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    Islamabad agrees to Kabul's say in Taliban releases

    ISLAMABAD (PAN): Pakistan would give Afghanistan High Peace Council (HPC) a formal role in the release of remaining Taliban detainees in its custody through a new coordination mechanism being set up before they were freed, an official said.

    The agreement came at the London talks between Pakistani president Asif Ali Zardari and his Afghan counterpart Hamid Karzai in Chequers earlier this week.

    “We would send lists of Taliban prisoners that we intend to release to the Afghan High Peace Council which would comment on the names in those lists,” Foreign Secretary Jalil Abbas Jilani told the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee on Friday.

    At the London summit, he said, it was agreed to institute “arrangements to strengthen coordination of Taliban detainee releases from Pakistani custody in support of the peace and reconciliation process.

    So far 26 Taliban have been released by Pakistan in at least two batches, including some high-profile commanders and political leadership of the Taliban regime. Islamabad had earlier decided in principle to release all Taliban who had been in detention in Pakistan.

    The number of Afghan Taliban detained in Pakistani jails is not clear, but they include several high-profile prisoners including Mullah Baradar, the former deputy chief of Taliban. His release has been a major demand of the Afghan government and the High Peace Council.

    Afghan government had lauded the releases, saying it would help advance reconciliation process. However, Afghan diplomats and political leaders had been complaining in private about not being properly informed about those released.

    The new arrangement is likely to further enhance confidence between Kabul and Islamabad.

    Jilani said Pakistan had started releasing Taliban prisoners on the request of Afghan President Hamid Karzai and High Peace Council, but denied any international pressure behind the decision.

    The first batch was released during the visit of a delegation of the council to Islamabad last November.

    Pakistan and Afghanistan are separately setting up a commission to look after the issue of ordinary prisoners being held in each other’s jails.

    ma



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