Pakistan Forcing Taliban Leaders To Leave Or Engage in Afghan Peace Process

Pakistan has been putting pressure on fugitive Afghan Taliban leaders, along with their families, to leave the country if they refuse to hold peace talks with Kabul, officials and insurgent sources told VOA.

“The squeeze is continuing on them [the Taliban] and some have already left, or [are] leaving the country,” says a senior Pakistani official directly involved in matters related to the Afghan policy.

The Pakistani official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Islamabad has not yet acknowledged the crackdown, which is part of its policy to seek an early repatriation from Pakistan of nearly three million registered and undocumented Afghan refugees, reported VOA.

However, this comes as Pakistan has been under increasing pressure from international partners, particularly the U.S, to deny space to the Taliban and other groups waging war in Afghanistan.

Pakistan denies charges its spy agency covertly supports the Taliban and its ally, the Haqqani Network, enabling them to prolong the Afghan war and expand influence of the insurgents after the 2014 withdrawal of U.S-led international combat forces.

The spike in violence has undermined efforts to improve bilateral relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan. And President Ashraf Ghani has repeatedly accused Islamabad of not taking action against fugitive Taliban leaders.

In turn, Pakistan alleges Afghan intelligence operatives are sheltering and supporting fugitives linked to the anti-state Pakistani Taliban.

Pakistani authorities earlier this month arrested several key Taliban leaders from areas in and around Quetta, the capital of the southwestern Baluchistan province, which borders Afghanistan. The detainees also include Ahmadullah Muti, commonly known as Mullah Nanai, Suleman Agha and Mullah Samad Sani.

All three held key positions in the insurgency and were arrested after they ignored requests to hold peace and reconciliation talks with the Afghan government, according to Pakistani and insurgent officials. Authorities have also raided and shut down some Islamic seminaries, or madrassas, for refugee children that are suspected of sheltering Taliban insurgents.

The crackdown meanwhile appears to have prompted the Taliban to send a high-level delegation to Islamabad from its Qatar-based political office to take up the issue with Pakistani officials, according to reports.

Taliban delegates also plan to convey concerns over the way Afghan refugees are being treated, including their forceful eviction and deportations from Pakistan, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told VOA.

But he dismissed reports as “misleading” that Taliban political envoys have traveled to Pakistan to brief authorities there on the insurgent group’s recent secret meetings with Afghan officials in Qatar. He said neither such meeting has taken place, VOA reported.

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