Monday, April 23, 2018
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Snapshots from Kabul: A Rejoinder
By Jagdish Jamwal
This is with reference to the excellent article by Anuradha Bhasin Jamwal in Kashmir Times edition of May 31st 2017.

I agree with most of the views expressed by the author, and I must say it provided excellent food for thought. I would like to add a few points that came to me, as I read the article, which is naturally of keen interest to us from J&K, with troubles relating to ethnicity of the inhabitants in the Kashmir Valley.

When thinking of Afghanistan, it is often felt that Hekmatyar must have matured in this period of more than twenty years, and moreover he is of an age when he is bound to be more worldly-wise and see what should serve his interests. Equally, at this stage he has perhaps realized that he can only do well to his own country, and he is also more keen to make a success of his mission, perhaps because he realizes that there are better chances of his success than failure. This is particularly now when many other personalities have also joined him to make the scene more interesting.

With the Government of Kabul being led by President Ghani Afgani to broker peace with all militant groups including the Taliban, and by which Hizb-e-Islami will lay down all arms in exchange for the Hizb-e-Islami prisoners being released from Afgan jails, once the agreement between the two groups is signed. As part of the deal, Hekmatyar is expected to help the Afgan government led by President Ghani Afgani to broker peace with all militant groups including the Taliban. While the latter have been critical of Hekmatyar's new avtar, the ageing ex-militant leader, at a recent ceremony in his honour at the presidential palace, called the Taliban "brothers" and vowed to fight for all their legitimate demands.

There are many hopes riding on Hekamatyar's return and a lot of effort being made to bring about peace in Afghanistan, as also a possible tryst with democracy and modernity with this former warlord returning to his own country. It is felt that people Like Seema Sarmar, Abdullah Abdullah, Anessa Dervish will help cement the peace deal.

The peace deal initiative is part of the Afganistan's Unity government's effort to end the conflict by using Hekamatyar's influence to build bridges. His track record of atrocities against civilians, his undeterred recent outbursts and the country's fragile faction-riddled political leadership, however, are at odds with the move to integrate the larger part of society and further hasten the speed of Afghanistan's road to power and battle of ideas and vision of future. Equally, there are hopes that he will be a man of integrity and intellect, which modernity and democracy will help to fructify into a better Afghanistan. Perhaps this effort will be helped by the efforts of Rula Ghani's keen participation and her bringing women from all places in Afghanistan to equal status and also by multi-track diplomacy. It will certainly be in India's interest because it will help bring about better understanding between India and Afghanistan, with the help of people like Malalai Wardak and others like Melbin and the Danish Embassy.

Hekmatyar was notorious, in the post Soviet-era, for alleged torture and brutality. UN Assistance Mission Afghanistan (UNAMA) recently received a petition requesting justice for the victims of crimes allegedly committed by him. Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission chief, Seema Samar, also said that several complaints are pending against him and that the commission is working on them. She has been extremely wary of the return of the warlord and wonders whether he will accept the gains made by the country in recent years and carry forward the work of Afghanistan's tryst with democracy and modernity or work at cross purposes to derail the process and take it back. She also questioned the blanket impunity that has been given to Hekmatyar accused of grievous crimes against humanity.

Aneesa Dervish, head of women's wing of Hizb-e-Islam, counters such demands. She maintains, "We are not against accountability. But there should be no special courts set up for Hekmatyar. Others should face accountability just as much. She dismisses charges of an acid attack by Hekmatyar as false and fabricated. "If we are talking about inclusive Afghanistan, we need to move on rather than cling to the past. Let there be system of accountability that is based on forgiveness as per local tradition and religion."

Many others are as skeptical as Seema Samar. They fear that it is a risky gamble and that the amnesty granted to him will encourage him to use his influence and popularity to challenge the existing government instead of collaborating with it, pushing Afghanistan into deeper chaos.

Opinions within Afghanistan are divided over the peace deal with Hizb-e-Islami and the reemergence of Hekamatyar. He is both condemned and popular. A Pashtun warlord from Kanduz province, he wields enough influence among Pashtuns of Afghanistan and is seen as less lethal, even acceptable, as compared to Taliban. Barring Shias of Hazara, his popularity to some extent is said to transcend ethnic divides. Aneesa Dervish for example, a Tajik woman from Kabul, maintains that he commands considerable respect within the community.

Yet it is hoped that he is more mature and is likely to look for success of his mission rather than failure. The fears are deepened as within less than a month, Hekmatyar has begun speaking from both sides of his mouth. He has openly denounced Ghani's government as the "Illegitimate creation of the US." Criticized the news media and complained that ethnic minority Shias have been given too many rights. He has also been openly critical of the concept of 'Unity Government' that brought political foes, president Ghani and Tajik leader, Abdulla Abdulla, as the country's chief executive to share power. The new development is not only deepening the political complexity but is also one that challenges Afghanistan's barely begun journey towards modernity and democracy, even if so far US directed. The present government, interestingly, is cracking down on old warlords on the one hand, while taking the major plunge of entering into a truce with the aging war lord, Hekmatyar.

One hopes that Afghanistan emerges from a long era of darkness and conflict, into one of democracy and peace.

News Updated at : Monday, June 19, 2017
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