Hizb-e-Islami to join Afghan peace talks


Reviving hopes of a negotiated peace process, Hizb-e-Islami Afghanistan (HIA), the second largest resistance group in the country, led by former prime minister Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, has formally decided to join the peace talks with the Afghan government, the party said on Sunday.

“Hizb-e-Islami has constituted a two-member team for the negotiation, which includes Qazi Hakim Hakim, head of HIA’s central council and Ghairat Baheer, head of the political affairs,” party sources told a private media outlet on Sunday.

The announcement came days after the Taliban refused to take part in the quadrilateral dialogue process with the Afghan government, terming them “futile and misleading negotiations”.

In a statement, Taliban once again reiterated their policy that “unless the occupation of Afghanistan is ended, black lists eliminated and innocent prisoners freed”, talks will not bear any results.

Last month’s Quadrilateral Coordination Group (QCG) meeting in Kabul had invited Taliban groups to join direct talks with the Afghan government by the first week of the current month while Islamabad had accepted the offer to host the unprecedented meeting.

Diplomatic sources; however, insisted ‘background’ efforts were still under way to contact the Taliban for persuading them to soften their stance about the talks.

The HIA’s decision has kept hopes alive for the reconciliation process but fate of the process will mainly depend on whether or not Taliban change their stance.

The Taliban refusal could further isolate them and they could face pressure if the GCG acts in line with its commitment to take action against the irreconcilable elements.

The media outfit claimed that Hekmatyar gave approval of the talks after Afghan President Ashraf Ghani publicly invited his party and Afghan officials formally extended the invitation.

Afghan Foreign Minister Salahuddin Rabbani had also personally spoken to Dr Ghairat Baheer, who heads HIA’s political commission, after the Feb 23 quadrilateral meeting.

Meanwhile, the Taliban might step up attacks with the start of their traditional spring offensive either by the end of March or early April. Commanders of the foreign forces and the Afghan military have predicted intensification in fighting this year.

Afghan security analysts believe Taliban fighters have expanded their fighting from their Pashtun-dominated areas in the south and the east to the northern parts of the country.