Ex-Taliban minister arrested in Peshawar

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Former Taliban minister Hafez Mohibullah was arrested by Pakistani forces in Peshawar on Monday night, BBC reported on Tuesday.

According to reports, the former religious affairs minister of the Taliban regime has been arrested by Pakistan to push the militant group into talks with the Afghan government in Kabul.

Mohibullah was arrested hours before the arrival US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad, who is visiting the country on a five-day special visit to hold talks with the civil and military leadership in Pakistan. The talks will be in reference to the Afghan peace process and the US Army’s withdrawal from Afghanistan.

According to BBC, Taliban sources have revealed that the ex-Taliban minister has been living in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) capital for several years. There is also a general perception in the Taliban circles that Mohibullah has been arrested to pressurise the militant group into meeting with representatives of the Afghan government, the source further told BBC.

“They arrested him [Mohibullah] to send a message,” a senior Taliban figure told BBC.

Another from the group’s Quetta Shura, or leadership council, added, “There was a meeting with Pakistani officials on the upcoming peace talks which ended in arguments. Right afterwards, the authorities raided a number of houses and arrested Mohibullah. After that [Taliban leader] Sheikh Hibatullah sent a message warning everyone to be alert.”

Days after demanding a change of venue for peace talks, the Afghan Taliban pulled out of the dialogue with the United States in Qatar, citing “agenda disagreement”, especially over the involvement of Afghan officials as well as a possible ceasefire and prisoner exchange, according to media reports.

The Taliban have refused to budge on their stance concerning the involvement of Afghan government led by President Ashraf Ghani in the peace process.

The militant outfit had made a similar demand earlier when it sought a change of venue from Saudi Arabia, saying the Saudis were pressuring them to include Ghani-led government in the talks.