent’s property or live but it is being done in view of the particular interests.

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  • Enlightened
    Dec 1, 2012 - 11:59AM

    Releasing of Taliban prisoners is a totally flawed strategy which just tantamount to be playing into the hands of Afghan Taleban who do not believe in international obligations but would flout sureties if given any to US and Afghanistan govts. One is reminded of Hillary Clinton’s famous quote ‘You cannot keep snakes in your backyard and expect them to only to bite your neighbours’. But in this case both countries are asking Pakistan to release these deadly snakes being fully aware that they are bound to bite both Afghanistan and Pakistan. However, this peace process is being persued under political compulsions and other criterias since US senate has passed resolution to end its military engagement before 2014, Karzai has no options but to accept and sign a peace agreement with Taliban before withdrawal of foreign forces from Afghanistan and for Pakistan its concept of strategic depth shall materialise. The end result of this peace process is a foregone conclusion of instability in the entire region to continue for an unlimited period.

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  • Its (still) the EconomyStupid
    Dec 1, 2012 - 11:21PM

    Rabbani had asked the Pakistanis to release four senior Taliban officials whom they had imprisoned, apparently for the crime of holding peace talks without Islamabad’s approval.
    http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2012/11/30/extrication_negotiations

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  • Dec 2, 2012 - 10:56AM

    Once again,
    drone attacke has begun,under a new strategy,
    it would effect peace process badly.

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