PESHAWAR: An eight-member delegation of Pakistani ulema, led by known religious scholar Mufti Taqi Usman, reached Kabul on Monday for talks with senior leaders of Afghanistan’s interim government, in a bid to persuade leaders of the proscribed Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) to further extend their ceasefire with Islamabad.

Senior Taliban officials and Pakistan’s ambassador to Afghanistan Mansour Ahmad Khan, received the delegation at the Hamid Karzai International Airport, Kabul. Video footage released by the Afghan Taliban showed the delegation receiving a warm welcome upon their arrival.

Head of Wafaqul Madaris Al-Arabia Qari Hanif Jalandhari and Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (Fazl) Senator Talha Mahmood were also part of the delegation. Sources said that senior officials briefed members of the delegation in Islamabad before their departure for Kabul.

Sources said the ulema would also meet TTP leaders during their stay in Kabul and would try to convince them to soften their stance and extend the ceasefire. The proscribed organisation’s commanders, including their chief Mufti Noor Wali Mehsud, have been in the Afghan capital for talks with the Pakistani officials.

Mufti Taqi Usmani-led delegation hopes senior Afghan Taliban leaders can convince TTP to ‘soften stance’

Before this, a 57-member jirga, consisting of elders from various Pakhtun tribes from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, had last visited Kabul in June and met TTP commanders, but their talks remained fruitless. Sources said the ulema would also seek assistance from senior members of the interim Taliban government to pressurise the TTP into making the ceasefire effective and softening their pre-conditions for talks.

One of the main demands of the outfit is the reversal of the merger of erstwhile Fata with the settled areas of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, something that the government has already termed ‘non-negotiable’.

“Our demands are very clear and especially the reversal of Fata with KP is our primary demand which the group cannot back down from,” said Noor Wali Mehsud, during an interview with a YouTuber in Kabul in June.

The TTP had announced ceasefire for an indefinite period before Eidul Fitr. Despite this, Pakistani security forces have come under frequent attack, particularly in the volatile Waziristan districts. Attacks on the security forces from the Afghan side have also increased in this time.

Published in Dawn, July 26th, 2022

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