Afghan officials: Pakistan frees Taliban detainees
—Jahangirwal, who was a special assistant for the Taliban's top leader, Mullah Omar.
—Qutub, a Taliban leader.
—Abdul Salaam, the Taliban's former governor of Baghlan province.
—Maulvi Matiullah, who was director of the customs house in Kabul under the Taliban regime;
—Mahamad, the Taliban's former governor of Kunduz province.
—Sayed Saduddin Agha, a former Taliban commander.
—Allah Dad, the Taliban's former deputy minister of communication.
The eight are among 40 Taliban prisoners that the Afghan government has asked Pakistan to release.
Also on the list of 40 is the Taliban's former deputy leader, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, who was captured in Pakistan in 2010.
Baradar is seen by some as crucial to the peace process. Baradar was reportedly conducting talks with the Afghan government that were kept secret from the Pakistanis, and his arrest in the sprawling southern port city of Karachi reportedly angered Afghan President Hamid Karzai.
Pakistan helped the Taliban seize control of Afghanistan in the 1990s — providing funding, weapons and intelligence — and the Afghan government and the U.S. have accused Islamabad of continuing to support the group. Pakistan has denied the allegations, but many analysts believe the country continues to see the militant group as an important ally in Afghanistan to counter archenemy India.
However, Pakistan is also worried about instability in Afghanistan following the planned withdrawal of foreign forces. If civil war breaks out again as it did in the 1990s, hundreds of thousands of Afghan refugees could stream across the border into Pakistan. Violence could also give greater cover to Pakistani militants who are at war with Islamabad.
These concerns have made a peace deal more urgent in the minds of Pakistanis.
Associated Press writers Kathy Gannon in Islamabad, Pakistan, and Deb Riechmann in Kabul contributed to this report.