In an ominous warning, Afghan warlord and Hizb-e-Islami Afghanistan (HIA) chief Gulbuddin Hekmatyar has cautioned the Taliban against unilateral talks with “foreigners” as it may resurrect the “bitter past”.
The warning came amidst reports of exploratory talks between the Taliban and US officials in the Arabian Gulf state of Qatar.
Hekmatyar has been accused of spending more time fighting other mujahideen forces than confronting the Soviets and of wantonly killing Afghans during the civil war in the 1990s following the withdrawal of Soviet troops. But he seems keen in ensuring that there is no repeat.
“I’ve asked every (resistance) group to avoid contacts with foreign powers, so that we do not repeat the bitter experience of the past. We should not try to grab power through underhand deals with foreigners,” Hekmatyar told The Express Tribune in a written interview.
The Express Tribune had sent a questionnaire to the HIA chief through his spokesperson Haroon Zarghoon last month to which Hekmatyar replied through an email in Pashto language. Hekmatyar, who was Afghanistan’s prime minister from 1993 to 1994 and again briefly in 1996, is wanted to the United States.
“We should make sure foreign troops withdraw from Afghanistan unconditionally, and then we, the Afghans, could put in place a government in Kabul. This is the only decent way to end this war,” he said.
Last month, a three-member HIA delegation travelled to Kabul and met with President Hamid Karzai and America’s top general and Ambassador Ryan C Crocker. HIA negotiators say they had also met with CIA chief David Petraeus a few months ago.
But Hekmatyar said the “Americans don’t have a clear roadmap to solve the Afghan crisis”. The Kabul administration, on the other hand, doesn’t have enough power to talk peace. “Neither do they agree with our suggestion that there should be an Islamic government in Afghanistan,” he added.
The HIA chief offered the US-led Nato troops a ‘safe exit’ from Afghanistan. “But if they insist on war, then we will also fight. The Americans and their puppets must understand that there is no other way for them but to leave our country,” he added.
Asked about his stand on the Qatar initiative, Hekmatyar said the Taliban have been in direct or indirect talks with the Americans since long. “But the acknowledgment came from them when the process is nearing completion,” he added.
“We neither believe in underhand deals nor in negotiations outside Afghanistan,” the former warlord said, adding that his Hizb-e-Islami had also been offered a political office in one of the Arab states. “But we rejected the offer,” he added.
Hekmatyar called upon all Afghan factions to set aside their differences and unite. “We should have a united front in the battlefield as well as in peace talks,” He added. “Unfortunately this has not happened, thus far.”
The HIA was quick to welcome the rare appeal from Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani to Afghan groups to enter into an intra-Afghan dialogue for stabilising their country. However, the Taliban and Haqqani network – the two main Afghan factions – have so far not responded to Gilani’s appeal.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 29th, 2012.