PESHAWAR: Eight employees of the Gomal Zam Dam project were released Saturday, almost a year after they were kidnapped by Pakistani Taliban militants in South Waziristan tribal region.
A spokesman for the Governor house in Peshawar confirmed all eight workers had been released.
The project workers – Sub-Divisional Officer Shahid Ali Khan, Sub-Engineer Sanaullah, four security personnel and two other staffers – were kidnapped on August 15, 2012 while they were travelling to Tank from the dam site in South Waziristan.
A month after their kidnapping, a faction of the banned Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) released a video of the abducted employees pleading to the government to fulfill the militants' demands and arrange for their safe release.
The release took place in South Waziristan region on Saturday after successful negotiations between a tribal jirga (council) and the militants.
A Taliban spokesman said the eight men were released as a “goodwill gesture” from the militants.
The incident comes two days after the government inaugurated the dam in South Waziristan’s militancy-ravaged Khajori Katch area on Thursday.
On Monday, the military and intelligence chiefs and all major political parties huddled together in Islamabad at an All Parties Conference (APC) and resolved to initiate dialogue with extremist Taliban militants battling the state.
A TTP spokesman welcomed the offer of peace talks, and there were unconfirmed reports of a Taliban shura (high council) meeting to deliberate over the offer.
Later this week, security forces and Pakistani Taliban militants were reported to have exchanged prisoners as a confidence building measure ahead of possible peace talks. The exchange – of six TTP militants and two paramilitary Frontier Corps soldiers – was said to have taken place in Shawal area of South Waziristan agency.
The military, however, denied any such exchange had taken place.
It was unclear if the release of the Gomal Zam dam workers on Saturday was related in any way to the outcome of the APC earlier this week.