Hekmatyar calls on Taliban to lay down arms

Indo Asian News Service

Kabul, April 29 (IANS) In his first public appearance after 20 years, former Afghan warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar on Saturday called on the Taliban to lay down their arms and join the peace process.

"The war must end in the country and the foreigners cannot end our war," said Hekmatyar, leader of Hizb-e-Islami, while addressing a crowd of supporters in eastern Laghman province.

Hekmatyar, believed to be responsible for killing tens of thousands of civilians in the Afghan capital during the 1990s civil war, and consequently nicknamed the "Butcher of Kabul," said the Taliban will "not get anything from this war," which he added has only brought ruin to the people.

Referring to last week's army base attack on the 209 Shaheen Military Corps in Balkh, Hekmatyar slammed the Taliban for having attacked soldiers while they were praying, reported Tolo news.

He said: "Let's stop this devastating war for the sake of Allah."

Calling on the Taliban to join the peace process, Hekmatyar said the ongoing insurgency led by the Taliban is "meaningless and illegitimate". He also thanked the Afghan security forces for "all the sacrifices they have made in terms of securing the country".

Hekmatyar, who served as the Prime Minister from 1992 to 1996, said that the Taliban should no more become victims of ego and ignorance.

"Only Afghan people become victims of the ongoing insurgency led by the Taliban," he said. He also said the country must not repeat the mistakes of the past.

He criticised the media for broadcasting music programmes and TV series and said the press should report less about war stories, Tolo news reported.

In addition, he called on neighbouring countries to stop interfering in Afghanistan's internal affairs.

Hekmatyar met the leaders of Laghman and Nangarhar provinces on Friday in what was his first public appearance after years in hiding, and seven months after his organisation signed a historic peace deal with the Afghan government.

Besides Afghan authorities, the deal was welcomed by the US and the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, among other members of the international community.

However, the deal met with 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 HIA members, and the release of rebels, who are in prison but have been not charged with any crime.

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

In February, the UN Security Council lifted sanctions such as the asset freeze, the travel ban and arms embargo against Hekmatyar.

--IANS

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