President Ashraf Ghani signed an order on Tuesday night to pardon and release Taliban prisoners in order for the peace talks between Afghanistan's government and the Taliban to start, said Palace spokesperson Sediq Sediqqi.
According to the first part of the decree, which was released to the media on Wednesday, the prisoners that will be released are required to make a written commitment not to return to the war. The prisoners will be released after a biometric process.
The second part of the decree states that the release of the 1,500 Taliban is a goodwill gesture and the process will be started on March 14 at Parwan prisons. Every day 100 Taliban prisoners will be released and their age, health status, and remaining sentence time will be considered.
The third portion said that with the beginning of the direct talks between the Afghan government and Taliban, every two weeks 500 Taliban prisoners will be released--provided that a major reduction in violence continues--until 3,500 more are released.
And article four of the decree said the National Security Council has the responsibility to implement this decree.
Before this, the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC), referring to the Afghan government's planned release of Taliban prisoners as a "confidence-building measure" ahead of intra-Afghan talks, said those Taliban inmates who are accused of being involved in war crimes or crimes against humanity shouldn’t be released from the jails by the government during the swap.
“According to the national and international laws, the president does not have the authority to release those individuals who are accused of being involved in war crimes and crimes against humanity,” said Naeem Nazari, the deputy head of the AIHRC.
But Ghani’s move to release the Taliban prisoners was met with mixed reactions.
“It appears that the president crossed his own red line in exchange for the inauguration, but in the presence of the Americans,” said Abdul Karim Khurram, the former chief of staff to former president Hamid Karzai.
“If they (Taliban inmates) return to fighting, what will be the strategy of the Afghan government and the Taliban regarding this issue?” said Aziz Rafaee, a civil society activist in Kabul.
“We are deeply concerned about this, because, until now, the Afghan government has not defined any strategy if (Taliban prisoners) return to fighting. There is no guarantee,” said Wadoud Pedram, a civil society activist.
Ghani’s spokesman Sediq Sediqqi responded: “The Taliban prisoners will not be released without a guarantee, the Taliban should know this, because it has direct consequences on the security of Afghanistan. We should be assured that these individuals do not return to the war to fuel Taliban’s war machine. Foreign terrorists are also among them.”
According to the US-Taliban deal and the joint Afghan-US declaration, up to 5,000 Taliban prisoners should be released by March 10 in order to facilitate the intra-Afghan negotiations with the Taliban.
Meanwhile, the Taliban’s spokesman in Doha, Suhail Shaheen has said that the Taliban have handed over a full list of 5,000 Taliban prisoners to the American side and that the group will verify the identities of the inmates.
Following eighteen months of negotiations in Doha, the United States and the Taliban on February 29 signed a peace deal that will pave the way for the withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan in exchange for a number of solid assurances by the Taliban to the US and its allies.