Pakistani clerics in Kabul for crucial TTP talks

A delegation of Pakistani Ulema led by Mufti Taqi Usmani is currently in Kabul for talks with the representatives of the banned Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) as part of efforts to push for a peace deal.

The delegation will not only hold meetings with the TTP representatives but also with the officials of the Afghan Taliban government to take forward the process that began earlier last year.

The Ulema are expected to use their good offices and influence over the banned outfit for the negotiated deal. But chances of any major breakthrough are slim as TTP believes that 2018 religious decree issued by Pakistani Ulema calling suicide attacks un-Islamic was primarily aimed at them.

Also read: PCNS unanimously agrees to continue talks with TTP

Nevertheless, the visit is being seen as a step in the right direction to achieve the cherished dream of peace.

Efforts to strike the peace deal started in October last year when the Afghan Taliban offered to use their good offices to seek a political solution to the problem. Initially, the talks led to a one-month ceasefire but the process could not move forward after both sides accused the other of not honouring the commitments.

Afterwards, the outfit resumed terrorist attacks targeting the Pakistani security forces. In April, following the spate of cross-border terrorist attacks by the group, Islamabad reportedly carried out airstrikes across the border targeting its hideouts.

Pakistani authorities also conveyed a stern message to Afghan Taliban that the country would no longer tolerate TTP attacks. Soon after, Afghan Taliban brought the TTP to the negotiating table. After a series of meetings, the group finally agreed to a ceasefire for an indefinite period.

Also read: Peace talks to pre-empt ‘TTP-Da’ish nexus’

Subsequently, a Pakistani tribal jirga (consultative body) comprising politicians and other notables from the erstwhile tribal areas visited the neighbouring country and exchanged proposals. The key demands put forward by the terror outfit included reversal of FATA merger, allowing the organisation to retain arms and amnesty for its members.

While Islamabad released some TTP prisoners and quietly gave presidential pardon to a couple of their senior commanders, it has refused to accept the demand of reversal of FATA's merger.

The country’s military leadership earlier this month gave an in-camera briefing to the members of parliament where they defended the ongoing talks. The members of parliament were told that Islamabad had to seek a peace deal with the terror outfit to stop it from joining Da’ish.

Other than an indefinite ceasefire announced by the outfit and release of some prisoners by Pakistan, there has been no tangible progress so far on some of the contentious issues.

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