Kabul uneasy as former warlord Hekmatyar returns after 20 years

Hekmatyar stressed his call for the Taliban to relinquish their arms and join in reconciliation, adding that the time of war and the lifting of arms is over, and it is time for everyone to unite and cooperate for the establishment of security and peace in the country.

Hekmatyar described Taliban as “brothers” and called upon them to join the peace process and “test the peace once” to end the excuse for the presence of foreign forces in Afghanistan.

After more than 20 years, Hekmatyar, who leads the country’s second largest militant group after Taliban, returned to Kabul on Thursday amid tight security. “I call the Taliban “my brother”, good and bad people are among them”.

“I ask the Taliban, do you have the capacity of negotiation with the people and government of Afghanistan”. He is known as the Butcher of Kabul after his forces bombarded the city during the 1990s civil war.

That mistrust has undermined USA and Afghan efforts to defeat a stubborn Taliban insurgency which claims thousands of lives each year, while an offshoot of Islamic State, known locally as “Daesh”, has added to the bloodshed.

The Hizb-i-Islami leader said he had accepted the constitution drawn up following the US-led campaign that ousted the Taliban in 2001, but wanted it amended and said a parliamentary system was not appropriate for Afghanistan.

But his Hezb-i-Islami militant group has been largely inactive in recent years, with its last big attack in Afghanistan, which killed 15 people – including five Americans – in 2013.

Ghani, speaking before Hekmatyar, said the country had taken “a big step” toward peace by signing the agreement with Hekmatyar.

Already Hekmatyar, in his late 60s or early 70s, has signaled that he does not intend to take a back seat, questioning the US -brokered power-sharing agreement between President Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah. But ethnic Tajiks, who back Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah – Mr Ghani’s former presidential rival and now partner in the national unity government, and the mainly Shia Hazaras – could see the warlord’s return as a worrying sign.

Ghani said the Afghans were certain that violence and hostility could not help realize goals of national interest.

Hekmatyar’s convoy, complete with luxury SUVs loaded with heavily armed men, drove nearly 200 kilometers from Nangarhar Province to Kabul on Thursday.

Hekmatyar vowed to fully support the government in Kabul in its efforts to bring peace and stability in the country.

Hekmatyar will address a public gathering at the Ghazi Stadium on Friday, where the Taliban once held public executions.

Hekmatyar arrived in eastern Laghman province over a week ago and since then he has travelled to eastern Nangarhar province.

But he is remembered mostly for his role in the bloody civil war of the 1990s, when the Hezb-e-Islami clashed violently with other mujahideen factions in the struggle for control of Kabul.

The Prime Minister from 1992 to 1996, Hekmatyar’s peace deal was welcomed by the USA and the UN.

Human rights groups were strongly critical of September’s agreement, saying it reinforces a culture of impunity that allows those accused of human rights violations to get away with abuses. Hekmatyar was added to the U.S. Department of State’s global terrorist list in 2003 for his support of al-Qaida.