Sunday, October 2, 2022

taliban: Pakistan jirga lands in Kabul to take talks with Pak Taliban forward

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ISLAMABAD: A 50-member council of elders (jirga) from Pakistan arrived in Kabul on Wednesday to join the ongoing talks between the outlawed Pakistani Taliban and Islamabad after the two sides agreed a month ago to extend a month-long ceasefire for an indefinite period.
The jirga, constituted to take forward the dialogue process and reach an agreement with the militants, has representatives from all seven tribal districts bordering Afghanistan and Malakand division of Pakistan’s northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. It comprises tribal elders, lawmakers and top government representatives, including federal minister Sajid Hussain Turi, a native of Orakzai tribal region.
The talks between the two have been facilitated by the Afghan Taliban in Kabul. It had resulted in a month-long ceasefire on May 1. As the truce was due to expire on May 31, the two sides agreed to extend it for an indefinite period to help prevent the derailment of the fragile process.
Officials said Sirajuddin Haqqani, Afghanistan’s interior minister, has played a key in mediating the talks. Sources familiar with the developments said Haqqani was personally available in some sessions of the talks and had effectively intervened to remove deadlocks to help push the process.
While Pakistani authorities have not revealed what they had agreed upon in talks with the TTP so far, Islamabad had last month released several TTP figures, including key leaders Muslim Khan and Mahmood Khan. Both leaders were on the list of over 100 detainees, the release of whom was one of the group’s key demands.
Muslim Khan, who had served as spokesperson for the TTP’s Swat chapter, was arrested in 2009 and later awarded the death penalty in 2016. Pakistan army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa had confirmed his death sentence. Reports suggested that he was pardoned through a presidential decree.
Previously, the TTP had been demanding restoration of the traditional semi-autonomous status of several of its tribal districts, formerly known as the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, or Fata. The militants also demanded withdrawal of Pakistani troops from the rugged mountainous region and implementation of Sharia law in erstwhile Fata. They reject the Pakistani constitution as un-Islamic.
Islamabad, for its part, has been asking the TTP to shun militancy, dissolve the group and start living as normal Pakistani citizens.
Shaukatullah Khan, a jirga member and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s former governor, said he was hopeful of the outcome of peace talks, saying that the situation had changed in the region after the exit of foreign forces from Afghanistan.
Since its inception in 2007, the TTP-led suicide bombings and other terrorist attacks have killed tens of thousands of Pakistanis, including security forces. Sustained military operation by Pakistan has significantly degraded the group’s abilities to carry out major attacks.
It, however, had intensified selective targeted attacks on Pakistani forces from their Afghan bases since the return of the Taliban to power in Kabul last year, killing scores of Pakistani security personnel and prompting Islamabad to conduct cross-border airstrikes against TTP hideouts.





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