A 50-member grand tribal jirga arrived in Kabul on Wednesday morning to join the ongoing talks between the outlawed Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and the Pakistan government to press for an agreement to end years of violence.
Former governor of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Shaukatullah Khan, who is part of the jirga, told Dawn.com that the jirga's role is “very important” in view of tribal traditions that are respected by both sides.
“We are hopeful our efforts will produce results,” he said.
Khan, who belongs to Bajaur tribal district, said over 50 people are part of the jirga, including a federal minister, representatives from the KP government and tribal elders.
Federal Minister Sajid Hussain Turi, who hails from Kurram tribal district, and Special Adviser to the KP Chief Minister for Information Barrister Mohammad Ali Saif are part of the jirga, he revealed.
Previously, the jirga was mainly composed of people from South Waziristan and included elders from Malakand Division. However, this time, a tribal elder from the Khyber district, Shaji Gul Afridi, has also been made part of the jirga, Khan added.
The Afghan Taliban government is mediating between the TTP and the government of Pakistan.
A Pakistani official in Kabul told Dawn.com that the talks had “entered a serious phase” with some progress. The official, who wanted to remain anonymous, declined to provide more details at this stage.
“Second round will be held at 10am on Thursday,” he added.
The jirga arrived in Kabul on Wednesday morning, Pakistani sources told Dawn.com.
Ahead of their departure to Kabul, PPP leader Akhundzada Chatta, who is also a part of the jirga, posted photographs at Islamabad airport, captioning in Pashto that they were "proceeding to Kabul".
Dawn reported on Tuesday that the TTP and the Pakistani side have agreed on an indefinite ceasefire that is considered a major confidence-building measure to take the process forward.
TTP spokesman Mohammad Khurasani did not deny the report about the ceasefire but said a formal decision is expected either today or tomorrow.
The earlier ceasefire expired on May 30.
The TTP, prior to the negotiations, had sent a letter to the jirga, emphasising the group will not give up its demand for the reversal of the ex-FATA merger with the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, the source added.
Afghan government spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid did not respond to a Dawn.com query about the current round of talks. He had, however, confirmed last month that talks were being held in Kabul, saying the Afghan Taliban played the role of a mediator.
In a series of tweets, Mujahid had reported “significant progress” in the talks and also shared that a ceasefire had been agreed upon.
“The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, in good faith, is making efforts to take the process forward. We hope that both sides will be accommodating and show flexibility,” he had said last month.
Reports had also emerged about the release of two key TTP leaders, Muslim Khan and Mahmood Khan, and their subsequent handover to the Afghan Taliban. Both leaders were on the list of over 100 detainees, the release of whom is one of the group's key demands.
There was no confirmation about the release of the two key leaders by both the TTP and the government.
Muslim Khan, who had served as the TTP spokesman in Swat, was arrested in 2009 and later awarded the death penalty in 2016. The army chief had confirmed his death sentence.
Reports say that he was pardoned through a presidential decree.