Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, the leader of Hezb-e-Islami of Afghanistan, returned to Kabul in 2017 after a peace deal with the country. He is one of the few remaining Mujahideen leaders who had a key role in the bitter developments of the past four decades.
His narrative can clarify and shed lights in corners of Afghanistan’s past and future. Mr. Hekmatyar agreed to appear for an interview in TOLOnews where the TV show host openly asked questions. In this interview, the Hezb-e-Islami leader spoke about the past, present and future of Afghanistan, peace process and organization of parliamentary and presidential elections. Reporterly highlighted the key points of this interview in this report.
Mullah Baradar’s Presence in New Round of Talks Between Taliban and United States
“The most serious talks between Taliban number 2 man (Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar) with Taliban in Doha Qatar is a huge development because Taliban’s number 2 man who is known as peace-lover, even as per Zalmay Khalilzad, U.S special representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation,” said Gulbuddin Hekmatyar.
Peace Seeker Vs War Seeker Taliban
He specifically divided the Taliban into two groups; a group that wants a peace deal and the one wants to continue the war. The group who wants the continuation of war includes those who do not easily agree to appear at peace talks table because they are the ones who have sacrificed more in war and have witnessed a great deal of damage in this area.
On the other hand, among the Taliban there are also those linked to the intelligence of the region and groups associated with foreign countries, who see their interest in the continuation of the war in Afghanistan and has invested over the war about thirty or forty years.
According to the Hezb-e-Islami Leader, among the Taliban there are also many who want peace. There is a Taliban problem with United States and it is hoped that these talks put an end to these differences. The Taliban also have problems with the Afghans which can only be solved through Intra-Afghan talks.
The Difference Between Hezb-e-Islami and Taliban
In response to the question that Hezb-e-Islami has been part of Afghan war in past 17 years, he said that the difference between this group and Taliban is: “like Taliban we did engage in war, but after withdrawal of Soviet forces, there was an international conspiracy on us. Our main difference with Taliban was that we have always ordered our Mujahideen to refrain from fighting with internal forces unless they are forced to defend themselves and our entire focus have been on attacks on foreign forces.”
Meantime, when a question was posed whether they have attacked on internal forces, Mr. Hekmatyar said he, as a leader of Hezb-e-Islami , never ordered attacks on internal forces. “The strategy of the party was the war against foreign forces, and in my messages, I repeatedly said that there shouldn’t be any assault on internal forces”, he said.
According to him another difference with the Taliban was that, after Taliban emerged, they explicitly ordered attacks on internal forces and it took them a long time to change their strategies.
An Opportunity in 2001
In response to the question that in 2001 he found an opportunity to prevent a 17-year war, the Hizb-e-Islami leader said: “Yes, I found this opportunity, but my belief, history of Jihad and my party did not allow me to stop taking up arms when my country was under occupation.
The US government sent me a message that we are coming to Afghanistan and supposed to surpass your rival, the Taliban. What is your position? We told them not to repeat the mistake of the Soviet forces, you can capture Kabul, but it will not be easy to get out of this war. “
Peace After 17 years
What exactly happened that after 17 years Hezb-e-Islami accepted peace, Mr. Hekmaryar explained:” I have always said that Afghanistan is under occupation and regarding changes have come I have to say, that more than 95% of foreign troops should withdraw from Afghanistan and the president of United States stressed time and again that after 2016 there will be no troops in Afghanistan. We considered this an appropriate time and walked towards peace.”
Hekmatyar pointed out that their participation in peace process undoubtedly had an impact on the war in Afghanistan, “when the Taliban sit at peace talks table with the government today, it is the indication that they follow our path and we initiated this move.”
Absence at the Moscow Meeting
In another part of his interview, he was asked as to why he did not attend Intra-Afghan talks in Moscow meeting despite receiving an invitation to it. Hekmatyar said that he had his “own conditions and wanted to know the agenda and composition of the meeting, but the agenda and meeting composition was not acceptable, and the meeting seemed like an election campaign than a peace summit”.
This Mujahidden leader propounds some key prerequisites for sustaining peace in Afghanistan
– First, war factors must end; one of the major factors of war is the presence of foreign forces and the government that imposed the forces in Afghanistan and the regime must change.
– Second, foreign troops should leave Afghanistan in a reasonable timeframe, so that the Taliban can enter Intra-Afghan talks
– Third, Taliban must accept a ceasefire, accept the election and if the need for an interim government is seen, then must accept it. And the government should be ready to step aside if necessary.
