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President Ghani, Hekmatyar sign peace agreement

By Farhad Naibkhel-KABUL: President Ashraf Ghani and Hizb-e-Islami Afghanistan’s leader Gulbuddin Hekmatyar on Thursday formally signed peace agreement.

Long-awaited peace deal will be implemented now after the two leaders signed it. Peace talks with Hezb-e-Islami Afghanistan (HIA) started two years ago.

“Ending war, rescuing Afghans from dependency on strangers and standing on own feet, was the will of the government and Hezb-e-Islami,” said President Ghani.

He said that Afghan government started peace negotiations with HIA, while war was intensified in the country, but reached to result. “Peace has its own cost and is not achieved easily, and I am ready to accept any price to reach peace. Afghanistan is home to all. So, everyone should be involved,” he added.

The president said that for the past 35 years blood of Afghans has been shed. “Thus, Afghans know the price of peace better than everyone. Both parties to the peace agreement proved that we have the will to end the war in the country,” Ghani said.

He said that this is an opportunity for the Taliban to show that their choice is not different from the Afghan nation by joining the peace process and rebuilding Afghanistan. “Standing against the government and shedding blood [of Afghans] will only benefit foreigners. It will be proved now that who want peace and who seek war,” he asserted.

President Ghani said the government does not want war and never insisted on it, but it is duty of Afghan security forces to defend the country. He said that peace efforts carry hardships, but the reconciliation drive could be successful only when there is firm will.

“No article of the peace agreement with Hizb-e-Islami is against the constitution,” he said, assuring that the government would start work over implementation of the agreement from now.

The government and HIA by signing the peace deal have proved that both side are committed to end war in Afghanistan, he mentioned.

Welcoming the peace deal, Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah hoped that it would be the beginning of a nationwide peace.

He assured of cooperation for implementation of the agreement. Abdullah highlighted that the government of Afghanistan has also assure the international community that it would continue fight against terrorism.

Pointing to Pakistan, he said that Afghans don’t ask peace through Pakistan, but want peace with Pakistan.

Gulbuddin Hekmatyar voiced pleasure through video link over the peace deal with the government and said that “we hope for an independent and respected Afghanistan.”

He wished that all foreign troops leave the country and the war ends forever.

“The negotiation started two years ago between and reached to result through an Afghan-owned and Afghan-led process, without interference of foreigners,” he said. The HIA leader insisted that both sides will remain committed to the agreement’s contents, and would sincerely work for implementation of the agreement.

While calling on all figures and clusters to support the peace agreement signed between HIA and government, Hekmatyar asked the Taliban to join peace process and follow their legal goals through political ways.

“Continuation of war will not benefit Afghans, but only foreigners, because only Afghans will be killed in the war,” he said.

Hekmatyar urged the government to start negotiation with the Taliban as well.

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 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 and US black lists.

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

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