Afghans have lost faith in Pakistan due to the latter’s “impulsive” actions, veteran Afghan warlord Gulbudin Hekmatyar said on Tuesday even as Washington has enlisted Islamabad’s help in finding a negotiated settlement to the decade-old war in Afghanistan.
“In its quest for US favours, Pakistan has alienated the Afghan people and mujahideen. Now Islamabad cannot play any role in stabilising Afghanistan and restoring peace there,” Hekmatyar, the fugitive chief of Hezb-e-Islami insurgent group, told Daily Express in a written interview.
He came down hard on Pakistan for its role in the US-led war against terrorism and said it ignored even its own interests to please the US. “Its controversial policies have antagonised its own people,” he said referring to the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan-led insurgency in the tribal regions.
“Today Afghanistan has become the hub of anti-Pakistan forces,” said Hekmatyar. As a result, small groups have come to power in Kabul. “And these groups have the backing of India, Russia and Iran.”
Hekmatyar accused Islamabad of helping Washington to topple the Taliban regime in Afghanistan which it had acknowledged as a legitimate government. He also blamed Pakistan for the “massacre of 130,000 innocent Afghans”.
He rejected claims by Washington and Kabul that Pakistan was fuelling the insurgency in Afghanistan.
The warlord said that Osama bin Laden’s death has not weakened al Qaeda. “Bin Laden’s martyrdom was a huge loss. But today al Qaeda has become such a strong organisation that it cannot be weakened,” Hekmatyar said. According to him, al Qaeda has now shifted its base from Afghanistan to Iraq, Libya and Somalia where Aiyman al Zawahiri was successfully commanding the outfit.
Asked about the Afghan reconciliation process, the Hezb-e-Islami chief conceded that his group has had several meetings with Afghan and American officials. “We conveyed them our preconditions (for talks) and proposals for durable peace in Afghanistan,” he added. “If the US is willing, we can offer them an honourable exit from Afghanistan.”
The Hezb-e-Islami chief said that the US has imposed a small group (read: Tajik, Uzbek and Hazara) on the majority Pakhtun population. “But this group hasn’t been able to establish its writ on a small part of Afghanistan even with 150,000 foreign troops on the ground,” he said.
Hekmatyar predicted that the Karzai government would not last long following the withdrawal of US-led coalition troops from Afghanistan. About Hezb-e-Islami’s relations with the Taliban, Hekmatyar said that his group sincerely wanted unification of all Afghan insurgent groups to put up a united front against the foreign forces. However, some local and foreign elements have been sabotaging efforts to unite the insurgent groups.
“In the past, these forces pitted the Taliban and Hezb-e-Islami against each other. And now they are again conspiring to sow discord among them,” he added.
Hekmatyar suspected that the slain chairperson of the Afghan High Peace Council, Burhanuddin Rabbani, was killed by progenies of the Communist-era Afghanistan who were responsible for the killings of hundreds of religious and jihadi leaders of the country.
However, the Hezb-e-Islami chief doesn’t think that Rabbani’s killing will affect the Afghan peace process. “Neither the High Peace Council had a mandate nor Ustad Rabbani was capable of brokering peace with the insurgents,” he added. “Lasting peace is possible only if foreign forces end the occupation of Afghanistan and withdraw their troops.”
Published in The Express Tribune, November 2nd, 2011.