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No major breakthrough yet as jirga returns from Kabul

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PESHAWAR: A 57-member jirga negotiating with the outlawed Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) returned to Pakistan on Friday without any major breakthrough over the militants’ demand for the reversal of Fata’s merger with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, a member of the jirga told Dawn.

The jirga consists of tribal elders, politicians and parliamentarians who met with senior TTP leaders at Kabul’s Inter-Continental Hotel for two days and held threadbare discussions over demands, including the most contentious issue of Fata’s merger.

“The overall atmosphere was very positive,” a senior jirga member said. “There were long discussions. They had their own point of view and we had our own. We explained to them that the 25th Amendment that led to Fata’s merger had political consensus and parliamentary support. Even the Supreme Court of Pakistan endorsed it,” the member said. “We neither have the mandate to commit to undoing it, nor do we sincerely think it would be possible to undo it, given the broad political support including that of a larger section of the tribal people,” the member said.

He said that the jirga sought three months’ time for mutual consultation and discussions with important stakeholders, including political and military leadership, to frame proposals to address some of their concerns within the Constitutional framework.

Sirajuddin Haqqani recalls TTP sacrifices in jihad against Americans, says Pakistan should work out its differences with group through concessions

“We can meet in between and will continue to remain in touch to exchange ideas but the three months’ timeframe is for us to complete our work within this time period,” the member said.

He suggested that amendments could be made to the 25th Constitutional Amendment without changing its spirit but undoing it was not possible. The jirga member said that the TTP appeared to be under pressure from their Afghan hosts to resolve their issues with Pakistan.

Sirajuddin Haqqani, the acting minister for interior, said that the end of TTP’s conflict with Pakistan was in Afghanistan’s best interests, the member said. “Any attack from this side irks Pakistan, which creates problems for us with our neighbour and such incidents have international ramifications for the Islamic emirate”, the member quoted Mr. Haqqani as saying.

“But we don’t want to coerce the TTP. They have waged jihad with us against the Americans and made sacrifices. It would be better that Pakistan and TTP come to terms, after giving each other some concessions,” Mr. Haqqani had told the jirga, according to the member.

“Overall, I think this issue is going to take some time. I don’t see it ending any time soon. This would require engagement, perseverance and sincerity of purpose,” the member said.

Separately, at the weekly press briefing at the Foreign Office, Spokesperson Asim Iftikhar Ahmed said that Pakistan will continue taking steps, including engagement with interim Afghan authorities and others, to have peaceful and stable borders.

Talking about the peace talks with TTP, he said that the objective of this exercise is peace, and “we hope that it leads to an outcome that ends violence by these groups”.

Meanwhile, Information Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb on Friday welcomed the ceasefire extension by the outlawed TTP under the ongoing negotiations, which began in October 2021.

Published in Dawn, June 4th, 2022

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