Afghan Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen said on Wednesday that the process of the release of Taliban prisoners will start on March 31, a major step towards the start of intra-Afghan dialogue. Controversy over release of the Taliban prisoners delayed the intra-Afghan dialogue scheduled for March 10. President Ashraf Ghani had initially refused to release the prisoners as a precondition for the negotiations with the Taliban.The proposed talks involving Afghan parties to the conflict are central to the U.S.-Taliban agreement reached in Qatar last month as Afghan leaders would decide the future political roadmap of Afghanistan.A total of 5000 Taliban detainees would be released by March 10 and Taliban will also free 1000 prisoners of the other side in accordance with the Taliban-US agreement signed in Qatar on Feb. 29. Taliban will also set free 1000 Afghan government’s prisoners. Shaheen said in a series of tweets that a Taliban delegation will visit Bagram detention center to verify the prisoners and facilitate their release. He said the decision was taken during the talks via video conference between the technical team of the Taliban and the Afghan government. The lasted for nearly four hours.Afghan government also confirmed the proposed release of the Taliban prisoners. Office of the National Security Council of Afghanistan (ONSC) said in Kabul that 100 prisoners will be freed on humanitarian grounds – including health, age and vulnerability to COVID19 – by March 31 after guarantees by Taliban and the prisoners that they will not re-enter the fight.A statement posted on twitter said the Peace Initial Contact Group (PICG) met virtually with the Taliban and discussed initial technical steps for prisoner release.“To carry out these further discussions, a Taliban team will meet with the government face-to-face in Afghanistan in the coming days,” the ONSC said, adding the Taliban prisoners will be freed in pursuant to President Ashraf Ghani’s decree.US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad, Qatari Special Envoy for Counterterrorism and Mediation in Conflict Resolution Dr. Mutlaq al-Qahtani, and ICRC head of delegation Juan Pedro Schaerer also attended the Wednesday’s meeting.President Ghani had earlier opposed release of the prisoners before the start of intra-Afghan dialogue and insisted that the prisoner issue should be part of the negotiations between the Taliban and the Afghan side. However, the Taliban pressed for release of prisoners before the start of the talks.The Taliban-US agreement says a permanent and comprehensive ceasefire will be an item on the agenda of the intra-Afghan dialogue and negotiations.The participants will discuss the date and modalities of a permanent and comprehensive ceasefire, including joint implementation mechanisms, which will be announced along with the completion and agreement over the future political roadmap of Afghanistan.Afghan government has not yet formed team for the intra-Afghan dialogue and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo urged President Ghani and Dr Abdullah Abdullah to form the team when he met the Afghan leaders during his recent visit to Kabul.“I pressed President Ghani and CEO Abdullah. They still can’t see their way towards wanting to get on a team, the inclusive team. That’s why you see in our statement that we are disappointed that they’ve not been able to do that,” Pompeo told the media persons accompanied him during Kabul’s trip on Monday.“But I think they are beginning to realize that we are intent upon executing the outlines of both the joint declaration with the Afghan Government and the document that we signed with the Taliban. So I’m hopeful in the days ahead we’ll begin this process which will begin with the prisoner release and lead to getting an inclusive team together at the negotiating table, which is, in the end, the Afghans sitting together is the outcome we have to get to,” he said.Meanwhile, Afghan state television reported late Wednesday that former intelligence chief Masoom Stanekzai will lead the team while its members are Ghairat Baheer, Batoor Dostam, Habiba Surabi, Zarar Maqbal, Muhammad Nataqi, Dr Rasool Talib, Kalimullah Naqbi, Gen Ayub Ansadri, Zakia Wardak, Nadir Nadri, Mateen Beg, Zainab Mohid, Maulvi Inayatullah Baleegh, Sharifa Zurmati, Abdul Hadi Arghandiwal, Khalid Noor, Hafiz Mansoor, Dr Amin Ahmadi, and Shehla Farid.