—File Photo

ISLAMABAD: The release of Taliban prisoners by Pakistan, once seen as a critical move to bolster peace process, has come across a temporary halt due to renewed distrust between Islamabad and Kabul.

Officials familiar with developments said differences over the efficacy of the release of Taliban prisoners was the major factor in the momentary suspension of the process.

Afghan authorities have claimed that many of the 26 mid-ranking to senior Taliban leaders freed by Pakistan last year have returned to the Taliban ranks.

“They (Afghans) contend that the release was causing more damage than benefit because of absence of a monitoring mechanism,” a Pakistani diplomat told Dawn.

An Afghan official, speaking to this scribe over phone from Kabul, looked sceptical about the effectiveness of the release of Taliban detainees, a process started on the request of Afghan High Peace Council (HPC).

“The biggest indicator before us is that there has been no major progress towards reconciliation and violence continues unabated,” he said on condition of anonymity.

Pakistani officials, however, dismiss this as Afghan propaganda.

It was in this context that the two sides had agreed to chalk out a new mechanism for the release of prisoners that effectively gave the Afghans a major say in who was to be released.

Under the new mechanism Pakistan was to send lists of Taliban prisoners that it intended to release to the Afghan HPC, which would then approve or disapprove those names.

Afghan Ambassador to Pakistan Umer Daudzai said the new mechanism could not be activated as yet. He attributed the non-activation of the arrangement to “problems in scheduling of meetings” of concerned officials.

However, a source said the delay in operationalising the procedure for future releases was due to mistrust between the two capitals.