Pakistani authorities have released Anwar-ul Haq Mujahid, a Taliban leader, following negotiations with an Afghan peace delegation earlier in the week, his family told reporters on Friday.
Mujahid, the eldest son of late Afghan resistance leader Maulvi Yunus Khalis, was released late on Thursday, said a close relative speaking on condition of anonymity.
Pakistani security officials on Wednesday said authorities released at least seven Afghan Taliban leaders in a move seen as a potential breakthrough in stalled peace negotiations before the withdrawal of US-led Nato troops in 2014.
It is not clear if Mujahid was among that group. But he is the first Taliban prisoner recently released by the Pakistani authorities to be identified by name.
“He was with us last night, he has rejoined his family members and his health is good,” the relative said. Another family member also confirmed the release.
Mujahid, who is in his 40s, had formed his Tora Bora Mahaz (front) whose fighters are allied with Afghan Taliban.
Mujahid, who hails from the eastern Nangarhar province, named his group after Tora Bora valley, which was bombed by the US air force in December 2001 in its pursuit of Osama bin Laden and other al-Qaeda fighters.
According to Afghan expert Rahimullah Yusufzai he had aligned his group with the Taliban movement. He was arrested from northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province in 2009.
Support from Pakistan, which backed the Taliban regime that held power in Kabul from 1996 to 2001, is seen as crucial to peace in Afghanistan after the departure of Nato combat forces in 2014.
Kabul had pressed for the release of senior Taliban leaders held in Pakistan.
While no names have been officially revealed, local media reports mentioned the possible release of Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, a powerful Taliban military chief who has been described as the former insurgents’ second in command, and ailing former Taliban justice minister Mullah Nooruddin Turabi.
A Taliban official has already dismissed the deal as insignificant.
“All those that are being freed are not members of Taliban any more, they have been dismissed and they’re not important,” the Taliban official told reporters in northwest Pakistan on Thursday.
He said the Taliban were not in contact with the Afghan government-appointed High Peace Council and that any negotiations should take place between the Taliban and the United States.