19 non-combatant Taliban freed as ‘goodwill gesture’

Islamabad : The Pakistan government has released 19 non-combatant Taliban prisoners as a goodwill gesture for bolstering the peace process with the outlawed Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).

The announcement was made by the interior ministry Thursday, Dawn online reported Friday.

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The prime minister’s secretariat, however, said that the “release of some prisoners involved in petty crimes by the political administration has been wrongly connoted as release of Taliban prisoners”.

The statement from the prime minister’s secretariat was, in fact, a reaction to a media report that the prisoners were freed with the approval of the prime minister, the report said.

“It is clarified that there has been no authorisation given from the prime minister in this regard,” the report quoted the statement as stating.

A spokesman for the interior ministry said the prisoners released were non-combatant Taliban belonging to the Mehsud tribe.

However, the confusion created by the contradictory positions taken by the interior ministry and the prime minister’s secretariat was soon resolved when hours after the denial, the secretariat confirmed the release of the non-combatant Taliban.

An interior ministry official said Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan was the focal person in the ongoing talks with the TTP and, therefore, the decision to free the non-combatants was taken at his level.

He added that those released were local people who had been investigated and found innocent.

The Pakistan government, however, earlier Thursday denied reports that TTP prisoners had been released in an effort to revive the peace talks.