PESHAWAR: A delegation of tribal council leaders from Pakistan's Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province has reached Afghanistan to hold second round of negotiations with the banned Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) to find an end to the nearly two decades of militancy in the border region.
The 12-member delegation, led by Barrister Mohammad Ali Saif, special assistant to the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa chief minister, reached Kabul on Saturday, sources said. The visit comes a day after the return of the delegation of Pakistani clerics, headed by Mufti Taqi Usmani, who visited Afghanistan from July 25 to 29. The religious scholars held two meetings with the Pakistani Taliban, besides calling on the top leaders of the ruling Afghan Taliban and acting prime minister Mullah Mohammad Hasan Akhund of the neighbouring country.
The first meeting was very brief in which the two sides introduced themselves and then concluded soon after Mufti Usmani offered prayers for the success of the peace process.
Mullah Hasan and interior minister Sirajuddin Haqqani organised the second meeting in which the two sides openly discussed issues pertaining to the peace process. Now tribal elders are in Afghanistan to hold the second round of talks.
The second round of talks comes as the Pakistan government and the TTP last month agreed to extend a ceasefire indefinitely while continuing negotiations to find an end to the nearly two decades of militancy.
Though the outlawed militant outfit agreed for a ceasefire, it had said that it would not back down from its demand for the reversal of the merger of erstwhile Federally Administered Tribal Areas with the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.
The TTP, also known as the Pakistan Taliban, was set up as an umbrella group of several militant outfits in 2007. Its main aim is to impose its strict brand of Islam across Pakistan.
The group, which is believed to be close to al-Qaeda, has been blamed for several deadly attacks across Pakistan, including an attack on army headquarters in 2009, assaults on military bases and the 2008 bombing of the Marriott Hotel in Islamabad.
“The KPK Jirga will hold talks with TTP leaders in continuation of their first round of negotiations held in June 2022,” a member of the jirga said.
The KPK jirga expressed satisfaction over the outcome of talks held between TTP leaders and Pakistani Ulema delegation led by Maulana Taqi Usmani.
“We do expect breakthroughs in the new round of talks with TTP leaders in Kabul,” the member said. Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazlur Rahman group leader from South Waziristan led the previous jirga in June, and upon their return, they claimed to have achieved 90 per cent of the targets in the peace process with the TTP leaders.