A major militant group, led by former Afghan prime minister Gulbudin Hekmatyar, has called off talks with the Karzai administration to protest the signing of a ‘controversial’ deal between Kabul and Washington.
The Hezb-e-Islami Afghanistan (HIA) has held a series of meetings with Afghan officials and senior US diplomats and military commanders in recent months. The last of such meetings took place as recently as last month.
“We have suspended talks indefinitely to protest against the US-Afghan strategic partnership agreement,” HIA’s top political wizard Dr Ghairat Baheer told The Express Tribune.
US President Barack Obama, during his surprise visit to Kabul on May 2, had signed the strategic partnership agreement with his Afghan counterpart Hamid Karzai.
“We have serious concerns over the agreement which, we believe, will pave the way for permanent US military presence in Afghanistan,” Dr Baheer said.
The Taliban have already rejected the deal as an “attempt by puppet Karzai to sell out the country”.
President Karzai has, however, defended the agreement which, he believes, will put the country on the road to progress and prosperity.
Dr Baheer said that his group considers the strategic partnership agreement as a ‘vague’ and ‘complicated’ document. “It seems that the Americans do not want to leave Afghanistan which is against the wishes of the Afghan people. And we cannot continue talks in such a confused situation,” he added.
The HIA was the first to welcome a rare appeal in February from Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani to Afghan insurgent groups, including the Taliban and HIA, to enter into an intra-Afghan dialogue.
Afghan analysts believe that HIA’s decision to suspend talks will have negative impact on the peace process in the war-torn country.
“The signing of the strategic partnership agreement was an ill-timed move as peace talks were going on in Afghanistan and Qatar,” Afghan analyst Ustad Muhammad Zaman Muzammil told The Express Tribune.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 12th, 2012.