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 to present resolution at OIC in wake of Islamophobic campaign in France

Updated 5 min 41 sec ago

Pakistan to present resolution at OIC in wake of Islamophobic campaign in France

  • Pakistan summons French envoy “to lodge strong protest against recent Islamophobic diatribe,” foreign office says
  • Condemns in "strongest manner the systematic resurgence of blasphemous acts of republication of caricatures of the Holy Prophet (pbuh)”

ISLAMABAD: On the instructions of Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said on Monday a resolution would be presented at the next meeting of the foreign ministers of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, proposing to observe 15th March as an international day against Islamophobia.

Qureshi’s remarks came as Pakistan’s Foreign Office on Monday summoned French ambassador Marc Baréty as anger spread in the South Asian nation over President Emmanuel Macron’s reaction to the murder last week of a French teacher by a Muslim who wanted to avenge the use of cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammad (pbuh) in a class on freedom of expression.

On Sunday, in an open letter on Twitter, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan called on Facebook to ban “Islamophobic content” on its platform, hours after he accused the French president of “attacking Islam”.

On Monday, FM Qureshi urged the United Nations to take notice and act against the campaign against Islam, saying there was resentment world over due to the resurgence of the blasphemous caricatures.

“Nobody has the right to hurt the sentiments of millions of Muslims under the garb of freedom of expression. Irresponsible statement of the French President has added fuel to the fire,” Qureshi said. “Hate speech is on the rise. The Prime Minister raised his voice against hate speech and Islamophobia at the UN General Assembly this year.”

Foreign office spokesperson Zahid Hafeez Chaudhri told Arab News the french ambassador to Pakistan was summoned to the Foreign Office to lodge "strong protest against the recent Islamophobic diatribe,” saying Baréty was handed over a ‘dossier’ by the special secretary for Europe on Monday.

On Wednesday, Macron had vowed not to “give up cartoons” depicting Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), saying that Samuel Paty, the teacher who was beheaded for showing the blasphemous sketches, was “killed beca­use Islamists want our future”.

“Pakistan condemns in the strongest manner the systematic resurgence of blasphemous acts of republication of caricatures of the Holy Prophet (pbuh) and desecration of the Holy Quran by certain irresponsible elements in some developed countries,” foreign office said in a statement.