Islamabad: Afghanistan on Friday refused to hand over senior Pakistani Taliban commander Maulvi Faqir Mohammad hours after Islamabad requested his extradition following his capture by Afghan forces.

Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar had taken up the handing over of Faqir Mohammad during a phone conversation with her Afghan counterpart Zalmai Rassoul on Wednesday night but Afghan Foreign Ministry spokesman Janan Musazai ruled out his extradition.

The Taliban commander was captured by Afghan intelligence operatives in the eastern part of Afghanistan on Monday. During a weekly news briefing on Thursday, Pakistan Foreign Office spokesman Moazzam Khan had said: "We hope that he would be handed over to Pakistan as soon as possible because he has the blood of many innocent Pakistanis on his hands."

Hours later, the Afghan Foreign Ministry shot down Pakistan's request, saying there was no agreement between the two countries for exchanging prisoners. The Afghan government's investigation into the recent capture of Mohammad "is still ongoing", Afghan Foreign Ministry spokesman Musazai said.

In a statement, Musazai indicated the refusal might be a tit-for-tat move as Pakistan had rejected Afghanistan's request to hand over certain Afghan Taliban prisoners during a recent tripartite summit in London.

"During the recent tripartite meeting in London, the Afghan government requested the Pakistani government to return Afghan Taliban prisoners held by Pakistan to Afghanistan so that they could participate in and support Afghanistan's peace and reconciliation efforts," Musazai said. "The Pakistani side responded that they could definitely not hand over Taliban prisoners to the Afghan government because there is no prisoner exchange agreement between the two countries," Musazai said.

He said the Afghan government believes the return of Afghan Taliban prisoners to Afghanistan is in the best interests of a meaningful peace process, and it was prepared to further discuss the issue with the Pakistani government.

Mohammad, a former deputy chief of the banned Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, was removed following reports that he was involved in "unauthorised" talks with Pakistani authorities. He had confirmed in an interview last year that he was twice contacted by a Pakistani religious leader on behalf of a top security official. The commander fled to Afghanistan after the military launched an operation against him in Bajaur tribal region in 2008.


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