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400 Taliban prisoners will be released to remove last hurdle to peace talks

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KABUL: The remaining 400 Taliban controversial prisoners will be released to pave the way for an early start to intra-Afghan negotiations and also remove the last hurdle on the path to the peace process.

The members of the Consultative Loya Jirga for Peace have ended its three days consultations on Sunday. They issued a resolution which has 25-article, supporting the peace process and the release of remaining Taliban inmates. The declaration read out in Dari and Pashto languages and called for an immediate comprehensive ceasefire.

The members of the Loya Jirga made a “history” today, President Ashraf Ghani said, welcoming their suggestion to release 400 controversial Taliban prisoners. Ghani says he will sign a decree to release them based on the request of the Loya Jirga. He also thanked the members of Jirga for clear resolution on the peace which determines the unified voice of Afghans to reach a durable peace.

The ball is now in the court of the Taliban and the group must show its willingness for peace by declaring a ceasefire. “Truce is the basic demand of the Loya Jirga,” the President said. The Taliban should not be afraid of a comprehensive ceasefire across Afghanistan, Ghani said. “War brings nothing but devastation.”

Former President Hamid Karzai has called on the Taliban to stop fighting. “Don’t continue the war”.

Addressing the Loya Jirga, Karzai said the Jirga has laid solid steps for the intra-Afghan talks. “After releasing 400 Taliban prisoners, the negotiation team led by Masoom Stanikzai should start intra-Afghan talks within a few days.”

Karzai said people are worried about rights and freedoms – be sure that peace makes this blessing better and more – all Afghan children “boys and girls” will go to school.

“Peace is beautiful – there is life in peace – there is dignity in peace and today this Jirga brought us closer to our hope towards a durable peace.”

There would be more money, more jobs and more dams once peace prevails, Karzai added. “I will tour Mazar-e-Sharif and then to Badakhshan and other provinces when there is peace.”

We want to have a good relationship with our neighbors and the international community, Karzai said, expecting the same from them.

Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, the head of Consultative Loya Jirga, thanked the Afghan leaders, politicians, and Jirga’s members for their support to peace and removing the last remaining obstacle to the intra-Afghan talks.

He called on the Taliban to honor their commitments and immediately begin the long-awaited intra-Afghan talks, announce permanent “ceasefire”, abandon “violence” and demonstrate willingness to resolve the current issues through peaceful dialogue.

The final hurdle to the peace talks which was the prisoner process has now been resolved. The Taliban have said they were ready for talks immediately after their final prisoners were released. The issue of ceasefire would be the first items to be discussed during the negotiations.

The move seems to have brought the Afghan masses a little closer to the peace through Afghan-to-Afghan talks.

Amrullah Saleh, the First Vice President said “it is a bitter decision to release the 400 Taliban prisoners but I do it to honor my pledge to Loya Jirga.”

“Now it is to the Taliban to accept the Afghan diversity and pluralism and come to the table. No obstacle is left, I’m mindful of the challenges and uncertainties too,” he said.

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