Pakistan says it will free all Afghan Taliban detainees

Fri Jan 18, 2013 10:57am EST
 
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By Stanley Carvalho

ABU DHABI (Reuters) - Pakistan plans to release all Afghan Taliban prisoners still in its detention, including the group's former second-in-command, an official said on Friday, in the clearest signal yet that it backs reconciliation efforts.

Regional power Pakistan is seen as critical to the success of U.S. and Afghan efforts to bring stability to Afghanistan, a task gaining urgency as the end of the U.S. combat mission in 2014 draws closer.

Afghanistan has been pressing its neighbor, home to an allied Taliban movement of its own, to free Taliban members who could help promote its tentative reconciliation efforts.

"The remaining detainees, we are coordinating, and they will be released subsequently," Jalil Jilani, Pakistan's foreign secretary, the foreign ministry's top bureaucrat, told a news conference in Abu Dhabi.

Asked if the former Taliban deputy leader, Mullah Baradar, would be among those released, he said "The aim is to release all", but did not elaborate further.

Jilani was speaking after meeting the acting U.S. special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, David Pearce, and Afghan Deputy Foreign Minister Jawed Luddin at the Afghan embassy in Abu Dhabi.

Luddin told reporters the purpose of the meeting was to discuss "security and political dimensions of bilateral relationships" between the three countries.

The Taliban seized power in Afghanistan in 1996 and were toppled by U.S.-backed forces in 2001. Many Afghans fear they will make a renewed push to seize power once Western forces pull out.   Continued...