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    Zabul peace negotiators defect to insurgensts

    QALAT (PAN): Two members of the High Peace Council have joined Taliban’s ranks in the southern province of Zabul, an official claimed on Sunday.

    Mullah Mohammad Yousaf and Mullah Zeba resigned their membership of the provincial peace council due to threats from the insurgents.

    A council member, who did not want to be named, told Pajhwok Afghan News the militants had asked 25 religious scholars to cut all their links to the government.

    He revealed that the pro-government ulema -- including Yousaf and Zeba -- had been warned three weeks back to leave Qalat, the provincial capital.

    After the warning, Yousaf shifted to the Daraz of Shahr-i-Safa district and Zeba to the Bakarzai neighbourhood. Both localities are under Taliban’s control.

    Later, the source confided, the duo moved to Quetta -- the capital of Pakistan’s southwestern Balochistan province, where several Taliban leaders are allegedly hiding.

    Resident Wahidullah said a number of clerics and schoolteachers were leaving Qalat as a result of the threat from a local Taliban commander, named Mullah Najmuddin.

    But Mohammad Hashim Grani, the peace council acting head, would not confirm the resignations. Neither Yousaf nor Zeba had formally told him about their decision, he said.

    Grani had a conversation with Yousaf over the telephone last night, when the latter said he could not come to the office due to some family problems.

    Sharif Nasiri, speaking on behalf of the governor, rejected the claim that the peace negotiators had defected to the Taliban. He said the militants had generally warned teachers and government workers, not scholars exclusively.