Baku-APA. Pakistan freed a group of Afghan Taliban on Saturday in an attempt to improve its troubled relations with the South Asian neighbor, but risked angering Afghanistan by not handing them over directly to the Kabul authorities, APA reports quoting Reuters.
The announcement followed last month's trip by Afghan President Hamid Karzai to Pakistan, where he sought the handover of some Afghan insurgents as part of the stalled peace process.
Both Karzai and the United States want Pakistan to hand the insurgents directly to the Afghan authorities, but on Saturday, a group of seven Taliban was simply allowed to walk out of their cells into Pakistan.
"In order to further facilitate the Afghan reconciliation process, Pakistan is releasing seven Taliban detainees," the Pakistani foreign ministry said in a statement.
A ministry spokesman separately said all seven, including a senior commander called Mansoor Dadullah, were freed on Saturday.
Asked if they had been handed over to the Afghan authorities or were just released in Pakistan, the spokesman said: "Just released."
The releases received a lukewarm reception in Afghanistan, with the government describing it as a "small step" and calling for the release of more senior Taliban members.
Pakistan is key to the fate of U.S. and Afghan efforts to bring stability to Afghanistan, a challenge gaining urgency as the end of the U.S. combat mission in 2014 draws closer.
But mutual suspicions between Afghanistan and its nuclear-armed neighbor have hampered efforts to tackle militancy in one of the world's most explosive regions.
Besides Dadullah, the foreign ministry statement identified the released fighters as Said Wali, Abdul Manan, Karim Agha, Sher Afzal, Gul Muhammad and Muhammad Zai.
"These releases are in addition to twenty-six Taliban detainees released during the last year," it said.