Pakistan frees nine Taliban leaders

The Pakistani government has released nine leading members of the Taliban at the request of the Afghanistan government and the Afghan High Peace Council, the Pajhwok news agency reported Saturday.

Council chairman Salahuddin Rabbani, who was in Islamabad on a visit, said the release could play a pivotal role in talks with the armed group toward a national reconciliation in Afghanistan.

"We have received promises from the Pakistan government that in the near future, another three leaders of the Taliban will be released," he said.

Pakistan media sources reported that among those released was the son of well-known field commander Yunus Khalis, who fought against the Soviet forces in Afghanistan in the 1980s and was head of one of the seven parties representing the Mujahideen at that time.

One of the three due to be released by Pakistan soon is Mullah Baradar, the No.2 in the Taliban hierarchy after its leader Mullah Omar.

The released Taliban leaders will not be handed over to the Afghan government, Rabbani said, and they would be guaranteed safe passage and security and could go where they want to live together with their families.

Pakistan and Afghanistan have agreed the names of the Taliban leaders who supported the peace drive should be removed from the UN sanctions list, Rabbani added.

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