Peace efforts between Pakistan, TTP gather pace

Jirga of notable tribal leaders leave for Afghanistan today for talks with Pakistani Taliban, says report

Mushtaq Yusufzai
Taliban forces stand guard inside Kabul, Afghanistan August 16, 2021 — Reuters
Taliban forces stand guard inside Kabul, Afghanistan August 16, 2021 — Reuters
  • A 50-member jirga of notable tribal leaders is due in Kabul tomorrow.
  • Jirga members will extend peace talks with Pakistani Taliban based in Afghanistan.
  • Some jirga members were summoned to Peshawar and briefed on the reconciliation process.

To extend peace talks, a 50-member jirga of notable tribal leaders will fly to Kabul for substantive talks with the Pakistani Taliban based in Afghanistan, jirga members informed The News.

Former senator Maulana Saleh Shah will preside over the jirga. The jirga consists of tribal elders from South Waziristan, North Waziristan, Orakzai, Kurram, Khyber, Mohmand, and Bajaur, as well as the Malakand Division.

Public representatives, including former Khyber Pakhtunkhwa governor Engineer Shaukatullah Khan, Senator Dost Mohammad Khan Mehsud, Senator Hilal Mohmand, GG Jamal, etc, will be present.

"This was the second meeting between members of the jirga and senior security officials in Peshawar," one member of the jirga informed The News on the condition of anonymity. The jirga member said they were summoned to Peshawar and briefed on the reconciliation process with the Pakistani Taliban in Afghanistan.

He said senior officials had informed the jirga members about the progress in the peace negotiations so far. Engineer Shaukatullah Khan, former governor of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and the jirga member told The News that nothing had been agreed with the Taliban, saying he would first meet with leaders of the Pakistani Taliban.

He said they would prefer the Taliban to lay down arms, return home and live peacefully in Pakistan. He didn’t confirm reports that the previous status of the erstwhile tribal areas would be restored and merger with KP be withdrawn, 60% of the Pakistan army troops would be pulled out of the tribal districts, and the Taliban would return to Pakistan along with arms and ammunition.

"I don’t confirm these reports as we haven’t met the Taliban. Let’s wait and see what comes out of these talks," he said. Shaukatullah Khan, who belongs to Bajaur tribal district, said he and all other members of the jirga were hopeful of the outcome of peace talks, saying the situation in the region had changed and foreign forces from Afghanistan were gone.

"Jirga is the right forum to resolve issues. We Pakhtuns have the capacity to listen to each other and resolve issues through dialogue," he said.

He said they are likely to leave for Afghanistan today (Tuesday) from Peshawar and if the flight from Peshawar is cancelled, then they will fly from Islamabad airport. Another member of the jirga, on condition of anonymity, said they would be meeting senior Taliban leaders, including the chief of the banned TTP, Mufti Noor Wali Mehsud, Maulvi Faqir Mohammad, etc.

He said the Afghan Taliban would facilitate the peace process. According to the jirga members, some of the militant leaders had initially refused to participate in the peace talks with Pakistan, but the Afghan Taliban had made it clear to all the Pakistani Taliban factions that any individual or group not willing to join the negotiations would need to leave Afghanistan. 

"I think there is no option for the militant factions to stay away from the peace talks with the Pakistan government. If talks with the TTP succeed, then all of them will return to Pakistan and will start a peaceful life in their respective areas," said the jirga member.