Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, the former Afghan politician, formed Afghanistan’s Islamic Party in 1969. The party later received the largest amount of the US’ and other countries’ aids and turned out as the country’s most powerful and organized party.
The party afterwards has arranged a failed coup against the regime of Mohammad Najibullah, the president of Afghanistan from 1987 until 1992. After collapse of the regime, Hekmatyar’s party has struggled to take over the power in Kabul, and then waged a battle against the forces of Ahmad Shah Masoud, the prominent politician and military commander during the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan, and Burhanuddin Rabbani, the president of the Islamic State of Afghanistan from 1992 to 1996. Even after Taliban regime’s collapse and formation of the transitional government, Hekmatyar was a persistent critic of Kabul government.
During the past 40 years, the Islamic Party’s positions have involved it in battles with different Afghan governments. Meanwhile, after fall of Taliban in 2001, the Islamic Party has shown a set of different characteristics.
On the one hand, some of the party’s figures have left the party and on the other hand, some of them now are part of President Ashraf Ghani’s government.
In return, Hekmatyar has kept fighting the central Afghan government as well as the foreign forces. However, he in past few years has tried not to close all the doors to compromise and thought about a kind of reconciliation with the central government. But Hekmatyar’s monopolistic thinking and his diversified stances in the negotiations process beside armed struggles and partnership with the terrorist group ISIS have, in turn, caused his party’s split and impairment.
Meanwhile, despite the fact that the Islamic Party has tried at least not to face off Taliban, it could not build unity with the rebel group. Actually, it has failed to cooperate effectively with any of the influential Afghan groups.
Why Hekmatyar’s party takes a new approach to dialogue and reduces conditions
Whereas Hekmatyar has, during the past year, sent out positive signals to Ashraf Ghani’s requests for negotiations, he showed some backing to the ISIS terror organization.
Recently, a delegation of the Islamic Party, led by Hekmatyar’s representative, has discussed peace for several weeks with the government and the Afghan High Peace Council. Additionally, the delegation has held meetings with representatives of the country’s political parties, civil organizations and journalists. The Islamic Party has quitted the principal precondition that all of the foreign forces must withdraw from the country, indicating that Hekmatyar and his party are coming to the negotiating table with least demands in a bid to reach a deal with the government of Ashraf Ghani.
The Islamic Party has demanded an American transparency in backing the peace process in Afghanistan while during the past 15 years it has battled, hoping that it could seize the power by toppling the post-Taliban regime Afghan government and push the foreign forces out of the country.
The party has a hand in civil war and massacring the opponents. It fought shoulder to shoulder with Taliban during the past 15 years and engaged in terrorist activities.
However, due to a shift in Taliban’s stances, the Islamic Party is also trying to get the government to take concessions. Through a peace deal the party attempts to achieve administrative posts, political and ministerial privileges and power sharing.
Hekmatyar’s conditions for joining the peace negotiations
In the past, Hekmatyar had set stricter conditions for joining the peace process, including the foreign forces full withdrawal from Afghanistan, forming a new interim government and setting free all of the party’s prisoners.
However, the limitations are put more and more on the Islamic Party and while it is fallen apart practically, seeking peace is Hekmatyar’s last attempt.
Thereby, the party has preferred to take part in the negotiations and join the Afghan national unity government. Some figures of the party suggest that if Hekmatyar attends the negotiations in person and his way of activity is paved, he could restore his influence.
From another aspect, some of the Afghan parties’ leaders believe that according to national reconciliation law of Afghanistan parliament, all of the political parties and sides involved in 2.5-decade war are covered by national dialogue process and thus would not be prosecuted legally. So, the party could now be granted immunity, its name removed from terror blacklist and international sanctions on it are lifted. These are rewards that could lead to disregard of the Islamic Party’s past crimes.
All in all, once Hekmatyar returns to the country’s main political stream, he could add to his power and recollect his splintered party.
However, even if the peace process with the government goes ahead uninterrupted, the Islamic Party’s expectations would not be realized in the future in Afghanistan because Taliban is the key force negotiating settlement with Kabul’s government.
Many think that the party’s 68-years-old leader has now become a burned figure as the party is collapsed politically and militarily. Reaching a peace settlement with the party would not mean too much improvement of Afghanistan’s political and security conditions. At the same time, many in the government’s body are pessimistic about Hekmatyar’s new approach and are not ready to make wide-ranging concessions to the party in the peace talks.