Pakistan turns to tribal jirga to restart peace talks with local Taliban

TTP Spokesman Khurassani downplays talks, claims no meeting between group leadership and, elders took place | Acknowledges engagement of tribal jirga

ISLAMABAD - The government has recently re-initiated another process of talks with the banned militant group the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) in Afghanistan. Pakistan has turned to a tribal jirga of prominent elders to persuade the TTP to shun violence and return to their country to live peacefully, according to people privy to the process. Last week, the elders met with TTP chief Mufti Noor Wali Mehsud in eastern Afghanistan’s Paktika province. 

When approached, the TTP’s central spokesman Muhammad Khurassani downplayed the talks, claiming that no meeting between the group leadership and the elders had taken place but acknowledged engagement of the tribal jirga. “The jirga has contacted us but we sent it to the mediator, which is the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. So far, there is no discussion or meeting with the jirga,” Khurassani said on the phone. 

Pakistani security officials are pinning hopes on the tribal jirga for a breakthrough. A senior security official on condition of anonymity, stated, “As per our understanding, tribal elders have major influence on TTP chief and few other senior commanders. Tribal jirgas, for centuries, have proved very effective in resolving tribal disputes peacefully. They have certain channels of engagements for negotiations if used effectively, can result in paving the way for composite talks with the TTP.” Multiple rounds of talks between the government of Pakistan and the banned TTP have failed in the past. In the last months-long informal peace process, both sides had agreed to take steps to build confidence between the two sides. The interim Afghanistan interior minister and deputy chief of the Taliban movement, Sirajuddin Haqqani aka Khalifa, was a key mediator between the government of Pakistan and the TTP. The TTP and Afghan Taliban are closely allied but maintain separate organisational and operational structures.

After an initial ceasefire announcement in November, the process collapsed with the TTP refusing to extend the ceasefire with the government, accusing it of reneging on promises of releasing TTP prisoners. Perhaps due to the failed efforts of the past, tribal elders involved in the current process are tight-lipped and cautious. A key tribal elder involved in the process noted, “I can’t share details at the moment as talks are under progress. It’s a secretive process,” he said.

 

— Ihsanullah Tipu Mehsud is an Islamabad-based 

freelance journalist who covers security issues in 

Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Ihsanullah Tipu Mehsud

Ihsanullah Tipu Mehsud

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