The Afghan government has asked the Taliban to provide a new list for the prisoners who have not been released so far, but the Taliban has insisted on the release of their prisoners based on an existing list, sources close to the group said Sunday.
The Afghan government has so far released 4,080 Taliban prisoners and is currently refusing to free 597 detainees of the group, which is postponing the much-awaited intra-Afghan negotiations.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid in a tweet responded to criticism over the increase in violence, stressing that first the release of 5,000 prisoners should be completed and then intra-Afghan negotiations should start.
Otherwise, he said, calls for stopping the violence are “illogical” and the group has not found another option to stop the war.
“Despite the government’s repeated call for a change in the list of 5,000 Taliban prisoners, the Taliban is still insisting that their list of 5,000 individuals is not open to change,” said Sami Yousufzai, a free journalist familiar with the process.
He added: “The Afghan government thinks that there are up to 100 prisoners on the Taliban list who are not political prisoners, who are not Taliban, but they are involved in crime cases, or are accused of smuggling and (the government) wants their names deleted (from the list).”
The sources also said that of the 592 prisoners in question, at least 90 of them are those that even the Taliban is not in favor of releasing.
“This list of (Taliban) prisoners will not change… The Taliban is insisting that the list that was sent should be implemented,” said Sayed Akbar Agha, a former Taliban commander.
Taliban spokesman Mujahid also questioned hurdles in the way of the talks, saying: “If someone does not want war, why are they creating hurdles for talks?” He said, “Let Afghans reach a result through political understanding that is the will of the nation and the international community.”
Critics said they see something else in the background of the calls for a new list or the emphasis on an existing list.
“The main issue is not that these individuals are involved in crimes,” said Mahmoud Marhoon, a university lecturer.
Critics also said that the government should make public the list of prisoners about which it has reservations.
“It is good that the government differentiates who is a war criminal, who is a prisoner and who is political,” said Farooq Zamani, an analyst.
The Taliban has so far released over 700 prisoners out of a pledged 1,000 inmates. They released 17 prisoners in Ghor and 12 in Herat in the last two days.