World News

Pakistan court dismisses Taliban extradition challenge

ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - A Pakistani court on Tuesday threw out a petition seeking to block the extradition of the Afghan Taliban’s No. 2 leader and other senior commanders detained in Pakistan, a lawyer said.

U.S. ally Pakistan captured at least four Afghan Taliban leaders, including top military strategist Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, early this year. The Afghan government has asked Islamabad to hand them over.

But Khalid Khawaja, a former Pakistani intelligence officer turned campaigner for Islamist causes, petitioned the Lahore High Court seeking to block their extraditions, which it did in February, pending its final decision on the petition.

However, the court on Tuesday threw out the case following the death of the petitioner.

“The court dismissed the petition because of the death of Khalid Khawaja and has asked that a fresh petition should be moved if somebody wants to pursue the case,” Tariq Asad, the lawyer for Khawaja, told Reuters.

Asad said he might file a fresh petition aimed at blocking extradition.

Suspected militants kidnapped Khawaja, a journalist and another former colleague from the country’s main Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency in Pakistan’s restive northwest in March on suspicions of spying. The kidnappers also demanded the release of captured Afghan Taliban leaders in exchange for them.

Khawaja was found dead in North Waziristan, a major sanctuary for al Qaeda and Taliban, late last month. There has been no word on the fate of two other kidnapped men since.

Pakistan has only confirmed the arrest of Baradar but Afghan officials say at least three other Taliban leaders, Abdul Salam, Mir Mohammad and Abdul Kabir, are in Pakistan’s custody.

Pakistan has said it would try Baradar itself if he was found to have violated any Pakistani laws.

(Reporting by Zeeshan Haider; Editing by Chris Allbritton and Sanjeev Miglani)

For more Reuters coverage of Afghanistan and Pakistan, see: here