Pakistan has invited Taliban and Chinese leaders for talks in Islamabad to smooth the way for intra-Afghan negotiations, Bloomberg reported.
Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said talks with a delegation of Taliban leaders would be held on Tuesday, to be followed by a visit by Chinese special envoy for Afghanistan, Liu Jian, to ensure a “coordinated and considered approach” toward peace, the report said.
The dates for Liu’s visit have yet to be announced, it said.
“We can’t impose our decisions,” Qureshi told a news conference in Islamabad on Monday as quoted by Bloomberg. “We acknowledge and respect Afghanistan’s sovereignty and we are trying to make progress in these engagements.” Qureshi didn’t give further details of the Taliban’s stay in Pakistan.
A six-member delegation of the Taliban’s political office in Qatar led by deputy leader Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar has travelled to Pakistan to hold consult with Pakistani officials on Afghan peace, a spokesman of the group, Suhail Shaheen said.
Other members of the delegation are Khairullah Khairkhwah, Mohammad Nabi Omari, Shahabuddin Delawar, Abdul Latif Mansour and Qari din Mohammad.
Taliban spokesman Shaheen said the peace process, the Afghan refugee issue n Pakistan, as well as creating facilities for trade relations between the two countries, will be the topics of the delegation’s meeting with Pakistani officials.
The Associated Press reported on Monday that the Taliban chief has finalized a negotiating team that is to have decision-making powers in upcoming intra-Afghan negotiations, a top Taliban negotiator told The Associated Press.
Mullah Haibatullah Akhunzada hand-picked the 20-member team, 13 of whom comprise about half of the Taliban’s leadership council, lead Taliban negotiator Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanikzai said as quoted by AP.
Two days ago, sources within the government said the obstacles preventing the release of Taliban prisoners–and the start of the intra-Afghan negotiations–are expected to be cleared in the near future.
The main hurdle in the way of the release of the 320 detainees in govt custody is the decision over six of these inmates whose release has been questioned by foreign allies.
On the other side, the Afghan government is demanding the release of 22 commando forces by the Taliban, said the source.
Sources close to the Taliban have shared the list of the six controversial prisoners held by the government, whose release France and Australia have opposed.
The Taliban has said they will not start talks unless all their remaining prisoners are released.
The government this month convened a Loya Jirga–a grand council–to release the 400 high-value Taliban prisoners. The Jirga approved their release and the president signed a decree on their release, but, so far, only 80 of them have been released by the government.
According to government data, out of the 400 prisoners in question, 156 of them have been sentenced to death, 105 of them are accused of murder, 34 of them are accused of kidnapping that led to murder, 51 of them are accused of drug smuggling, 44 of them are on the blacklist of the Afghan government and its allies, six of them are accused of assorted other crimes, four are accused of unspecified crimes.
The list of 5,000 prisoners was given to the Afghan government by the Taliban to be released ahead of the intra-Afghan negotiations, which are now expected to be held in Doha.