Report: Pakistani gesture to Afghanistan

Nov. 14, 2012 at 1:08 AM
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ISLAMABAD, Pakistan, Nov. 14 (UPI) -- Pakistan, in a show of support to Afghanistan's reconciliation effort, agreed to free Taliban detainees, Dawn newspaper reported Wednesday, quoting sources.

The decision, which is yet to be announced, came during the visit to Islamabad of Salahuddin Rabbani, chief of the Afghan High Peace Council, the report said.

The Pakistan visit of Salahuddin, who succeeded as the council head following the assassination of his father Burhanuddin Rabbani in Kabul in September of last year, is designed to revive the peace process. Kabul feels the process cannot move forward unless Pakistan convinces the Taliban to have direct talks with the Afghan government and reportedly had been seeking the release of the Taliban detainees to get it moving.

Dawn said it was not clear if the Taliban detainees, numbering about 10, already had been freed or whether their release would come at the end of Rabbani's visit.

The report quoted a source as saying those to be freed would not include the No. 2 Taliban leader Mullah Baradar, who was captured by Pakistani security forces in Karachi in 2010.

The Rabbani delegation and Pakistan were to issue a joint statement on their talks Wednesday, with one Pakistani official briefed about the talks telling Dawn "significant progress has already been made."

Dawn quoted another source as saying the freeing of the Taliban detainees would offer the right environment for the reconciliation effort. Pakistan, while supporting peace and stability in Afghanistan, had until now been seeking clarity on the reconciliation.

Dawn said the Pakistani government appears to have made a change in its thinking in this regard as the 2014 deadline for ending U.S. and NATO combat operations in Afghanistan draws closer. The report said Pakistani strategists also feel a successful conclusion to the reconciliation effort would also be in Pakistan's interest.

Maleeha Lodhi, Pakistan's former ambassador to the United States, recently told the Pakistani Senate committee on defense that without a political settlement in Afghanistan, there could be "disastrous consequences for the region, especially for Pakistan, which is already reeling from over three decades of turmoil and conflict in its western neighbor," Dawn reported.

Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari, who met the Rabbani delegation, had stressed Pakistan would continue to extend all possible support to Afghanistan's peace and development efforts.

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