Engineer Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, head of Hezb-e-Islami Afghanistan and a former jihadi and mujahideen leader, has been mentioned in Afghan politics in one form or another for nearly four decades. He is the leader of a political party and has twice been the Prime Minister of Afghanistan. However, he has been known around the world as a “jihadi leader” and a “war lord.” He is one of the old and close supporters of Pakistan.
During the jihad against the former Soviet Union, almost all the Mujahideen leaders of Afghanistan had made Pakistan their home and in those days all the war was planned from here. Among these Mujahideen leaders, Hekmatyar was given special attention by the rulers here.
Gulbuddin Hekmatyar ended his long exile in 2016 by signing a peace agreement with Dr. Ashraf Ghani’s Afghan government and returned to Kabul. He remained in hiding and in exile for almost 20 years after the fall of the Taliban government. During this time he lived a life of silence in Iran or perhaps Pakistan.
He is visiting Pakistan for the first time since reaching an agreement with the Afghan government. Although he has no official position at the moment, he was warmly welcomed in Islamabad and given protocol like a minister of state. During his three-day visit, he met with Prime Minister Imran Khan, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Pakistan’s Special Representative for Afghanistan Muhammad Sadiq Khan and other senior government officials.
Bilateral official visits between Kabul and Islamabad have been on the rise in recent days. Earlier, the head of the National Reconciliation Council, Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, also visited Pakistan, while a delegation of Afghan parliamentarians is currently on tour to Islamabad.
Mohammad Sadiq Khan, Pakistan’s special envoy to Afghanistan, said the purpose of the visits was to re-establish strong ties with the neighboring country, for which contacts are being intensified in various forums. Islamabad has also recently announced a new visa policy under which multiple visas of one to five years are being issued for Afghans coming to Pakistan for the first time, which has also been warmly welcomed by the neighboring country. In addition, special attention is being paid to bilateral trade activities.
Gulbuddin Hekmatyar addressed a press conference in Islamabad during his three-day visit. A few selected senior journalists were invited to the press conference, which I coincidentally attended. The Hizb-e-Islami leader faced sharp questions from journalists for about an hour.
Hekmatyar spoke in detail about the ongoing Afghan peace process in Doha, the general situation in Afghanistan and the performance of the government. He slammed President Ashraf Ghani, calling him the root of all problems and saying that the government of Kabul was in the hands of anti-state elements. However, he did not specify which side he was referring to. During the press conference, the United States and Dr. Ashraf Ghani were constantly targeted.
Although Gulbuddin Hekmatyar is a political rival of the Afghan president and was defeated in the recent Afghan presidential election, it is difficult for Pakistan to make such allegations against the Afghan government in Islamabad for some reason.
Unfortunately, bilateral relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan have always been strained and tense. Historically, there is no denying that there has often been a severe lack of trust between the two neighbors.
But Pakistan’s recent series of invitations to Afghan leaders and government officials is aimed at resolving misunderstandings between the two neighbors and building a lasting atmosphere of trust. Islamabad has made more than expected sincere efforts in the ongoing Afghan peace process in Doha, which Afghanistan and the United States have repeatedly acknowledged. However, if such negative messages are sent from Islamabad again, it could lead to renewed tensions, which will undoubtedly be to Pakistan’s detriment.
For the first time in almost forty years, perhaps for all stakeholders in Afghanistan, there is a rare opportunity for peace in which, with a little more effort, the Afghan people can get rid of decades of conflict. Therefore, the current situation demands that the two countries should avoid divisive issues, otherwise years of hard work may be wasted again. Pak-Afghan relations have always been seen as a bag of matches.
Hekmatyar was asked at a press conference that thousands of innocent civilians were killed in the bloody civil war for the throne of Kabul between him and the late Ahmad Shah Massoud in 1992-93. Will you apologize to the people for this unnecessary war? So he first refused to recognize the fighting as a civil war, then accused Afghanistan’s neighbors of being involved in the fighting who did not want to see peace there at the time.
It is worth mentioning here that after the overthrow of Dr. Najib’s government in 1992, thousands of innocent civilians were massacred in the power struggles between the then pro-Pakistan Afghan Mujahideen groups. These wars are often referred to in various contexts in the context of the current situation in Afghanistan.
Ahmed Rashid, a well-known journalist and author of the famous book on Afghanistan, Taliban, Extremist Islam, Oil and Fundamentalism in Central Asia, writes that the civil war between Hekmatyar and Ahmad Shah Massoud has taken a toll on Afghan society. Impressions are gained in a fluid, global, diffused way.
He added that in the immediate aftermath of the civil war, in 1995, Ahmad Shah Massoud’s forces laid siege to Kabul and brutally massacred the Hazara community, leading to an increase in civilian casualties in Afghanistan.
According to Ahmed Rashid, the Hazara community in the northern provinces besieged and killed a large number of Taliban fighters in 1997, while the Taliban, burned in retaliation the following year, took control of those areas in northern Afghanistan. Play brick by brick and burn the houses of Hazara and Uzbek tribes and give them inhuman punishments.
He cited an incident in which the Taliban locked about 300 opponents in a container and when the door was opened, only three of them survived, while all others Were killed suffocation.
The genocide that began in Afghanistan in the 1990s still exists today in one form or another. Peace is no less than a dream come true for the war-torn Afghan nation.