On Saturday, after Eid prayer, President Ashraf Ghani called for a Loya Jirga so that Afghans could decide on the fate of 400 disputed Taliban prisoners on a Taliban list.
These prisoners are on a list given by the Taliban to the government as part of the US-Taliban agreement, which called for the release of 1,000 government soldiers by the Taliban and 5,000 Taliban to be released by the government.
Earlier, the Presidential Palace said the government has no authority under the Constitution to release the 400 Taliban prisoners, who allegedly are guilty of serious crimes, and will seek advice from members of the Loya Jirga.
Reacting to President Ashrah Ghani’s decision to convene a jirga to discuss the release of the 400 Taliban prisoners, the Taliban said that any delay in the release of the prisoners will mean a continuation of the war.
Suhail Shaheen, a spokesman for the Taliban office in Qatar, told TOLOnews that the Afghan government’s decision is detrimental to the Afghan people, that the response to the peace process should be honest, and that the decision will complicate the peace process.
“The Loya Jirga is an excuse that not only increases violence and war, but also challenges the current peace process,” said Faiz Mohamma Zaland, university lecturer.
Meanwhile, the Afghan government has announced the release of 317 of the 500 Taliban prisoners that Ghani pledged to release for Eid. But these do not include the 400 disputed Taliban prisoners.
Some other politicians have different views regarding the government decision to hold a Loya Jirga.
“The holding of the Loya Jirga does not seem justified from any point of view, because about 5,000 prisoners have been already released and there may have been dangerous and important people among them also,” said Abdullah Qarluq, deputy head of Junbish Milli party of Afghanistan.
“Holding a Loya Jirga about four hundred prisoners is a waste of time and a loss of opportunities in the peace process ,” said Khalil Safi, Former head of Pugwash in Afghanistan.
However, the Afghan government’s negotiating team with the Taliban has declared it readiness for the intra-Afghan talks.
“The peace negotiating committee, on behalf of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, is fully prepared to start negotiations. We are waiting for the guidance and instructions of the leadership of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan,” said Ghulam Farooq Majroh, a member of the government’s negotiating team with the Taliban.
The Afghan government has released 4,917 Taliban prisoners so far, bringing the group prisoners to 5,100, but the president has said that according to the constitution and the penal code, he does not have the authority to release another 400 prisoners of this group, and a Loya Jirga will be held soon to decide.
This comes as the Taliban also completed the release of 1,000 prisoners called for in the peace agreement signed in Doha.
A spokesman of the group, Suhail Shaheen, said on Twitter that they freed 82 prisoners on Thursday, bringing the total released by the Taliban to 1,005.