Hezbi-e Islami has always struggled for peace and stability in the nation : Chief of Peace and Reconciliation Council of HIA in Europe, Ustad Qaribur Rahman Saeed
By Prabalta Rijal
Apr 19, Kabul: Although its been over six months that the Peace accord was signed the HIA leader Hikmatyarhas not yet returned to Kabul, amdist speculations on whether he will actually return to the Afghan Capital and take the peace process forward, The Oslo Times caught up with the Current Chief of Peace and Reconciliation Council of Hezbi Islami (Islamic Party of Afghanistan) in Europe Ustad Qaribur Rahman Saeed, for a short rendezvous.
In the conversation with The Oslo Times, Chief International Correspondent Prabalta Rijal,Mr. Rahman spoke about Mr. Hikmatyar's return, the Peace process and HIA's future plans.
Firstly, thank you sir for agreeing to do this interview with us. Our first question is regarding the return of Mr. Hekmatyar, some people believe that he will be returning while there is a widespread speculation that he won't, can we expect him to return to Kabul any time soon?
First of all I am grateful to The Oslo Times International News Network for providing me with the opportunity to express my heart felt feelings and political views.
As a senior member of Hezb-e Islami and the country’s peace talks advocate, I have not only taken part in Peace Negotiations since 2010 alongside many financial crisis,but I have also started taking a proactive role in mobilizing, communicating with the authorities on both sides. Also in the last decade of the 20th century after the fall of Dr. Najeebullah’s regime in Kabul when different parties had launched the civil war in order to take out power, I had also tried to launch the negotiation between the two opposed parties Jamiat-e Islami and Hezb-e Islami and for a cease fire I have made so many journeys with the delegations. In these journeys I have met so many Jihadi leaders, along with the top ranking commander of the Jamiat-e Islami Mr Ahmad Shah Masood. We have received the agreement, but the time and situation havent’t allowed us to implement the agreement.
I was compelled to leave my motherland in March of 2000 after which, I received severe threats from the opponents of peace. But I did not extricate the peace process in any situation and at any cost for my country. Unfortunately the situation has changed drastically since October 2001. The International community under the wing of the United States of America has brought the military storm over my country at a time in which Afghans were not involved in any kind of crime, but on the contrary the Afghan history is witness to the fact that Afghans have not harmed anyone inside and outside the border lines.
I must admit that at the start of the year 2010 a draft was sent to me from the leader of the Hezb-e Islami Mr Gulbudeen Hikmatyaar under the name of the National Peace Treaty to begin negotiation and peace talk with the Afghan government and the international community. I was told to take the draft over to the then president of Afghanistan, Mr Hamid Karzai, along with a delegation to initiate the peace talk. It was our first time to take such a brave step towards peace and reconciliation.
My meeting with the former President was to a certain extent fruitful. After nearly a month of being guest to Mr.Karzai we met the country’s different personalities and a few diplomatic circles. During these meetings we also met a few members of European Union. After this first successful visit, I came back to Kabul in the year 2012 and 2013 in an effort to push the stalled talks ahead. I met the director of high peace council late Mr. Burhanuddin Rabbani along with different political circles to kick start the stalled process as a nationwide initiative. In this journey along with meeting members of European Union I also had a friendly meeting with the honorable ambassador of the United States of America in Afghanistan. He has too assured us of his support for the peace process. Although I was not in favor of the recent peace delegation who came forth for discussions with Mr. Mohammad Ashraf Ghani, I backed the process completely and I am very happy that our efforts for peace have finally brought a positive result.
The treaty is done. There is no turning back. Regarding his coming there were some issues, one of which was the abstruse inside the Afghan government and the system. The solutions to the complications were delayed, which prevented the prompt return of Mr. Hikmatyaar.
The list of problems also included the delay of releasing prisoners. Secondly,the agreement mentions that the prisoners should be released within two months of the signing, which has not happened and Mr. Hikmatyaar insists that the elements of the agreement be implemented word for word, providing shelter to the refugees has also become one of the issues which is still insolvable. The Afghan government delegation has made plans to provide 100 families with shelters and their details have also been handed over to the government.
Thirdly, there have been security issues that needed attention before our leader Mr. Gulbuddin Hikmatyaar could come back into limelight. However, President Mr. Ashraf Ghani has personally taken strives for the issues to be resolved soon and after these demands are fulfilled Mr. Gulbuddin Hikmatyaar will return.
The Government of Afghanistan and HIA, have signed an agreement and this agreement talks about releasing prisoners, so when will the prisoners be released and is there any progress in talks with the government in this regard ?
You are right and according to the agreement, all political prisoners should have been set free right after it was signed, but as I told you before that there are some issues in the process of releasing political prisoners. Hezb-e Islami has handed over the list of political prisoners that the authorities need to free. A justice commission should be appointed until all their case files are reviewed and prisoners who are involved in crime should be expelled from the case, but government authorities have been unable to complete the task in the given time, however things are getting done in a slow but steady manner.
