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Zaeff (L) is expected to leave Pakistan on Thursday  

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (CNN) -- Taliban diplomatic officials quickly packed and left their former embassy in Islamabad on Thursday after Pakistan ordered the mission closed.

The embassy closure effectively ended Pakistan's recognition of the Taliban government of Afghanistan.

Taliban ambassador Mullah Abdul Salam Zaeef was not among the diplomats who left Thursday afternoon saying they were going "home to Kandahar."

Zaeef was said to be at his residence sleeping, but CNN could not confirm that report.

Taliban officials leaving the embassy told CNN they had not been given official notice of the order to vacate, but Pakistani officials said the order had been issued Thursday morning.

According to diplomatic sources, Zaeef was given a "reasonable" amount of time to leave.

Officials said Pakistan took the step to cut its ties with the Taliban after eight aid workers, accused by the Taliban of trying to spread Christianity and held since August, were freed last week.

Gradual steps

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The officials said the decision had been under consideration for some time, and the release of the aid workers left no reason to maintain official contact.

"As the situation has changed, we have been taking gradual steps towards the closure of the missions and submissions," Aziz Ahmad Kahn, a Pakistan Foreign Ministry spokesman told reporters.

"A few days ago, we closed the embassy, the consulate in Karachi, then three days ago we announced the closure of the two consulates in Peshawar and Quetta and yesterday a decision was taken to close the embassy in Islamabad. This decision has been communicated to the Afghans officially this [Thursday] morning."

The Taliban's ambassador to Pakistan, Mullah Abdul Salam Zaeef, was summoned to the foreign office and told the embassy would be closed, Kahn said.

Zaeef often held daily news conferences at the embassy after the United States began its military campaign in Afghanistan.

'No need for ties'

The withdrawal of diplomatic recognition followed similar moves months ago by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, the only two other countries which ever recognized the Taliban regime.

Without a viable government in Afghanistan, and with the Taliban now controlling far less territory in the country, Pakistani officials said there is no longer a need for the Taliban to continue to have diplomatic representation in Pakistan.

When a broad-based transitional government is established for Afghanistan, the officials said, they will consider what further diplomatic moves to make.

Since mid-September, Pakistan has resisted cutting ties with the Taliban.

It did not immediately follow Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates when they severed relations in late September.

Pakistan also sent two delegations to Kandahar in a last-ditch attempt to prevent the bombing campaign currently under way.

Earlier this month, Pakistan ordered Zaeef to refrain from criticizing third countries in his frequent Islamabad news conferences.

The "third country rule" was invoked to prevent the ambassador from using his diplomatic status to malign other countries, Pakistani officials said.

Taliban sources immediately condemned the decision, calling it an effective ban.

Zaeef had held no press briefings since then.

-- CNN Correspondents Sheila MacVicar and Tom Mintier contributed to this report.


• Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Pakistan.

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