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Pakistan to set more Afghan militants free

ISLAMABAD — Pakistan plans to release more Afghan militant detainees in an attempt to boost the peace process in neighboring Afghanistan before the departure of international troops next year, a top Pakistani official said.

Foreign Secretary Jalil Abbas Jilani said Pakistan has initiated the process of releasing those Afghan detainees in its custody who they think will help facilitate the reconciliation process. His comments were made during a press conference Friday in Abu Dhabi and relayed by the Foreign Ministry on Saturday. He did not give a timetable.

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In general, Kabul has pressed hard for Islamabad to release its detainees, with some officials saying that they hope the released Taliban can serve as intermediaries. But Washington is concerned about specific prisoners who they consider dangerous.

Jilani did not specifically mention whether Pakistan would release Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the former deputy leader of the Afghan Taliban whom Kabul has been pushing Pakistan to release.

Senior US and Afghan officials said the United States has informed the Pakistani authorities that it was reluctant to see Baradar go free and asked for prior notice so it can try to track his movements.

Pakistan has upward of 100 Afghan prisoners in its custody including Baradar, who was arrested by Pakistan in the southern city of Karachi in 2010.

The United States and Afghan officials said a similar US request for notification upon release has been made for another prisoner, Abdul Samad, according to the officials. Samad, who is from Kandahar, the former Taliban headquarters, is a bomb specialist.

Several senior Taliban have already been released by Pakistan. One was the Vice and Virtue Minister Mullah Nooruddin Turabi, who oversaw a legion of Taliban fighters who roamed the streets searching for people violating Taliban rules.

In November, Pakistan also released Anwar ul Haq Mujahed, a senior Taliban commander from eastern Nangarhar province whose release was sought by the Afghan High Peace Council although he had been implicated in several major attacks against coalition and Afghan forces.

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