President Ashraf Ghani, addressing the nation on Eid on Friday, ordered the release of 500 Taliban prisoners in response to the group’s three-day ceasefire announcement, and said he hoped the truce will extend.
Ghani said the 500 prisoners are not part of the list given to the Afghan government by the Taliban and that these inmates will be released within the next four days.
According to Ghani, the Afghan government has so far released 4,600 Taliban prisoners.
“We are doing this because the government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan has removed all barriers from the way of peace and 500 Taliban (prisoners) will be released by the fourth day of Eid in exchange for the release of captives of the security and defense forces and civilians who are with the Taliban,” Ghani clarified.
Ghani said he does not have the right to decide on the release of those 400 Taliban prisoners on the Taliban's list who are accused of serious crimes. Therefore, Ghani said, he will call a Loya Jirga, a grand assembly of Afghan elders, to decide on the release of the 400 Taliban prisoners.
“The president of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan does not have the authority to decide on the release of 400 Taliban prisoners whose names are on the list provided by the Taliban,” Ghani said. “But this does not mean that we provide a negative response to the release of all these prisoners. I should consult with the nation about the fate of the 400 prisoners and I have invited the consultative Loya Jirga (the grand assembly) so that we can make a decision in this respect based on the consultation of the people’s representatives.”
Ghani said the Afghan government has a strong position both in war and in peace.
“I have repeatedly called on the Taliban to start talks with the negotiation team of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan at the earliest. Decisions will be made about the remaining prisoners during the negotiations,” Ghani added.
He said that COVID-19 is still a threat, therefore, people should observe health advice during Eid.
“I want to assure all that the Afghan government has effective plans on hand to overcome the current situation, and we are seeing movement in all the sectors,” he said.
The president vowed to fight the endemic corruption in public offices and boost security in the country.
This comes as the Taliban also completed the release of 1,000 prisoners called for in the peace agreement signed in Doha.
A spokesman of the group, Suhail Shaheen, said on Twitter that they freed 82 prisoners on Thursday, bringing the total released by the Taliban to 1,005.