Released Taliban prisoners look forward to peace in Afghanistan
PESHAWAR: “I am very happy to see myself out of jail today and feel free in a peaceful environment,” said Shir Ahmad, a former Taliban fighter who was released from Bagram prison 50 km north of Kabul on Tuesday.
A resident of southern Kandahar province, the birthplace of the Taliban, a joyful Ahmad who had languished for seven and a half years in the infamous Bagram prison and was freed under a presidential order to accelerate the peace process, told Xinhua outside the jail, “There’s been enough war, it is time for peace and after returning home I will work for peace.”
Afghan President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani on Sunday vowed to set free 2,000 Taliban prisoners as a goodwill gesture to speed up the peace process with the Taliban outfit.
President Ghani also called upon the Taliban group to reciprocate the release of prisoners and observe a permanent ceasefire in the country to facilitate the initiation of intra-Afghan dialogue to end the war in Afghanistan.
The exchange of 5,000 Taliban prisoners for 1,000 Afghan soldiers is part of the U.S.-Taliban peace deal inked on Feb. 29 in Doha, Qatar, to facilitate the intra-Afghan dialogue and pave the way for the withdrawal of the U.S.-led foreign forces from Afghanistan.
The Afghan government had earlier freed 1,100 Taliban prisoners while the armed group has set free some 200 detainees. However, on Tuesday, the government set free 900 Taliban detainees, 580 of them from Bagram jail.
“Really, I am very tired of war and my dream in my life is to see lasting peace in my country,” another former prisoner, Sardar Wali, told Xinhua.
Wali, who spent nine years of his life in jail, added, “Undoubtedly, 40 years of war in the country has been exhausting for everyone. We Afghans deserve to enjoy peace and live in peace and unity.”
Welcoming the release of the prisoners by the Afghan government, Suhail Shaheen, spokesman for the Taliban’s political office in Doha wrote in a Twitter post, “Release of 2,000 prisoners by the other side is a good step. The stipulation in (the) Doha Agreement for release of 5,000 prisoners was to create atmosphere of confidence.”
“The release of 900 prisoners by the other side is good progress. The Islamic Emirate (the name of the ousted Taliban regime) will release a remarkable number of prisoners soon,” Shaheen said.
Afghans from all walks of life have appreciated the warring sides observing a ceasefire during the Eid holidays and no security incidents were reported during the three-day truce in the conflict-plagued country. People have called on both sides to extend the ceasefire.
The government would demonstrate more flexibility if the Taliban extends the truce, spokesman for the National Security Council, Javid Faisal, said.
“Today will be an unforgettable memory in my life as I am free and after returning home I will lead a peaceful life,” said another ex-prisoner, Hazrat Ali, from the troubled Helmand province.
His companion, Hafiz Nasrullah, while nodding his head, said, “Peace or war depends on both the decision of the leaders and whether their resolutions are followed.” – Xinhua