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Long awaited peace deal signed with Hezb-e-Islami; HIA announces ceasefire, vows to disarm fighters

By Farhad Naibkhel-KABUL: The long-awaited peace agreement was signed on Thursday here between Afghan government and Hezb-e-Islami Afghanistan (HIA), the largest militant group after Taliban.

The peace agreement with HIA, led by Gulbadin Hekmatyar, was finalized after nearly two years of formal and non-formal negotiations. The peace draft contains three chapters and 25 articles.

The initial draft was signed today by National Security Advisor Hanif Atmar and the head of HIA delegation Muhammad Amin Karim and Chief of the High Peace Council Syed Ahmad Gilani.

The agreement will be presented to President Ashraf Ghani and the HIA leader Gulbadin Hekmatyar for final approval.

The agreement will facilitate reintegration of the HIA members in political system and dignified return of Afghan refugees from neighboring Pakistan as well as release of the party members. The government also vowed to facilitate removal of the HIA leaders’ names from the UN black list.

The HIA committed to accept Constitution of the country and renounce anti-state activities. The party also pledged to end its ties with terrorist outfits.

“The agreement will be soon presented to both leaders, President Ashraf Ghani and Gulbadin Hekmatyar, for final singing and approval,” Muhammad Hanif Atmar said.

Although, he did not give any timeline, but hoped the agreements would be signed by the two leaders soon.

He commended all those organizations who were involved in the process, particularly the international community. The national security adviser asked the international community to help Afghan government to remove all sanctions on the Hezb-e-Islami and facilitate the situation that can help this process to be fully succeeded.

“As promised, the government will work to repatriate the refugees and pave the ground for political participation of Hezb-e-Islami in the political system, legally,” Atmar said, adding that the HIA pledged to respect the constitution, women’s rights, freedom of speech, independence and sovereignty of Afghanistan.

According to the initial peace deal, the Hezb-e-Islami must announce ceasefire and stop anti-state activities. The party also vowed to disarm its fighters after approval of the agreement by Ghani and Hekmatyar.

Atmar called on the Taliban to join peace process, adding that Afghan government proved that it is honest in peace process.  “It is now the Taliban’s turn to prove their sincerity.”

Chief of the HPC urged the parties to respect the agreement.

Mohammad Amin Karim said the HIA joined the peace process in order to help people to reach real peace in the country. He said that his party would work together with the government for “a nationwide peace”.

Asking other insurgent groups to join the reconciliation drive, Karim said the HIA had insisted over Afghan-owned and Afghan-led peace process which yielded positive results.

He sought removal of the HIA members’ names from the UN and US blacklists; release of HIA members from prisons; and return of Afghan refugees from Pakistan.

Head of the HIA delegation said that his party would continue political fight against presence of the foreign troops in the country. “We will continue our political struggle till the last foreign troop leaves Afghanistan.” He also assured of supporting women’s rights.

Meanwhile, the United Kingdom and the US embassies in Kabul and UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan welcomed the peace deal.

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