Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Wednesday, August 12th, 2020

Does Hekmatyar Carry Weight in Afghan Peace Process?

The Kabul government has released a number of prisoners of the Hezb-e-Islami Party led by Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, who signed a peace deal with the Ghani administration in 2016, but the party says its top prisoners are yet to be released. But the deal with Hekmatyar did not carry much weight as peace and stability remained elusive.
Hekmatyar played a highly destructive role in Afghanistan during the civil war as well as in the post-Taliban Afghanistan and had reportedly killed many civilians.
He capitalized on the narrative of “foreign occupation”, which in the 1980s meant the “Soviet communist occupation” and in the post-Taliban Afghanistan meant the “American capitalist occupation” for Hekmatyar. 
In 2003, the US State Department declared Hekmatyar a terrorist. The then State Department spokesman Richard Boucher read out the statement, “The US Government has information indicating that Gulbuddin Hekmatyar has participated in and supported terrorist acts committed by al-Qaeda and the Taliban. Because of his terrorist activity, the United States is designating Hekmatyar as a Specially Designated global Terrorist under the authority of Executive Order 13224….”
Four days later, however, Hekmatyar said he was proud to be branded a terrorist by Washington and echoed the call of al-Qaeda’s leader Osama bin Laden for suicide attacks against the Americans.
Since re-entering the post-Taliban Afghanistan, Hekmatyar had reportedly been behind a number of sophisticated and targeted assassination attempts and militant attacks on the Karzai administration and US-led coalition and international peacekeeping targets in the country.
Ishtiaq Ahmad, a Pakistani journalist, described Hekmatyar the “leader of a triangular insurgency” which consisted of “remnants of the Taliban, al Qaeda, and his own Hezb-e Islami”. He added, “With his decades-old expertise in guerrilla warfare and psychological campaign, Hekmatyar seems to have re-energized the al Qaeda and the Taliban”, who lost their morale after the collapse of the Taliban regime.
After the downfall of the Taliban’s regime, Hekmatyar said that he would return to Afghanistan to “defend his motherland just like he did when Soviet troops were deployed in Afghanistan”. He expressed sympathy for Osama bin Laden, describing his as “Mujahid who aspires for the grandeur of Islam.”
After being engaged in terrorist activities for years, Hekmatyard extended olive branch to the Ghani administration and signed a peace deal after holding a series discussion with the Afghan delegates. That is to say, despite Hekmatyar’s claim, he signed peace deal without mentioning the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan, which challenged his ideology and years of armed activities carried out under the term of jihad.
Afghans believed that the peace deal between Kabul and Hezb-e Islami Party would mitigate the insecurity in the country and Hekmatyar would carry an increasing weight in the Afghan peace process. None had happened though. The Taliban intensified their militancy killing scores of Afghan soldiers and civilians. The Taliban turned a deaf ear to the Hekmatyar’s call for peace. In short, Hekmatyar played no role in the Afghan peace process despite his link with the Taliban’s ragtag militant group as well as his tie with the Pakistan’s ISI.
Hekmatyar sought to de-uglify his past acts through his nomination for 2019 presidential election. However, Afghans, mainly non-Pashtuns, view him as a traitor to his country and nation as his figure reminds them of war and militancy. According to general belief, the peace deal with Hekmatyar was not considered an achievement for the country. But it was an achievement for himself as he secured a luxury life in Kabul, which was demolished by his missiles during the civil war.
Unlike Hekmatyar, the Taliban have signed a peace deal with the United States, based on which the US troops will withdraw but the Kabul government was not a party to the deal. With this in mind, the Taliban seek to demonstrate that they fought against the “foreign occupation” so that their years of killings and bloodshed should not be challenged by their rank and file as well as by Afghan people. But the ideology of the Taliban, who said they would fight against the Kabul government not the US troops after signing deal with Washington, will be also challenged. It sounds odd to Afghans to see that the Taliban fight against their country and nation and stipulate that they will not fight against the US troops.
Overall, Hekmatyar has to put its weight behind the Afghan peace process to the best of his ability and power through capitalizing on his past tie with the Taliban leadership. Moreover, he has to challenge the Taliban’s ideology and their fight against the Kabul government if he has the knowledge.