Pakistani PM welcomes prisoner swap between US, Afghan Taliban

American University of Afghanistan professors Kevin King and Tim Weeks were kidnapped by the Taliban in Kabul in 2016. (Supplied)
Updated 19 November 2019

Pakistani PM welcomes prisoner swap between US, Afghan Taliban

  • Says Pakistan “fully supported & facilitated” the release as part of policy of pushing for a negotiated settlement in Afghanistan
  • Taliban spokesman says US, Australian professors freed in return for three Taliban commanders under long-delayed swap

ISLAMABAD – Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan on Tuesday welcomed the release of American and Australian university professors held hostage by the Afghan Taliban for more than three years, completing a delayed prisoner swap and raising hopes for a revival of peace talks.
American Kevin King and Australian Timothy Weeks were kidnapped in August 2016 from outside the American University of Afghanistan in Kabul. They were freed in return for the release of three Taliban commanders under a swap that had been long delayed.
On Tuesday, Afghan Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid confirmed a prisoner swap deal with the United States and said the insurgent group had freed two foreign professors, hours after the US released three Taliban detainees. 
“Pak welcomes the release of Profs Kevin King & Timothy Weeks in Afghanistan. We appreciate steps taken by all involved to make it possible,” Khan said in a series of tweets. “Pak has fully supported & facilitated this release as part of its policy of supporting initiatives for a negotiated political settlement of the Afghan conflict.”
“We hope this step gives a boost of confidence to all parties involved to re-engage in the peace process,” the PM added. “Pakistan remains committed to facilitating this peace process.”
Taliban officials confirmed to Arab News that Anas Haqqani, the brother of Taliban deputy chief Siraj ud Din Haqqani, and two other leaders, were flown out to Qatar after being freed from Bagram prison late on Monday. 
“We welcome the positive step taken in regards to the release of three Mujahideen of Islamic Emirate, namely the respected Anas Haqqani, respected Hajji Mali Khan, and respected Hafiz Abdul Rasheed,” Mujahid said in a statement. “Similarly, the release process of two professors (US citizen Kevin King and Australian citizen Timothy Weeks) along with ten Afghan soldiers has also been successfully executed.”
He called the actions a step forward in good-will and confidence building measures that could aid peace talks between the Taliban and the US to end the long Afghan war. 

On November 12, President Ashraf Ghani said Afghanistan would free Anas Haqqani, a senior figure in Haqqani network, a militant faction of the Taliban responsible for some of the worst violence in recent years, and two other Taliban commanders. 

But the swap was abruptly postponed, with the Taliban then shifting their hostages to a new location. 

The Haqqani network has in recent years carried out large-scale attacks in Afghanistan. 

King and Weeks were last seen in a 2017 hostage video looking dishevelled and pleading with their governments to secure their release.

The United States and the Taliban have for most of the past year been discussing a plan for the withdrawal of US troops in exchange for Taliban security guarantees. But US President Donald Trump halted the talks on Sep. 09 this year following the death of a US soldier and 11 other people in a Taliban bomb attack in Kabul.

Before the talks were broken off, the United States and the Taliban both said they were close to a deal. 

Pakistanis in Dubai help release over 150 inmates from UAE prisons amid pandemic

Updated 23 min 19 sec ago

Pakistanis in Dubai help release over 150 inmates from UAE prisons amid pandemic

  • A majority of those who received Pakistan Association Dubai (PAD) assistance were Pakistanis, but it also helped a number of people of other nationalities
  • Prime minister’s special assistant for overseas Pakistanis says PAD is the main organization helping repatriate nationals from UAE

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Association Dubai (PAD) has helped amid the coronavirus pandemic release and repatriate more than 150 people from prisons in the United Arab Emirates.
In the past three months, PAD helped 154 inmates at prisons in Ajman and Dubai by buying their air tickets to return home and paid the fines required for their release orders to be issued. A majority of those who received PAD assistance were Pakistanis, but the association also helped a number of people of other nationalities.
“We arranged release and repatriation of 71 inmates from Ajman central prison this month. The initiative was not the first for PAD. We had also helped in release of 83 prisoners three months back from Dubai,” Rizwan Fancy, community welfare director at PAD, told Arab News over the phone from Dubai on Saturday.
The association has been working closely with UAE authorities.
“We were in process with Ajman government since the start of this month and completed the repartition this week after fulfilling all legal and medical requirements like COVID-19 testing,” Fancy said.
Those who received the assistance had been sentenced for petty crimes such as bounced cheques or overstaying. The have completed their sentences but were unable to pay release fines.
“We usually contact authorities and they share the list of such prisoners who can be released by paying small fines,” Fancy said. “We then arrange these things for the prisoners and subsequently their release takes place. We not only arranged for the release of Pakistani prisoners but managed to help in the release of 37 prisoners from other nationalities as well.”
The foreigners included citizens of Bangladesh, India, Ethiopia, Iran, Nigeria, Somalia, Iraq and Cameroon.
Every year, the association repatriates fellow nationals as well as other people who reach out for help, Fancy said.
“We take immense pride in serving the forgotten members of the community. We went out of our way and ensured support for all those deserving help.”
One of the repatriated Pakistanis, a resident of Chakwal who requested not to be named, said he is grateful to PAD. “They have arranged my repatriation from UAE. They have provided me with tickets and also fulfilled other requirements. My family is also very happy,” he told Arab News.
The prime minister’s special assistant for overseas Pakistanis, Sayed Zulifqar Bukhari, said that in PAD has been the main organization helping repatriate Pakistanis from the UAE.
“None of it would have been possible if we didn’t have the support and contributions of organizations like PAD and other individuals,” Bukhari said.
“It’s due to them why Pakistan has such a strong diaspora in UAE.”