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. 

Pakistan recalls forgotten Fawad Alam for Sri Lanka Test

Updated 07 December 2019

Pakistan recalls forgotten Fawad Alam for Sri Lanka Test

  • Alam, after hitting a debut century in 2009, was discarded after playing just three Tests
  • The first Test starts on Wednesday, a match that marks the return of Test cricket to Pakistan after 10 years

KARACHI: Pakistan recalled forgotten batsman Fawad Alam on Saturday for the upcoming two-match Test series against Sri Lanka, after a gap of ten years following the left-hander’s prolific form in domestic matches.
The 34-year-old hit a debut century against Sri Lanka but was discarded after playing just three Tests in 2009.
But Alam hit four hundreds in the current Quaid-e-Azam trophy — piling up 781 runs — and boasts a first class average of 56.84, 22nd highest in the world.
And chief selector Misbah-ul-Haq said Alam’s form is not spread over one year.
“Alam has been performing so well at the domestic level so we have recalled him for a chance and we hope he delivers,” said Misbah, also the team’s head coach.
Pakistan is smarting from last week’s 2-0 defeat — both by an innings — in Australia that left not only Misbah but new captain Azhar Ali under tremendous pressure.
Middle-order batsman Iftikhar Ahmed, who managed just 44 runs in four innings in Australia, and the teenage pacer Mohammad Musa Khan were left off the newly announced squad list.
The first Test starts in Rawalpindi from Wednesday, a match that marks the return of Test cricket to Pakistan after ten years.
They were forced to play home matches in the United Arab Emirates after the 2009 terror attacks. The country hosted international limited over matches between 2015-2019 although no team has yet agreed to play five-day matches.
Sri Lanka, who also played three one-day internationals and as many Twenty20s in Pakistan in September-October, arrive on Sunday.
Left-arm pacer Usman Shinwari, 25, is also drafted in the squad and may play a Test for the first time.
Meanwhile, 16-year-old pacer Naseem Shah is also retained despite being selected in Pakistan’s Under-19 squad for next month’s Junior World Cup in South Africa.
Yasir Shah and uncapped left-armer Kashif Bhatti will be the two spinners in the 16-man squad.
The second Test will be played in Karachi from December 19.

Squad: Azhar Ali (captain), Abid Ali, Asad Shafiq, Babar Azam, Fawad Alam, Haris Sohail, Imam-ul-Haq, Imran Khan, Kashif Bhatti, Mohammad Abbas, Mohammad Rizwan (wicketkeeper), Naseem Shah, Shan Masood, Yasir Shah, Usman Shinwari