The deal between the Afghan National Unity Government (NUG) and Chief of Hizb-e-Islami Afghanistan (HIA) Gulbadin Hikmatyar will affect positively political stability in Afghanistan, analysts having known as Afghan experts have said.
Hikmatyar, who is dubbed as a ‘butcher of Kabul’ for allegedly killing thousands of people in the country’s civil war in 1990s would be granted amnesty under the agreement.
His role in Afghanistan passed through several phases: The HIA chief was considered as significant anti-Soviet Jihadi during the cold war era and played an important role in Afghan Jihad besides the politics of the country as Prime Minister. In 1990s’ civil war in Afghanistan, he reportedly committed heinous war crimes, even supervised rocket bombardment on Kabul. Now, he goes for peace deal vowing to shun violence and also appealing powerful Taliban to join the reconciliation process.
In the past he was blamed to have organized attacks on coalition forces and Afghans and also for ties with Al-Qaeda and Daesh in Afghanistan. But for couple of years, he has been considered militarily irrelevant and has been in hiding.
As per the 25-point long pact, HIA would abide by the Afghan Constitution and will dismantle its militant wing. The government pledged to release HIA’s prisoners and lift all restrictions on the group and Hikmatyar. The deal could be implemented once Hikmatyar and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani sign it.
Rahimullah Yousafzai, Expert on militancy and the region, told CRSS, “the deal with Hikmatyar may not be important militarily but most likely lead the breakaway factions of HIA would to reunite after the peace deal. Such a situation would make Hikmatyar the most powerful figure and HIA large political party in the country.
HIA was divided into four factions namely: HIA United Afghanistan faction led by Wahidullah Sabawon, HIA Hamdard led by Juma Khan Hamdard, and the faction led by Abbdul Hadi Arghandiwal. The faction led by Hikmatyar was the only violent faction. The three non-violent factions in March welcomed the decision of Hikmatyar for reconciliation and his willingness to disarm. The three groups are part of the political process and are represented in the parliament.
The sources inside the Sabawon group said that its party’s top leadership has already made up its mind for reunification.
Expert on Afghan affairs, Tahir Khan, told CRSS that the deal would trigger new political adjustments in Afghanistan. Neither former president Hamid Karzai nor President Ashraf Ghani have their own strong political bases and they have to depend on allies. Hikmatyar alone has a political base, both in Pashtun and non-pashtun segments of the society.
“After his political comeback, Hikmatyar has the potential to outshine prominent politicians in Afghanistan,” Sami Yousafzai, another expert on Afghan Affairs, told CRSS.
Sami said that it was a good omen for political stability in the country if the process of integration of HIA into Afghan politics continued as the agreement suggests.
The analysts tend to agree that the deal would also affect the Afghan Taliban. Taliban Chief Mulla Hibatullah is less interested in peace talks blaming Afghan government for being not sincere in negotiations. He also demands withdrawal of the foreign troops from Afghanistan as a precondition for talks with Kabul.
At the moment over 8000 US troops are deployed in Afghanistan as part of the NATO Resolute Mission to support the Ashraf Ghani government. The Ghani government considers this as essential for its survival while the militants have been insisting on a complete pullout of all foreign troops.
Khan said that the NUG-HIA deal may indirectly mount pressure on Taliban for talks with Kabul.
Rahimullah Yousafzai disagreed on this score.
Sami said, “if the deal is implemented, and political process started, the set up in Kabul would be viewed as a government of all and it would restore confidence of Taliban in the government so far reluctant to hold talks with Kabul.”
The author Imdad Hussain is a senior research fellow at the Center for Research and Security Studies (CRSS).