Where is Mr. Hekmatyar at the moment is he inside or outside Afghanistan?
I cannot tell you anything regarding the exact location of Mr.Hikmatyar because of security concerns. However, according to reliable information sources, he resides in a very safe and secure place in the eastern part of Afghanistan. That is why he wants to emerge from the eastern province.
What is HIA's policy in regards to freedom of expression and media in Afghanistan?Some women organizations believe that the return of Hikmatyaar will cause further deterioration in women’s rights in Afghanistan because of the party's conservative outlook on women, so how does HIA plan to protect the rights and freedom of women in the country?
The Afghan society is conservative and only those parties that can understand the cultural and Islamic aspects of this society can help bring stability in the nation. Hezb-e-Islami was the only party in the 80's that had the publication of daily and weekly newspapers along with the monthly magazine which used to be published in four different languages Urdu, Dari, English and Pashto.
In addition to this the party also used to execute conferences, seminars and also programs for the young generation which promoted the right to vote and freedom of expression, respect to human rights and values and respect to all democratic and Islamic institutions. Also the party had television and radio broadcast, productions and publications.Freedom of expression is a person’s natural right. No one can put a closure to this. Similarly, most of our leaders and members are highly educated and value the right to vote and freedom of expression.
Afghanistan is home to different ethnic groups and languages so freedom of expression which foments fanaticism between different ethnic groups or between different religious and linguistic groups, causes the corruption, war or division among groups are never going to be allowed. The Hezb-e-Islami opposes such violations of rights and is dedicated to the upkeep of the human rights and article 19 of international law for freedom of expression.
Regarding the second part of your question Hezb-e-Islami is the only political party in the country which has supported and provided women with the opportunity to pursue their studies as well as run programs for their empowerment and procuration of employment to females non other party had did since 1980’s. And it should also be mentioned that during the immigration of Afghans to Pakistan and Iran Hezb-e-Islami played very important role in providing shelters to the refugees and facilitation of the immigrants with education for both men and women.
During that time Hezb-e-Islami have also played an important role for the youth by providing them with scholarships to universities all over the world. You must know that Hezb-e-Islami was struggling in two battlefronts one was against the communist regime of Russia and another to educate the young generation for Afghanistan’s better future.
That is why today as we see that Hezb-e-Islami has more highly educated scholars than any other political party in Afghanistan. And we believe in equal rights and opportunity for both men and women based on our Islamic belief, which teaches us how to build society with peace, harmony, tranquility and to respect to all human values.
Some critics have been comparing the return of Mr. Hekmatyaar to that of the Iranian Imam Khomeini to Iran, the return of the former supreme leader had brought a revolt in Iran, will the return of Hikmatyaar bring peace to Afghanistan, is this comparison even relevant?
No, not at all. There is a very great difference between the return of the Iranian leader to Iran and our leader Mr. Hikmatyaar. As we all know that Khomeini was in France when he planned to come to Iran but our leader is in Afghanistan.
Our leader is here in the country right beside his people he never left his people alone in their fight for freedom. We should not forget he was the driving force behind Afghanistans win against the Soviet Union siege in the country, our leader is a freedom fighter and I am sure that Khomeini would not fight for the freedom and rights of his people.
"Hikmatyaar is a political, spiritual, freedom fighter and Islamic scholar,
who has devoted his whole life for the liberty and rights of his nation.
The Afghan history will remember him for his devotion,
his sacrifices, and the future generations will learn about him
as real hero of this great nation."
HIA was established over 40 years ago and has been able to create a legacy for itself, you have leaders belonging to all Afghan ethnicities (Hazaras, Uzbek, Tajik,) and minority groups and supporters throughout the country, so why hasn’t HIA been able to come into power?
This question has many dimensions.
The HIA was established at the beginning of 1970 by an active youth studying at Kabul University, while both the country and the population were detained by the regime of that time. The situation in the country was getting critical by the day, as influential people were spending national assets for their revelry and on their families. Although the country was full of mines and natural resources our nation was starving to death.
Besides that, The Soviet Union, was directly supporting its puppets in the country. It wanted to accomplish a military coup on the Government and gain the power to spin it according to their desire and bring Afghanistan under its control like it done with other central Asian countries.
It was during these difficult times that the party was founded. It was a fully national party which comprised of educated girls, women and school students. In the second year of it's establishment the party has earned maximum votes of University Students Council. The party decided to have its representatives in the upcoming parliamentary elections.
The party planned to use this democratic route in order to bring changes in the Government.
To prevent us from advancing and winning the majority of votes The Union supportedSardaar Daud Khan cousin of King Zahir Shahand and rose him against Zahir Shah’s regime.
