While it is not clear how the military establishment would react to the peace initiative taken on Thursday by the JUI-F sponsored jirga towards the Pakistani Taliban, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Governor Shaukatullah Khan pledged his full support on Friday to the move that critics say might not produce tangible results.
“The governor, who is a chief executive of the province, has assured the jirga of his all-out support for this purpose,” Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman said after the grand tribal jirga met with Khan and apprised the governor of its strategy for peace talks.
“I will facilitate the jirga for establishing [peace] links and we all pray for its success,” Khan said in a statement released after the meeting.
Khan went on to add that the government will back all efforts that could pave the way for peace and it will meet the jirga again. “The government will take all steps in light of the Constitution.”
The JUI-F chief said the main objective of the jirga was to initiate negotiations between the government and the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) for a result-oriented dialogue.
Asked about compensation for those who suffered at the hands of the decade-long war on terror, the JUI-F chief claimed the government should have established a trust which would provide medical treatment among other services. He added that such a service could have proved vital in rehabilitating militancy-affected families more effectively.
“The jirga took up this matter with the governor who announced a grant of Rs10 million for setting up the trust,” Fazl said, while appreciating Khan for extending his cooperation to the jirga.
Meanwhile, K-P Information Minister Mian Iftikhar Hussain advised the TTP to announce a delegation of Taliban negotiators for representation at the jirga, while terming it a “golden opportunity” to establish peace in the region. TTP appreciates APC mandate On the other hand, TTP welcomed the all parties conference (APC)’s declaration for a grand tribal jirga to engage all stakeholders, including the Taliban, but said it would await the army’s response before making a final decision. “Although the TTP central shura welcomes the APC decisions, the real powers are with the army, and we will await when and how they respond,” TTP spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan said, while reading a statement.
“We also welcome the APC decision to remove the word terrorist from the joint statement,” the TTP spokesperson told The Express Tribune via phone from an undisclosed location. “This is a positive signal.
Ehsan went on to praise political leaders for supporting the peace dialogue, respecting the tribal elders and reposing their trust in the jirga. However, he added that the Taliban will reassess the powers of the jirga and the commitment of the army when the peace process begins.
The spokesman said TTP would wait for the names of the jirga members and government officials to be announced before putting forward its names for the negotiations. Asked if the Taliban was willing to declare a ceasefire as has been repeatedly demanded by the government, Ehsan claimed it would be discussed if and when the talks begin. “We believe in peace and we want peace for the people. This nation is ours and we are from this nation,” he reiterated.
Fazl welcomed the Taliban statement, terming it a good omen for carrying forward the mission for restoring peace.
“The Taliban statement shows their wise approach,” he said.
(WITH ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY TAHIR KHAN IN ISLAMABAD)
Published in The Express Tribune, March 2nd, 2013.
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