Reports yesterday that the Mahsud tribal elders had agreed to hand over Tehreek-e-Taliban leader Hakimullah Mahsud and 378 other wanted men (see below) appear to have been exaggerated. Today the same papers that reported the jirga decision were rapidly backtracking.
"How can we surrender Hakimullah and his dreaded men to the government? It is not possible even if we want to do so," a prominent Mahsud tribal elder who attended the traditional Jirga in Tank on Wednesday told The News.
The News continued: "Like other members of the Jirga comprising Dre Mahsud (the three main divisions of the Mahsud tribe) - Balolzai, Shaman Khel and Manzai - South Waziristan chieftain Malik Mahsud Ahmad Abdullay was also surprised by the banner headlines in national dailies about their claim."
One Mahsud elder claimed that the local political agent had told the tribesmen to make a promise about handing over Hakimullah Mahsud and his men. He added that the jirga had told him it was not the proper time for such a "silly demand".
What seems to be behind this spat is the future of the almost 300,000 displaced Mahsud tribespeople, who are now wondering when they will be able to return to their summer homes in the interior of South Waziristan. Traditionally, they would be returning in April, after the worst of the winter was over.
However, over recent weeks the TTP has been attempting to prevent the return, telling members of the tribe that this would limit their ability to fight against the Army. At the same time, government political agents have been putting pressure on the IDPs to return.
At Wednesday's meeting - which was well attended, despite TTP threats - the political agent tried to extract some kind of concession from the tribal elders in exchange for helping them return and rebuild their destroyed towns and villages. He may have believed he had got an agreement, but events since show that he had over-estimated the willingness - and the ability - of the tribe to deliver.