Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Province
Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Province

ISLAMABAD - Security forces in Pakistan have rescued an influential former top Afghan official two weeks after he was kidnapped by unknown men in Islamabad.

Former governor of the western Afghan province of Herat, Fazlullah Wahidi, was rescued from the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa border province in a late night security operation, officials said Friday without sharing further details.

Wahidi was visiting Pakistan to apply for a visa to the United Kingdom when he was kidnapped from the guesthouse he was staying in on February 12. The British embassy in Kabul does not issue visas to Afghans.

Afghanistan’s ambassador to Pakistan, Hazrat Omer Zakhilwal, welcomed the “safe recovery and release” of the former governor, describing it as “a significant achievement” for Pakistani law enforcement officials and institutions.

“This also will play enormously for strengthening trust and confidence between Afghanistan and Pakistan,” he said.

The motives for the high-profile kidnapping could not be ascertained because there were no claims of responsibility, nor were there any demands for ransom, Pakistani officials say.

The incident had threatened to undermine efforts to arrange direct peace talks the Afghan government wants to hold with Taliban-led armed opposition groups.

The cooperation has eased strains in the traditionally uneasy relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan. The long-anticipated peace talks are expected to take place in Islamabad next week.

“At our end we will use this (recovery of Wahidi) and other opportunities for broadening interactions between Afghanistan-Pakistan, which in turn will result in more trust and confidence and ultimately to a very special relationship between our two brotherly countries,” Zakhilwal asserted.

Wahidi governed the eastern Kunar province, bordering Pakistan, before taking charge of Herat, which is located next to Iran. He is a vocal critic of Islamabad’s alleged interference in Afghan affairs. While he was governing Kunar, Pakistani officials frequently accused Wahidi of sheltering fugitive leaders of the Pakistani Taliban and helping them stage cross-border terrorist attacks.