Afghan govt set to fi­nalise ...

Pakistan Observer - - IN­TER­NA­TIONAL -

Karim has said he is in an un­spec­i­fied lo­ca­tion in Afghanistan. Under the terms of the 25point agree­ment, a draft of which has been seen by AP, he could soon re­turn to Kabul to sign a for­mal peace deal and take up res­i­dence.

Saleem said Hek­mat­yar’s as­so­ci­ates, in­clud­ing his fam­ily, all ap­peared united behind him and “are not dis­sent­ing with their leader.”

He said a few points in the agree­ment were still to be thrashed out, and added: “It is strongly pos­si­ble that we get to the fi­nal points to­mor­row and fi­nalise the peace ne­go­ti­a­tions.”

Ne­go­ti­a­tions be­gan in July 2014, Karim said, when Hek­mat­yar re­ceived a letter from Ghani, then cam­paign­ing to be­come pres­i­dent, not­ing that one of Hek­mat­yar’s key con­di­tions for peace — the with­drawal of all for­eign troops from Afghanistan — was about to be met. “That was the be­gin­ning,” Karim said.

Progress stalled af­ter Pres­i­dent Barack Obama de­cided to leave a 10,000-strong force in the coun­try through to the end of 2016 un­til Hek­mat­yar dropped the con­di­tion and re­named it “a goal” ear­lier this year.

Karim and a num­ber of Afghan of­fi­cials have said that a peace agree­ment with Hek­mat­yar’s group could en­cour­age Tal­iban fight­ers to end their par­tic­i­pa­tion in the war, and even­tu­ally lead to a full-blown peace.

The agree­ment cov­ers a wide range of points, in­clud­ing a guar­an­tee of equal­ity be­tween men and women and re­spect for the Afghan con­sti­tu­tion, both points of con­tention with the Tal­iban, whose 1996-2001 rule of Afghanistan was char­ac­terised by ex­trem­ist at­ti­tudes that clois­tered women in their houses and man­dated strict re­li­gious ed­u­ca­tion, to the ex­clu­sion of al­most all else, for boys.

Bro­kered under the aus­pices of the High Peace Coun­cil — a gov­ern­ment body charged with ne­go­ti­at­ing an end to al­most 40 years of war — the agree­ment al­lows Hezb-i-Is­lami to op­er­ate as a bona fide po­lit­i­cal party and par­tic­i­pate in elec­tions at ev­ery level.

It gives le­gal im­mu­nity for “all past po­lit­i­cal and mil­i­tary pro­ceed­ings” by Hezb-i-Is­lami mem­bers and man­dates the re­lease of all pris­on­ers within three months. Karim said there are about 2,000 Hezb-i-Is­lami pris­on­ers in jails across Afghanistan.

The Afghan gov­ern­ment un­der­takes to pro­vide hous­ing and se­cu­rity for Hek­mat­yar at two or three res­i­dences in places of his choos­ing.

One point that could at­tract op­po­si­tion from sec­tions of so­ci­ety that fear Ghani’s gov­ern­ment is pre­pared to cede ground to the Tal­iban in re­turn for peace — in­clud­ing any roll­back in rights for women — is a clause that gives Hek­mat­yar a “con­sul­tant” role on “im­por­tant po­lit­i­cal and na­tional de­ci­sions” fac­ing the gov­ern­ment.

For its part, Hezbi-i-Is­lami pledges to end the war, func­tion as an “ac­tive po­lit­i­cal party,” stop all mil­i­tary ac­tiv­ity and dis­solve all its mil­i­tary or­ga­ni­za­tions, and cease all con­tact with other anti-gov­ern­ment or­ga­ni­za­tions.—AP

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