Ulema eye to dominate TTP during Kabul tour

Peshawar: An eight-member delegation of Pakistani ulema, led by eminent religious scholar Mufti Taqi Usman, arrived in Kabul on Monday for talks with senior leaders of Afghanistan’s interim government to persuade the leaders of the banned Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan. TTP) to further pursue its ceasefire with Islamabad.

Senior Taliban officials and Pakistan’s Ambassador to Afghanistan Mansoor Ahmed Khan received the delegation at the Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul. Video footage released by the Afghan Taliban shows the delegation receiving a warm welcome upon its arrival.

Wafaqul Madaris chief Al-Arab Qari Hanif Jalandhri and Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (Fazl) senator Talha Mahmood were also part of the delegation. Sources said senior officials briefed the delegation members in Islamabad before leaving for Kabul.

Sources said the ulema will also meet TTP leaders during their stay in Kabul and try to persuade them to soften their stand and go ahead with the ceasefire. Commanders of the banned outfit, including their chief Mufti Noor Wali Mehsud, are in the Afghan capital for talks with Pakistani officials.

Mufti Taqi Usmani-led delegation hopes senior Afghan Taliban leaders can persuade TTP to take a ‘soft stance’

Earlier, a 57-member jirga, comprising elders from various Pakhtun tribes of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, had last visited Kabul in June and met TTP commanders, but their talks went in vain. Sources said the ulema will also seek help from senior members of the interim Taliban government to put pressure on the TTP to give effect to the ceasefire and soften their pre-conditions for talks.

One of the main demands of the organization is to reverse the merger of the erstwhile FATA with the inhabited areas of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, which the government has already termed as ‘non-negotiable’.

During an interview with a YouTuber in Kabul in June, Noor Wali Mehsud said, “Our demand is very clear and our primary demand is to reverse the fata especially with KP, which the group cannot take back.”

The TTP had announced an indefinite ceasefire ahead of Eid-ul-Fitr. Despite this, there have been frequent attacks on Pakistani security forces, especially in the restive Waziristan districts. During this, attacks on security forces from the Afghan side have also increased.

Published in Dawn, July 26, 2022