Tuesday August 16, 2022

Jirga returns from Kabul; TTP extends ceasefire

The jirga members met Afghanistan’s acting interior minister and an influential figure, Sirajuddin Haqqani, and other Taliban leaders and later held detailed discussions with the Pakistani Taliban

June 04, 2022
The Taliban fighters. Photo: The News/File
The Taliban fighters. Photo: The News/File

PESHAWAR/ISLAMABAD: After a series of meetings with the Pakistani Taliban in Kabul, a 53-member tribal jirga Friday returned to Peshawar, claiming talks with the Taliban were 90 per cent successful and would pave the way for peace in the country. The Taliban had agreed in talks to extend the ceasefire with Pakistan till the peace process was in progress.

Former Senator and JUIF leader from South Waziristan tribal district, Maulana Saleh Shah, led the jirga. He has a long history of facilitating and holding peace negotiations with the Pakistani Taliban in the past.

The jirga members met Afghanistan’s acting interior minister and an influential figure, Sirajuddin Haqqani, and other Taliban leaders and later held detailed discussions with the Pakistani Taliban.

Sirajuddin Haqqani, head of the erstwhile Haqqani Network, had been playing a pivotal role in the peace negotiations between the government of Pakistan and the Afghanistan-based Pakistani Taliban.

According to sources, Sirajuddin Haqqani and his colleagues also facilitated and moderated meetings between the Pakistani tribal jirga and leaders of the outlawed Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan or TTP. The jirga members then held a detailed meeting with Mufti Noor Wali Mahsud, head of the Pakistani Taliban. He welcomed the elders and appreciated their efforts for peace in the country.

As Maulana Saleh Shah is always reluctant to share inside information about the jirga proceedings due to sensitivity of the issue, he agreed to comment that the meetings were quite successful with the Pakistani Taliban. “Look it’s a long-standing complicated conflict between the government of Pakistan and the Pakistani Taliban. It needs enough time and strong nerves to be resolved peacefully,” the articulate former tribal parliamentarian remarked when reached by this correspondent.

Maulana Saleh Shah said they discussed all issues, some of them very thorny, with the Taliban. “I am hopeful of our painstaking journey and efforts for restoration of peace. We discussed two major issues -- Fata merger and rehabilitation of the Taliban in Pakistan -- and we are satisfied with the outcome of the negotiations,” Shah said.

He said though the majority of the tribespeople had reservations about the Fata merger as they got nothing except the police, the tribal elders explained the pros and cons of the merger to the Taliban. Besides many other demands, the Pakistani Taliban wanted the revival of the erstwhile Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) and their armed return to Pakistan.

Pakistan wanted the Taliban to dissolve their network, Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, a conglomeration of different militant factions, disassociate themselves with other militant organisations, accept Pakistan’s Constitution and return without arms.

Shah believed they would find an amicable solution to these demands of the two sides in the next rounds of talks.

Upon their arrival, the jirga members briefed senior officials in Peshawar about their negotiations with the Taliban leaders. “Their attitude was very supportive and accommodating and I believe we can get more success in the next rounds,” the jirga head hoped.

According to sources, 20 members of the jirga were chosen for talks with the Taliban and they held hours long detailed sessions with them. They included Maulana Saleh Shah, former governor Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and senior parliamentarian from Bajaur tribal district, Engineer Shaukatullah Khan, Barrister Mohammad Ali Saif, special assistant to chief minister Mahmood Khan on information and public relations, Federal Minister Sajid Turi, Dr Ghazi Gulab Jamal, better known as GG Jamal.

According to them, the Pakistani Taliban in their last sessions agreed to change the name of their organisation (TTP) and lay down arms before their return to Pakistan. Also, the jirga members said the Taliban had stopped demanding the removal of barbed wire on the Pakistan-Afghan border, and opening an office in any other country.

“They were no longer demanding removal of the barbed wire and opening office in any other country. Also, they agreed to disassociate their links with all other militant organisations,” said the jirga member, saying Taliban’s attitude was quite satisfactory.

Meanwhile, Minister for Information and Broadcasting Marriyum Aurangzeb on Friday said the government welcomed the ceasefire extended by the TTP under the ongoing negotiations, which began in October 2021. She said talks with the TTP, which were being held within the constitutional domain, would conclude with the government's approval.

“Whatever decision is taken by the negotiating committee in this regard, it will be taken in line with the Constitution and approval of the Parliament and the government,” she said.