‘Tribal jirga due in Kabul for talks with Pakistani Taliban’

PESHAWAR: A 50-member jirga of prominent tribal elders is due to fly to Kabul tomorrow for meaningful talks with the Afghanistan-based Pakistani Taliban in Kabul, members of the jirga told The News.

Former Senator Maulana Saleh Shah will lead the jirga members. The jirga comprises tribal elders from all the seven tribal districts including South Waziristan, North Waziristan, Orakzai, Kurram, Khyber, Mohmand and Bajaur, as well as the Malakand Divison.

Among them will be public representatives including former governor of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Engineer Shaukatullah Khan, Senator Dost Mohammad Khan Mehsud, Senator Hilal Mohmand, GG Jamal, etc.

“It was second meeting of the jirga members with senior security officials in Peshawar. They were called to Peshawar and were briefed about the peace process with the Pakistani Taliban in Afghanistan,” one member of the jirga told The News on condition of anonymity.

He said senior officials had informed the jirga members about 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 would first time meet leaders of the Pakistani Taliban.

He said they would prefer the Taliban to lay down arms, return home and live peaceful lives in Pakistan. He didn’t confirm reports that previous status of the erstwhile tribal areas would be restored and merger with KP be withdrawn, 60 per cent of the Pakistan army troops would be pulled out of the tribal districts, and Taliban will return Pakistan along with arms and ammunition.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 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 situation in the region had changed and foreign forces from Afghanistan are 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 was cancelled then they would fly from Islamabad airport. Another member of the jirga on condition of anonymity said they would be meeting senior Taliban leaders including 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 wound return to Pakistan and would start a peaceful life in their respective areas,” said the jirga member.

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