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    Agha opposes Pak role in peace talks

     KABUL (PAN): Pardoned by President Karzai in 2009, former Taliban leader Syed Akbar Agha has opposed Pakistan’s role in Afghan peace talks because the Taliban were blamed for having Islamabad's patronage.

    Sentenced to 16 years in jail for kidnapping three UN workers, Agha, who led a Taliban group during their regime until late 2001, currently lives in a mansion in an upscale neighbourhood of Kabul.

    In an interview with a Pakistani TV channel, Express News, he made it clear the rebels would agree to negotiate with the US only when Taliban prisoners were freed from the Guantanamo Bay detention centre and guarantees offered that criminal cases against them would be dropped.

    Accusing Pakistan of deceiving the Taliban, he asked Islamabad to release all Taliban prisoners unconditionally and make sincere efforts to solve their problems.

    Pakistan lately released several mid-ranking Taliban inmates from its jails at the request of the Afghan High Peace Council.

     However, Agha claimed as an Islamic state, it was Pakistan’s obligation to free them and that it was un-Islamic for Islamabad to arrest those 'waging a jihad and hand them over to the United States for money.'

    Agha indirectly supported the insurgency being waged by Pakistani Taliban, saying they only retaliated against their government in support of their Afghan namesakes. The Afghan Taliban would always support them, he said, but condemned attacks targeting innocent civilians in Pakistan.

    Born in Kandahar, Agha, a cousin of Mullah Muhammad Syed Tayyab Agha, former chief of staff of elusive Taliban supreme leader Mullah Omar, currently represents the Taliban as their chief peace negotiator.

    In 2004, he formed a breakaway Taliban faction of Jaishul Muslimeen which carried out frequent attacks on NATO supply trucks.

    Agha believed the US military wanted talks with their boots on the Taliban’s neck. Peace negotiations could begin only when all international troops were pulled out and confidence built between the two sides.

    Imposition of Taliban’s version of Islamic Shariah was 'non-negotiable”, he insisted, rejecting official claims the Taliban representatives were willing to hold talks with the Karzai administration

    Taliban negotiators recently met Afghan interlocutors in Doha as part of the reconciliation process sanctioned by Karzai.

    Government spokesperson Aimal Faizi has said Taliban representatives had travelled to Paris last December on Afghan passports to take part in a conference organised by a French think-tank.

    But Agha said their envoys had travelled using the same passports they used before the overthrow of their regime. He added the Taliban were reluctant to use Pakistani passports because it would reinforce the impression in Afghanistan that the militia was under Islamabad’s tutelage.

    Agha echoed an often-repeated statement from Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid that they would only talk to the United States.

    “We have never invited Pakistan or Afghanistan to talks. Afghan Taliban are a reality and we do not feel the need for sitting across the table with Pakistan.

    “We will hold peace talks with the US. The Afghan people or government can be taken on board at a later stage,” he concluded.

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