PM house denies govt release of Taliban prisoners

Published April 3, 2014
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. —Photo by AFP
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. —Photo by AFP

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistani government on Thursday denied reports that it has released prisoners of the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) in a bid to revive peace talks with the militant group.

“The reports are incorrect. The government has neither released any Taliban prisoners nor has approval been given for any such measure,” said a spokesman for the Prime Minister house in Islamabad.

Foreign news agency Reuters had reported officials as saying that the government had released 16 Taliban prisoners to invigorate the shaky peace process with the TTP.

The Pakistani Taliban called a one-month ceasefire on March 1 but said this week they would not extend the truce because the government was not serious about meeting their demands.

The demands include releasing 800 prisoners the insurgent group describes as innocent family members and withdrawing the army from parts of the semi-autonomous tribal areas along the border with Afghanistan.

Reuters quoted the political agent of South Waziristan, the highest government official in the northwestern tribal region, as saying that the government has started releasing non-combatant prisoners to boost reconcilliation efforts.

“South Waziristan's political administration released 16 men on April 1,” Islam Zeb told Reuters. “They are not major commanders. They are innocent tribals who were arrested during different search operations in South Waziristan in the last two to three years.”

However, the PM house quickly denied any such release of prisoners.

“There is no truth in the reports. The political agent has only released a few petty criminals,” he said.


More on this: Security forces killing men: TTP


Taliban negotiators were not immediately available to comment.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who took power last year promising to strike a negotiated peace with the Taliban, has been trying to engage the militants.

But talks broke down last month, when a Taliban wing operating in the Mohmand tribal region said it had executed 23 soldiers in revenge for the killing of its fighters by the security forces.

Islamabad then refused to hold further talks until the Taliban announced a ceasefire on March 1.

The second round of peace talks now hangs in the balance after the Taliban announced on Wednesday they would not extend the ceasefire and warned that attacks would begin again in Pakistan.

A militant group calling itself Ahrarul Hind launched a rare attack on a court in Islamabad last month, killing 11, including a judge.

Pakistan's military is said to be skeptical about the talks.


Also read: The siege within


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