Published: Fri, May 05, 2017
Sci-tech | By Jackie Newman

Afghan president calls upon Taliban to join peace process

Afghan president calls upon Taliban to join peace process

The extraordinary scene capped six months of intense negotiations between the Afghan government and Hekmatyar's representatives after President Ashraf Ghani offered him complete amnesty, and asked the United Nations to lift anti-terror sanctions against him, if the still-influential leader would return and help persuade Taliban insurgents to end their 16-year war against the state.

Tolo reports that Hekmatyar's convoy, complete with luxury SUVs loaded with heavily armed men, drove nearly 200 kilometers from Nangarhar Province to Kabul on Thursday.

Hekmatyar's speech - interrupted by constant shouts of "God is great" and "Long live Hekmatyar" - followed a warm welcome and embrace from Ghani.

Hekmatyar will address a public gathering at the Ghazi Stadium on Friday, where the Taliban once held public executions.

"There are still uncertainties as to what he is going to do", said one senior official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.

The president said the new generation of Afghanistan expected their political leaders would lay down the foundation of stable peace in the country.

That kind of comment has fueled concern that his arrival may destabilize the government and deepen ethnic divisions that never lie far from the surface in Afghan politics, and which have worsened in recent years. Hekmatyar was the "chief destroyer" of Kabul, Arabzada said, adding the warlord should apologize for the spilling the blood of innocent people.

The Afghan government and Hezb-i-Islami signed the peace agreement in September that required Hekmatyar and his group to renounce violence, cut ties with extremists groups and respect the Afghan constitution.

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"Anyone who wants an end to the war, anyone who wants a just peace and a fully Islamic administration in Afghanistan, is our brother, and will be with us and we will jointly strive for this goal", he said.

US-based NGO Human Rights Watch said the deal compounded a "culture of impunity" surrounding the warlords who devastated large swaths of the country in the 1990s.

"The Taliban controls vast swaths of Afghan territory and is seriously contesting far more land", he said.

In the 1980s, he received some $600 million in U.S. aid, as Washington armed Afghan mujahideen fighters battling the Soviet occupation.

The Taliban has shown no sign of accepting any arrangement with Hekmatyar, but Ghani thanked him for accepting the deal and said the Afghan people wanted peace and prosperity.

Some of the city's residents greeted Hekmatyar's return with hope, such as 35-year-old Jamshed, who goes by one name and who said the "rare happy news" meant the warlord's influence could help improve security.

But in Kabul, where he is widely known as "Rocketyar" after the thousands of bombs his forces fired into the city, Hekmatyar has been awaited with a mixture of anticipation and mistrust.

Like Ghani, Hekmatyar is a Pashtun, the group that has traditionally dominated Afghanistan's patchwork of different ethnicities, and his return has jarred with former civil war rivals including Persian-speaking Tajiks around Abdullah.

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