According to Mr. Hekmatyar, this is the only way to reach peace; otherwise, it would be impossible to achieve lasting peace.
When Hekmatyar was asked about interim government he said: “In my view, an agreement on interim government is a complex process and it takes more time.
If all the parties agree on a cease-fire and the parties involved in reaching power take the path of the election, and everyone agrees not to repeat the mistakes of the past, and the government on the other hand shows commitment in holding a transparent election ridden of fraud and selection of commissioners on the basis of an agreement between the factions, then there is no need for the formation of an interim administration.
But if the need to establish an interim administration was found, the formation of the cabinet should be made of impartial and independent members, and the head of the interim administration should be someone who is acceptable for everyone.
This government should be established for a short duration and its mission shall be to only hold the election. If the government is elected on these conditions, I welcome and support this government.”
When asked about the seriousness regarding the establishment of an interim government, he said that there is a possibility of an agreement on interim government but the problem is that the current government fears this, it fear an agreement between Taliban and America for establishment of an interim government.
Consultative Loya Jirga (Grant Assembly) on Peace
In response to another question about whether he will participate in Consultative Jirga on Peace, the leader of Hezb-e-Islami said: “we have our own conditions to participate in this grand assembly, but we have no problem with the principle of the Loya Jirga on condition that the members of Loya Jirga should be selective.
Governors and high-ranking government officials do not have a part in selecting members, and they must be quasi-selected and have the decision-making authority”.
According to Mr. Hekmatyar, the Consultative Loya Jirga will not be able to resolve anything and cannot help in solving the problem of this government either. The government will not be able to form such a Loya Jirga with many dimensions and therefore, this Jirga may go towards a path that nobody desires.
The Continuation of National Unity Government After May 22
Regarding the continuation of the National Unity Government after June 2019, Hekmatyar said that although this government doesn’t have much legitimacy, but after the May 22 it will undoubtedly lose its moral legitimacy too.
Nomination in Presidential Election
Mr. Hekmatyar spoke about his nomination in the presidential election saying that he has spent more than 50 years of his life in the bastion of Jihad and resistance.
“In spite of numerous sacrifices that this nation has given, each individual of this nation should lean in and play a promoting role in reaching peace and prosperity.
If I had found a decent and intellectual person with a clear background and commitment in protecting the values of Jihad and the territorial integrity of the country, I would have definitely supported that person and would not have nominated myself in the presidential election.”
In response to the question whether he could find a person with such characteristics in contemporary era, he said that there have also been periods when he had resigned from the emirate, and was asked many times that among the leaders who does he view as worthier than the others.
“For me, selecting one of the leaders as a worthy one was very difficult, but my choice was Mullah Mohammed Omar. Although he was on the other side of the war against me, but I prefer him because of his personality traits, because he was ready to leave the emirate, but not to surrender to occupation and fight against it like a man.”
Experience of Parliamentary Election
He remarked about the past parliamentary elections and success of Hezb-e-Islami saying that although the election had its its ups and downs and issues stemmed with the commission as the governors, officials were considered as rivals of the party, “it was a good experience for us and our achievement in this election is tangible”.
He also said that his party will have more than 42 delegates in the future parliament. “My son, despite getting more than 6,000 votes, was announced unsuccessful by the commission. Surprisingly the people who won that seat did not have even more than one thousand and two hundred votes”.
Meanwhile, Hekmatyar expressed his opposition to the postponement of Afghanistan presidential election from June 19 to any other time.
Internal Disagreements of Hezb-e-Islami
Gulbuddin Hekmatyar also faces intra-party differences, especially with the Hezb-e-Islami of Afghanistan, which is registered in the ministry of justice led by Abdul Hadi Arghandiwal
Mr. Hekmatyar said that last year he held a meeting of the Central Committee of the Hezb-e-Islami with more than 3,000 participants from all over Afghanistan in Kabul. At the meeting, they formed a council of 500 members and also a decision-making council with 150 people. The Executive Council was also established with 36 members.
According to Mr. Hekmatyar, despite his insistence on selecting another person as the emir (leader) of the Hezb-e-Islami , the members with majority of votes appointed him as the emir of the party.
“I do not have any remarks about Mr. Arghandiwal, he was my old friend who has now taken a different path which I do not want to stop him from” said Hekmatyar.
