Thursday, May 04, 2017

Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, Afghan Warlord, Returns to City He Left in Ruins - nytimes

KABUL, Afghanistan — The last time Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, an Afghan warlord, was in Kabul more than 20 years ago, he was the prime minister and a participant in a factional war that destroyed the capital and claimed tens of thousands of lives.

There were days in the early 1990s when as many as a thousand rockets landed on the city, many of them fired by men loyal to Mr. Hekmatyar, leaving casualties and ruins comparable to the destruction in Syria today.

On Thursday, Mr. Hekmatyar returned to Kabul, after decades of allying with and then fighting against almost every faction in Afghanistan, backed by a peace deal with President Ashraf Ghani. The deal gives Mr. Hekmatyar immunity for past crimes, releases dozens of political prisoners linked to him, and allows him to lead his party, the Hizb-e-Islami, back into Afghan politics.

The Afghan government hopes his return can open the door for tangible peace talks with the Taliban. But with Mr. Hekmatyar’s history as a divisive figure, many also fear that his presence in Kabul when the coalition government is struggling is a recipe for further instability at the center just as Taliban militants are increasing their control over large portions of the country.

At a gathering organized for Mr. Hekmatyar and more than a thousand of his supporters at the presidential palace, Mr. Ghani said the warlord’s return to the capital was a big step toward achieving peace.

“Today’s generation has different wishes,” Mr. Ghani said, adding that free speech and difference of opinion would have to be respected.

When Mr. Hekmatyar took the stage, he spoke for about 45 minutes, his speech often interrupted by chants of “Allahu akbar” from his supporters, many of whom were seeing him for the first time in 20 years. 

Mr. Hekmatyar also addressed accusations about past abuses, including accusations that his men had splashed acid on the faces of women who were active in public life. He said he did not disagree with women attending school or going to work. Officials said his wife and daughter were at the ceremony, almost unheard-of for his generation of warlords.- More

Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, Afghan Warlord, Returns to City He Left in Ruins


Post a Comment

<< Home