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Islamabad

May 7, 2017

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Hekmatyar gets huge reception

Islamabad

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Engineer Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, a former prime minister of Afghanistan and a war hardened militant leader, in the first show of his political strength in his first-ever public appearance in a suburban Kabul stadium made his intentions clear with regard to his future political ambitions.

His public rally was more impressive and huge than the comparatively far too small gathering of his opponent groups that protested against his homecoming and becoming Ashraf Ghani’s ally.

Political observers in Kabul witnessed with great surprise such a huge public reception of a man who was accused of massive killings and destruction of the Afghan capital during civil war of 1990s.

While advising his new political allies to treat the groups fighting regime on the equal level rather than showing threatening posture, Hekmatyar called for all insurgent groups fighting the government, including the Taliban, to end what he said a war "imposed" on Afghanistan from outside the country. He straight away extended an olive branch to his adversaries by saying "Let's bring peace to the country first and tell the foreign forces that Afghans are able to sort out their issues themselves and we want them to leave Afghanistan," he added.

Without mincing words, he called for foreign troops’ withdrawal as soon as possible. "No one has any justification for the presence of foreign troops."

Hekmatyar refrained from commenting on Thursday’s Afghan security forces intrusion at Chaman border and killing of Pakistani forces personnel; He, however, said he would send his emissary to Islamabad soon for minimising the cross-border offences. He opposed without naming Taliban who were discouraging women education saying seeking knowledge was equally necessary for both male and female in Islam.

Hekmatyar asked Taliban ‘brothers’ to come forward to join forces for long lasting peace in order to establish a truly independent Islamic state of Afghanistan. He also called on the government to fulfil its promises under the peace deal, including the release of hundreds of Hezb-e Islami fighters in Afghan prisons.

Recently, Hekmatyar had an audience with Ghani at the presidential palace, where a ceremony encompassing all his friends and foes was held in his honour. During the gathering, Hekmatyar called on his Taliban "brothers" to end their insurgency and offered to mediate talks with the government.

Meanwhile, it has also been learnt that the Indian representatives have been trying to reach out to Hekmatyar but he has not encouraged them so far. His reluctance seems to be driven by his stated policy on dispute of Kashmir as he is in favour of giving Kashmiris chance to express their free will to either join India or Pakistan or remain independent.

The government’s peace deal with Hekmatyar has been criticised by many Afghans and by Western rights groups. Critics point to his dismal human rights record and his group’s deadly attacks on US and Afghan forces since the US-led invasion that drove the Taliban from power after the September 11, 2001, terror attacks in the United States.

Hekmatyar founded Hezb-e Islami in the mid-1970s. The group became one of the main mujahedin factions fighting against Soviet forces following their invasion in 1979, and then one of the most prominent groups in the civil war for control of Kabul after the collapse of the communist government in 1992 in the wake of the Soviet army's withdrawal from Afghanistan three years earlier.

Hekmatyar, who had been prime minister in the mujahedin government from 1993-94 and then briefly again in 1996, was one of the chief protagonists of the civil war. Rights groups accuse Hekmatyar of responsibility for the shelling of residential areas of Kabul in the 1990s, as well as forced disappearances and covert jails where torture was commonplace.

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