In response to the question whether an attempt was made to integrate these two parties, Mr. Hekmatyar responded: “The situation has gone far from this stage to place efforts about integration of the parties.”
Funding Sources of Hezb-e-Islami
Hekmatyar was asked about the military funding of the party in 17 years and also his whereabouts.
“With honesty and as a Muslim who believes in God and is forbidden to lie, I have to say that I did not receive any financial assistance from any official authority or foreign countries,” he clarified, “with careful planning we launched attacks that did not have much expense.”
He added: “We neither had a regular force that required a salary, nor did we have any strongholds on a consistent basis. But for providing them with facilities, we ustilised domestic resources.
The number of experienced Mujahidin in of Hizb-e- Islami numbers up to tens of thousands of people who are inside Afghanistan, some of whom put their weapons down and some still armed with the weapons”.
He stressed that now he has chosen the option of peace and will stick to the decision until the end, unless war is again imposed on them.
According to him, about 30,000 troops of his were registered with their weapons ready to be included in the internal forces, but the government did not agree.
Regarding the woman who carried out a suicide attack in Kabul on behalf of Hezb-e-Islami, the Jihadi leader said that, the woman had personally volunteered for the attack “Our brothers persisted and asked her to let the youth do this but the lady herself insisted on doing it. ” He noted that there were no suicide schools and centers, and those who carried out suicide attacks were volunteers who sometimes even provided their own facilities.
In response to one of the audience’s questions related to apologizing for suicide attacks by Hizb-e-Islami, Mr. Hekmatyar said: “The responsibility for the attacks are claimed by groups who launch the attacks, and the attack on Finest store in which a foreigner was assassinated was launched by a woman. Other attacks you talked about, we have never taken responsibility of.”
I Have not Left Afghanistan
Hekmatyar clarified about his whereabouts in the past 17 years: “I was in Afghanistan especially in Shigal area (in Kunar province), where a rocket attack happened. For some time, I lived in Dangam Kunar, the place where Americans troops had once come.The conditions were such that I could not participate in that war, and now I regret it. “
On being asked whether he had been to Pakistan, he said: “I was inside Afghanistan and did not have a passport.”
Later he was asked a repeated question by TV show host whether he had left Afghanistan in past 17 years, he responded with an affirmative no. “And please do not ask this question because sometimes the condition would have required me to cross the border line and be on the other side” he added.
He said after joining the peace process, during the first days of his arrival in Kabul, he also transferred his family and at a meeting held in presidential palace, he urged all leaders and other elders to transfer their families and children to Kabul. Kabul should be their homes and graveyard, said.
Failure to Comply with the Provisions of the Peace Agreement
At the same time, Hekmatyar pointed out that none of the Hizb-i Islami peace agreements with the Afghan government has been fully implemented, but some of its articles have been implemented to some extent, namely the release of some of the non-important prisoners of the Hezb-e-Islami .
Mr. Hekmatyar emphasized that: “We gave the government a list of seventy Hezb-e-Islami detainees. Their cases have been suspended in presidential office following the steps taken by the National Security and Attorney General’s office. Their argument is that Americans do not allow the release of these prisoners. “
“I must say that the last prisoner in the Guantanamo prison is related to Hizb-e-Islami. There are no prisoners from other groups such as the Taliban in Guantanamo, but there is still a prisoner from the Hezb-e-Islami,” he said.
Hekmatyar also talked about the removal of his name from the international blacklist: “My name was on the black list of the KGB, as well as the CIA and the blacklist of the UN Security Council, and they all removed my name from their list, but the United States still has my name in its blacklist. “
Trip to Iran Was a Big Mistake of My Life
Mr. Hekmatyar talked about the three major mistakes of his life: “I committed a lot of mistakes, but my biggest mistake is that I trusted some people and went to Iran, and this is one of my greatest mistakes that I must admit I made. But I must say that I had to do that. If there was any other option, I would have gladly taken it.
We met with Professor Rabbani and a large delegation for the meeting in Dushanbe, the capital of Tajikistan, but the next day, the Tajik intelligence sent a message that I should leave the country as soon as possible. I inevitably went to Iran and lived there for several years as a political prisoner, and in the end, they wanted to deliver me to the United States.
They gave me three days to leave Tehran. They even did not give me a passport. In the evening that day and after the decision made by Council of Ministers of Iran, I left Iran for Afghanistan.”