Former warlord Hekmatyar returns to Kabul

Indo Asian News Service

Kabul, May 4 (IANS) Former warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar returned to the Afghan capital on Thursday after signing a peace agreement with the government in September last year.

Hekmatyar, the leader of Hizb-e-Islami, is due to meet President Ashraf Ghani and hold a mass gathering, Tolo news reported.

His convoy to the capital, comprising of several hundred vehicles, mainly pick-up trucks equipped with machine guns, was greeted by hundreds of onlookers.

Hekmatyar is believed to be responsible for killing tens of thousands of civilians in Kabul during the 1990s civil war and was nicknamed the "Butcher of Kabul".

In his first public appearance after 20 years, Hekmatyar last week addressed supporters in the eastern province of Laghman and called on all insurgent groups to join the peace process.

The Prime Minister from 1992 to 1996, Hekmatyar's peace deal was welcomed by the US and the UN.

But the deal met heavy criticism in certain sections of Afghan society due to Hekmatyar's notorious past and the proposed amnesty for his insurgent group's activities of the past 14 years.

The agreement also provided for "sustainable and dignified repatriation" of families of Hizb-e-Islami members and the release of rebels who are in prison but have been not charged with any crime.

In return, the Hizb-e-Islami signed the National Constitution of Afghanistan, agreed to disband all its armed formations and pledged to cut ties with all terrorist and extremist groups.

Hekmatyar arrived here after dozens of Hizb-e-Islami prisoners were released from Pul-e-Charkhi prison in Kabul. Officials said more prisoners will be released in the coming days.