Pakistan today said it was releasing senior Taliban commander Mansoor Dadullah and six other detainees to help facilitate the Afghan reconciliation process.
The release comes nearly two weeks after Afghan President Hamid Karzai visited Pakistan to seek help from the new government there to bring the Taliban to the negotiating table. Afghanistan has said releasing Taliban held in Pakistan would help the process.
“The release of Taliban detainees may facilitate the holding of dialogue, but nothing beyond,” Hasan-Askari Rizvi, a Lahore-based political analyst, said in a phone interview today. “Pakistan doesn’t really have influence over these people to get into a political arrangement with Kabul.”
Other Taliban being released include Said Wali, Abdul Manan, Karim Agha, Sher Afzal, Gul Muhammad and Muhammad Zai, according to a statement from Pakistan’s Foreign Office.
Karzai, who is barred constitutionally from standing for a third term in elections due in April, has said Pakistan is crucial to bringing into talks the Taliban and other militant groups, which still control large areas of southern and eastern Afghanistan.
Karzai’s visit took place at a low point in relations between the two neighbors. Karzai and the U.S. allege the Afghan Taliban’s leadership is hiding in and around the southwestern Pakistani city of Quetta, about 40 miles (65 kilometers from the border with Afghanistan.
Pakistani leaders have let Taliban-affiliated militant groups like the Haqqani Network operate from Northern Waziristan “due to their concerns that Pakistan will be left alone to confront an unstable, an unfriendly or an Indian-influenced Afghanistan on its borders” once U.S. troops leave, according to a U.S. Defense Department report last year.
Dadullah was captured in February 2008 after a shootout in the Qilla Saifullah district of Baluchistan. He was wanted for his role in attacks on U.S. and North Atlantic Treaty Organization soldiers in Afghanistan.
Pakistan released 26 members of the Afghan Taliban in November and January, including former regional governors and ministers. Former deputy leader and top military commander Abdul Ghani Baradar, detained in 2010 in Karachi, was not among those released.
Editors: Jim McDonald