He was one of the most feared figures of the Taliban government: a scowling cleric whose Islamic vigilante squads roamed the capital, shoving stragglers toward mosques at prayer time, dragging men off to jail for listening to radios and beating women they caught chatting with shopkeepers.

At 60, Maulvi Qalamuddin still wears the thick black beard and imposing turban that defined him during his tenure as deputy minister for the promotion of virtue and prevention of vice. But his rhetoric has mellowed since Taliban rule ended in 2001, and last year he was named by President Hamid Karzai, along with five other former Taliban officials, to the High Peace Council set up to negotiate with the insurgency.

Now the Karzai government, in a further bid to bolster the fledgling peace process, has asked the U.N. Security Council to remove Qalamuddin and 19 other former Taliban members from a sanctions list that has prevented them from traveling or sending money abroad since 1999. The United Nations is expected to announce a decision within weeks.

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