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Tuesday April 23, 2024

Tribal jirgas visit Afghanistan for peace talks: sources

A four-member jirga visited Afghanistan to meet senior leaders of the proscribed TTP and bring them to the negotiating table with Pakistan

By Mushtaq Yusufzai
February 23, 2022
The important jirga is from the Mehsud tribe that is led by former senator and noted religious leader Maulana Saleh Shah.
The important jirga is from the Mehsud tribe that is led by former senator and noted religious leader Maulana Saleh Shah.

PESHAWAR: Two tribal jirgas from North and South Waziristan have travelled to Afghanistan in an effort to resume peace talks between the Government of Pakistan and the militant outfit Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).

Requesting anonymity, two tribal leaders, who are part of the peace process, told The News a four-member jirga visited Afghanistan's Paktika province to meet senior leaders of the proscribed TTP and bring them to the negotiating table with the government of Pakistan a few days ago.

"Actually the important jirga is from the Mehsud tribe that is led by former senator and noted religious leader Maulana Saleh Shah. This jirga started its work a month ago and paid three visits to Afghanistan," a source close to the peace talks told this correspondent on condition of anonymity.

Maulana Saleh Shah belongs to Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam of Maulana Fazlur Rehman group and enjoys a good reputation among the Taliban as well as government and security establishment.

According to sources, Maulana Saleh Shah had agreed to play his role for bringing peace to the country by bridging the gap between the two sides but only if it was not highlighted in the media.

When reached, Maulana Saleh Shah confirmed to The News his three visits to Afghanistan in the past few weeks, saying the only purpose of their efforts was to help restore peace in the country.

"We wanted to keep the peace process secret from the media but since it's no longer a secret, therefore, I can confirm it to you that we held some crucial meetings in our three visits and there are good developments," he said.

He said they did not meet TTP leader Hafiz Noor Wali Mehsud directly but held meetings with the representatives he had nominated for the peace talks with Pakistan. "This issue is like a critical patient suffering from multiple serious diseases for 20 years. Therefore, nobody should expect it to be resolved so quickly," Maulana Saleh Shah said.

Maulana Saleh Shah, who contributed to the peace process in the past between the government and Taliban, was optimistic of the peace talks, saying the jirga members were satisfied with the cooperation and sincerity of the two sides, the Pakistan government and TTP leadership.

"There has been considerable development in the peace process but we had set some standards not to disclose sensitive matters to the public and media. If you bring each and every thing to the media then one should not expect any success," he said.

Another tribal jirga, headed by tribal chief Malik Nasrullah Khan, left for Afghanistan's Khost province via the Torkham border on February 20. This jirga comprised 10 elders, including Malik Khan Marjan, Malik Habibullah Dawar, Malik Mir Qadar Dawar, Malik Jan Faraz Wazir, Malik Sher Khan Wazir, Malik Khanzaib Dawar, Maulvi Misbahuddin Dawar, Malik Pir Aqal Shah Dawar and Malik Qadir Jan Wazir.

Sources close to these developments say the jirga from North Waziristan was tasked with talking to Taliban leader Hafiz Gul Bahadar and his men in Khost. Bahadar is the leader of the North Waziristan-based Taliban, who shifted to Afghanistan after the government launched a massive military offensive in June, 2015.

Bahadar was believed to be a pro-government Taliban leader but had been accused of some devastating attacks on security forces in North Waziristan. Sources say that the jirga from South Waziristan has been tasked to meet the TTP leadership and convince them to join negotiations with the government.

Last November, the Taliban had announced a month-long ceasefire to start direct talks with the government. However, the ceasefire ended on December 9 last year without any clear statement from either side.

The Afghan Taliban facilitated the peace talks between the government and the TTP and arranged some meetings between the two delegations in Afghanistan. The tribal jirgas stepped forward to play a role in resuming the peace process between the two sides after a spate of violent attacks in the troubled border territory.

It is believed that some recent attacks by the TTP, planned and launched from Afghanistan, had enraged Pakistani authorities, prompting them to approach the Afghan Taliban and remind them of their commitments made during the Doha Accord.

Sources claim that the Afghan Taliban took this seriously and conveyed to the senior TTP leaders to stop using Afghan soil against Pakistan. The TTP leadership then wrote a letter to all their commanders and militants not to attack the Pakistani security forces from Afghanistan's side of the border.