Pakistan has detained a senior Afghan Taliban member in an attempt to put pressure on the militants amid talks with the US, sources in the group say according to BBC News.
Hafez Mohibullah, religious affairs minister when the Taliban ran Afghanistan before 2001, was held in Peshawar, the sources told the BBC.
The US has repeatedly mounted pressure on Pakistan to end “safe havens” and complacent attitude towards fighting the Taliban on its soil.
Pakistan in its turn has denied backing the group to retain influence in Afghanistan.
The reported detention of Hafez Mohibullah comes ahead of a visit to Pakistan by US special representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation, Zalmay Khalilzad, who has held a series of meetings with the Taliban’s political office in Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.
Taliban sources say Hafez Mohibullah had been living in the city for a number of years.
Two high-ranking Taliban figures, talking on condition of anonymity, suggested the former minister had been detained to put pressure on the group into meeting Mr Khalilzad in Pakistan this week, and crucially to agree to meet representatives of Afghan President Ashraf Ghani.
So far the Taliban have refused to hold direct talks with Afghan officials, whom they dismiss as “puppets” and have only met US officials. Sources within the group say both Pakistan and Saudi Arabia have been trying to convince the Taliban to change their stance.
One senior Taliban figure told the BBC: “They arrested him [Mohibullah] to send a message.”
Another from the group’s Quetta Shura, or leadership council, added: “There was a meeting with Pakistani officials on the upcoming peace talks which ended in arguments. Right afterwards, the authorities raided a number of houses and arrested Mohibullah. After that [Taliban leader] Sheikh Hibatullah sent a message warning everyone to be alert.”
Previously Taliban officials have said they will only begin talks with the Afghan government once a firm date for the withdrawal of American troops from the country has been agreed.