‘Taliban prisoners freed by Pak rejoin colleagues to fight NATO troops’

Islamabad, Feb 11: The Taliban prisoners released by Pakistan in an effort to promote peace in Afghanistan have rejoined their colleagues fighting US-led NATO and Afghan troops, according to a leading American newspaper.

The Washington Post said the Pakistani move is “now prompting questions about whether the gesture has yielded anything but potential new dangers” for Western troops and the coalition-backed government of Afghan President Hamid Karzai, reports The Nation.

The newspaper underscored Pakistan’s ‘vital role’ in nudging the Taliban to the table as the United States winds down its involvement in the 11-year war in Afghanistan.

The report said that the whereabouts and even the number of ex-prisoners have remained murky since their release in two batches in mid-November and late December by Pakistan’s powerful spy agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence, as part of a roadmap drawn up by the Afghan High Peace Council to build the militants’ confidence.

A Pakistani security official, according to the report, confirmed that 18 men were freed and described them as junior to mid-level members of the Islamic movement, including field commanders and foot soldiers.

The report said that the original deal, presented in Islamabad by peace council head Salahuddin Rabbani and backed by Washington, envisioned the prisoners being handed over to Afghanistan or a third country. Instead, most of the released Taliban members rejoined their families in Pakistan, in cities including Quetta, Peshawar and Karachi, to recover from years in detention, it added.

Meanwhile, the Taliban continue to assert that they will never negotiate with Karzai, whom it considers an illegitimate leader and US puppet. This week, Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid scoffed at talks in London held by Karzai, Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari and British Prime Minister David Cameron aimed at bringing the Taliban to the table. (ANI)