Gulbuddin Hekmatyar known as the “Butcher of Kabul” was warmly welcomed by President Ghani and members of his national unity government in the capital he once tried to demolish, reported Fox News.
Hekmatyar has spent 20 years in self-imposed exile in the mountains of the neighbouring countries. He is known for fighting the Soviet Union and the Afghan communist government during the 1980s with his Hezb-e-Islami militia and sparkling civil war in Afghanistan. He even became a prime minister in 1993.
Shortly after that he was accused for the destruction of Kabul and the deaths of thousands of civilians and government soldiers. Witnesses from that time remember that he ordered launching of 1,600 rockets to destroy the city and those rallying against him in a single day.
“He is not a peaceful man. Giving him power will only increase the number of extremists around him,” said Mullah Paiman Pirzadeh, a Kunduz member of Parliament who is a former confidante and supporter of Hekmatyar. “When I was with him, I was stupid and he was stupid. Luckily I found myself and changed my mind.”
But after months of negotiations between the Afghan Peace Council and the Hezb-e-Islami delegation last year, Hekmatyar in September signed a peace deal with the government allowing him to return from exile, have his name wiped from the United Nation’s sanctions list and take a legitimate place in the government as leader of the Hezb-e-Islami political party. But the most significant of Hekmatyar’s conditions in signing was that the 3,000-plus Hezb-e-Islami members in prison be released immediately. The condition also includes that they should be armed for their own security.
Hekmatyar has publicly claimed that his main goal now is to “end this war and rescue the country from crisis,” and he has pledged that his people will eschew violence.
Last week the release of the inmates has started. The first group to be freed includes about 70 people. There are concerns that those former prisons will not be monitored and they were not held as prisoners of war but convicted for actual crimes.
“The prisoners are associated with crimes; they were either arrested in the battlefield or while committing other crimes such as planting mines and improvised explosive devices, suicide attacks and regular assaults on Afghan and international forces,” noted Hashim Watdatyar, a former Afghan spokesperson for the U.N. Office of Drugs and Crime. “Once they are released, they will not be tracked and, like other warlords, criminals and Mafia within the system, they also will either work with government or will be associated with the politicians as their militias, bodyguards or parliamentarians.”
Former Afghan Vice President Ahmed Zia Massoud also expressed his concerns about the agreement with Hekmatyar.
“He committed immense terror activity in Kabul, and he even took responsibility for that. Now he has hundreds of bodyguards, and we don’t know who these people are. Furthermore, many of the groups aligned with him are the ones fighting our troops. How is that peace?”
The city of Kabul is also divided in two groups – supporters of 69-year-old Hekmatyar put posters of him around the capital and even on their vehicles, while those who have lost friends and relatives due to his attacks deface the images of the Hezb-e-Islami leader.
Despite that the USA was also a victim of Hekmatyar violence now the American government shows full support to Afghan leaders to try and integrate Hekmatyar and his team. This comes as a sign that diplomatic agreements are the way for Afghanistan to progress.
“The United States welcomes the Government of National Unity’s steps to fulfill its obligations in implementing the peace agreement it signed with the representatives of Hizb-e-Islami Gulbuddin (HIG),” the U.S. Embassy in Kabul said in a written statement. “We consider this step clear evidence of the Afghan government’s commitment to restoring peace and stability in Afghanistan, which will ultimately benefit the Afghan people. It is evident that Afghans overwhelmingly yearn for peace, and this agreement will provide an opportunity to bring Afghans together and ensure the safety and security of all sides.”