October 22, 2016 - 16:10 AMT
Afghan Taliban political envoys travel to Pakistan for serious talks

An Afghan Taliban delegation has traveled to Pakistan from Qatar for talks with officials to raise various issues, including “arrests” of some insurgent leaders, shutting down of some religious seminaries for Afghan refugees and “increasing problems” facing the displaced community in the neighboring country, Voice of America reports.

A senior Taliban official requesting anonymity told VOA the three-member-delegation has been dispatched to Islamabad from its political headquarters in Doha, the capital of the Gulf state, to convey concerns and seek information on what prompted the arrests of Taliban members.

The main spokesman for the Islamist insurgency, Zabihullah Mujahid, while confirming to VOA the arrival of the Taliban delegation in Pakistan, said the group routinely interacts with countries with which Afghanistan enjoys diplomatic ties.

“The delegation from Qatar has gone to Pakistan to take up with officials there problems facing Afghan refugees, their arrests, forceful evictions and deportations,” Mujahid insisted. He said no political issues or discussions on prospects of any peace talks with the Afghan government will be on the table.

The spokesman rejected reports as unfounded the visit is meant to brief Pakistani authorities on recent secret meetings between Taliban and Afghan officials in Doha.

The delegation consists of two former ministers in the deposed Taliban government, Mullah Jan Muhammad Madani and Mullah Abdul Salam, and a former ambassador to Pakistan, Maulvi Shahabuddin Dilawar. All three are considered highly influential and respected within the Afghan insurgency.

Pakistani officials have not yet commented on the visit.

Afghan Ambassador to Islamabad Hazrat Omer Zakhilwal told VOA he "was aware of their (Taliban) visit," without discussing further details.

Speaking in Kabul, Afghan Foreign Ministry spokesman Ahmad Shakeb Mustaghani criticized the visit.

“This visit is not related to Afghanistan, and travel bans placed on members of the delegation by U.N. sanctions should be taken into account. However, if the visit is related to peace activities, it needs to be fully explained,” said Mustaghani, without elaborating. He was referring to U.N. travel restrictions on Taliban officials based in Qatar.