Conflicts & War

Afghan grand assembly approves release of 400 major Taliban prisoners

Kabul, Aug 9 (efe-epa).- Afghanistan’s grand assembly, or Loya Jirga, on Sunday, approved the release of 400 controversial Taliban prisoners, clearing a major hurdle in the intra-Afghan peace talks between the government and the Taliban.

“To remove the (remaining) obstacles that hinder the beginning of the intra-Afghan talks, the Loya Jirga approves the release of 400 Taliban prisoners,” the assembly said in a resolution.

President Ashraf Ghani promised he would soon “sign” the decree to release the Taliban prisoners.

Abdullah Abdullah, Ghani’s rival in the presidential election who was appointed as the head of the high council for national reconciliation in a power-sharing agreement in May, welcomed the decision.

“The decision of the jirga removed the last obstacle hindering the start of intra-Afghan talks,” said Abdullah, who was elected as the chairman of the jirga that began on Friday.

The resolution was passed after three days of consultations among more than 3,200 participants from various social and political groups across the country under tight security measures in Kabul. Some 30 percent of the participants were women.

If there are foreign nationals among these Taliban prisoners, the jirga suggested, “they should be handed over to their related countries” of origin after taking fair security guarantees.

The participants urged the Taliban to ensure that the prisoners “will not return” to the battlefield after they are set free.

As per the US-Taliban peace agreement, signed in February in Doha, the Afghan government was to release 5,000 Taliban prisoners in exchange for the rebels freeing 1,000 of its captives by Mar. 10 as a precursor to intra-Afghan talks.

However, it took the government almost five months to release 4,600 prisoners as per a Taliban list in a lengthy process beset with disagreements.

The government has withheld the release of the remaining 400 inmates as they are accused of serious crimes such as murder, kidnapping, and drug smuggling.

The jirga resolution also insisted on “an immediate and lasting ceasefire to be implemented in the country.”

It called on the US to fulfill its commitments toward Afghan people in this regard.

The resolution urged the international community to prevent the interference of those nations in Afghanistan affairs who are “supporting terrorist groups”.

The jirga also emphasized that Islamic values, the role of Islamic scholars, democracy, and achievements of the past two decades should be protected during the peace process” and the current democratic political system and rights of the minorities should not be violated. EFE


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