Fugitive Afghan Taliban leaders are being increasingly pressured to relocate from Pakistan along with their families and businesses for refusing to join peace talks with Kabul, officials and insurgent sources told VOA in background interviews.
“The squeeze is continuing on them and some have already left, or are leaving the country,” says a senior Pakistani official directly involved in matters related to the Afghan policy.
He did not want to be named because publicly the government has not yet acknowledged the crackdown, which is part of the policy to seek an early repatriation from Pakistan of nearly three million registered and undocumented Afghan refugees.
Pakistan has been under pressure from international partners, particularly the U.S. to deny space to the Taliban and other groups waging the violent insurgency in Afghanistan. The country denies charges its spy agency’s covertly supports the Taliban and its ally, the Haqqani Network, enabling them to prolong the Afghan war and expand influence of the insurgents after withdrawal of U.S.-led international combat forces.
Pakistani authorities earlier this month arrested several key Taliban leaders from areas in and around Quetta, the capital of the southwestern Baluchistan province, which borders Afghanistan. The detainees also include Ahmadullah Muti, commonly known as Mullah Nanai, Suleman Agha and Mullah Samad Sani.
All three held key positions in the insurgency and were arrested after they ignored requests to hold peace and reconciliation talks with the Afghan government, according to Pakistani and insurgent officials. Authorities have also raided and shut down some Islamic seminaries, or madrassas, for refugee children that are suspected of sheltering Taliban insurgents.
The crackdown has prompted the Taliban to send a high-level delegation to Islamabad from its Qatar-based political office to take up the issue with Pakistani officials.
Taliban delegates also plan to convey concerns over the way Afghan refugees are being treated, including their forceful eviction and deportations from Pakistan, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told VOA.
But he dismissed reports as “misleading” that Taliban political envoys have travelled to Pakistan to brief authorities there on the insurgent group’s recent secret meetings with Afghan officials in Qatar. He said neither such meeting has taken place.