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Afghanistan continues with prisoner release despite Taliban protest

Kabul, April 10 (IANS) The Afghan government said a staggered prisoner release process would continue despite the Talibans withdrawal in protest against what it called an unacceptable initiative for peace.

“The prisoner release process will continue… (It is) a part of the broader list that the Taliban shared with us,” National Security Council spokesperson Javid Faisal told Efe news on Thursday.

President Ashraf Ghani has tasked the NSC to deal with the prisoner release process.

Ghani’s government released the first batch of 100 Taliban prisoners from the Bagram jail on Wednesday as part of a prisoner-swap process to pave way for the intra-Afghan talks.

But the Taliban rejected it, saying it violated the peace agreement signed with the US on February 29 in Doha.

“We don’t confirm the prisoner release (process) that is not according to the provisions of the agreement with the US,” Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told Efe news.

The Taliban want the government to release 5,000 of its prisoners as was agreed in the agreement with Washington.

Suhail Shaheen, a Taliban spokesperson in Qatar, told Efe news that the government’s approach was “not acceptable to us”.

“We want the prisoners released as per the peace agreement,” Shaheen said.

The insurgents have warned that there won’t be any talks with the Afghan government if its members were not set free.

The government said that it was “open” to continue technical talks with the Taliban “to advance the peace process” to end the 19-year long deadly conflict in the country.

More prisoners would be freed in the coming days based on their age, health conditions and the length of their remaining prison term, said Faisal.

Faisal said the jailed Taliban members were being released on the decree of President Ghani issued on March 11 that ensures the release of 5,000 prisoners in a phased manner and on the condition that there would be no uptick in violence.

Ghani had decreed that 100 prisoners would be released each day in the first 15 days after the process begins. The remaining 3,500 were to be freed in phases – 500 after every fortnight.

But Faisal said the numbers may vary now, depending on some “factors” that he did not explain.

“Yes, the release is according to President Ghani’s decree of March 11, but 100 every day is not must, as the number may go up or down,” Faisal told Efe news.

–IANS

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