They then performed a military coup and succeeded. In that military coup the Soviet Union played a major role through its puppets. After this when Sardaar Daud khan came into power, he was assigned a few communist figures as members of the cabinet. Then the communist members of the cabinet started arresting active members of the HIA party. They hanged a number of our party members and exiled many other HIA members to remote areas. The Soviet Union intervened to empower its communist party, which violated our human rights, freedom of media rights, religious rights in all form of freedom. They slaughtered and imprisoned our scholars from different sectors, unschooled innocent people and initiated hundreds of other criminal activities.
The HIA had opposed the communist regime and the military coup because it was against our basic rights, human rights, traditional and Islamic value. Hezb-e-Islami started its efforts and struggle for a fair, transparent and an elected Government, as a result the USSR initiated an armed opposition and targeted a direct military intervention, which was against all national and international rules and regulation. This undertaking took almost ten years. It sent over a hundred thousand soldiers to Afghanistan one after the other but failed desperately and broke into pieces. Finally, they accepted their defeat after ruining and spoiling of all our fundamental infrastructures, schools, universities and national assets. Although they left Afghanistan in February 14th 1990, they didnt take the devastation and destruction with them, the harm had already been done,
They also left the Government of Dr. Najeebullah behind and unaided. Along with Soviet Union there were a number of other neighboring countries who tried to prevent stabilization and formation of a Government by the Mujahedeen in Afghanistan. Similarly, there were other neighboring dictatorial regimes that were also afraid that if the Mujahedeen succeeded at bringing the government down and if they gained power then they too would face similar upraising against the regimes in their countries. During that time the HIA had full opportunity to communicate and be part of Dr. Najeebullah regime. Because Najeebullah has sent his Minister of Defense to the south of Kabul in some Logar region to meet the HIA supreme leader with a proposal of taking over the Government but on one condition that the HIA must give at least two to three Ministries/seats to Dr. Najeebullah’s regime.
But HIA didn’t accept this proposal because it was against the policy and procedure of the party. HIA wanted to bring change in the Government through fair and transparent elections. Then we proposed the messenger of Dr. Najeebullah to hand over the power and Governance to the Mujahedeen Commanding Council around Kabul city, so the mujahideen will pave the ground for quick and fair elections within six months.
Furthermore the HIA agreed also told the International Community that the power must be given to trust worthy people not to conflicting parties for one year and the transitional Government should prepare the circumstances for a transparent elections in order to perform a peaceful power transition. The power must be transited to an elected Government using fair and transparent elections. About these issues, I have written a detailed book in Pashto which explains all above matters.
During the Rabbani’s government the HIA had insistence on why should we afraid of our nation’s choice. The nation should choose their leader. But unfortunately number of people were afraid that HIA will gain more power and they will lose their governance. That’s why they started war against HIA.They received support from neighboring countries in order to demolish HIA and to own the power.
That’s why HIA never struggled to gain power in a regime in which the nation's designation doesn't have priority and they are not given right to choose their desired leader. Indeed the HIAhas given many sacrifices in order to bring peace and resurrection among the people and always supported fair and transparent elections. Nowafter signing the peace agreement with President Ghani we never demanded for seat or shares from the President rather we decided to struggle to participate liberally and to play a major role in the upcoming presidential elections though the situation and political climate is veryproblematic. These are the initial policy and rules of the HIAfounders which have never been compromised or violated rather they sacrificed themselves to protect them at any cost.
How does Islam and Democracy go hand in hand? What kind of government is HIA planning for? Are you okay with a power sharing government?
The principle of democracy is that the leadership of the government must be chosen by the people through fair elections, it means that the Government of people by the people for the people.
It is also one of the major principles in Islam that the leadership of the Government must be chosen by the people. Since the beginning, it has one of the four basic elective policies of Islam that the government must be chosen through liberal votes of people. The authorities of the government must work according to the advices of the national assemblies and the member of the assemblies must be honest, righteous, trustworthy and prominent people.
The HIA follows this rule and insists that the leadership of the Government be chosen by the nations's choice and through fair and transparent elections. The members of the parliament and national assembly must also be elected through nation's vote and they should be of nation's choice and trustworthy members. This is the principle which was proposed by the Prophet 1400years ago for the Muslim nations and being implemented since then.
Furthermore the constitution and framework of the Government must also legislate the intellectual, wise and knowledgeable people and then must be approved by the population. In Islamic societies all laws and regulations are written based on Islamic Sharia,which includes all issues such as civil society, politics, social issues, the economy and other rights apparent to all. Islam has a wide and comprehensive law and procedure.
Generally, all human rights,including women, children and even the rights of animals and plants are being protected in this religion. Though there are ordinal laws which allowed to be composed by intellectuals and thoughtful people, but none of them are allowed to oppose fundamental laws of Islam or anyone else’s rights. That’s why the Islamic Sharia not only protects the human rights, safety or stability and self-assurance, but it also protects the framework of living manhood as well. On the contrary, it protects the society and prevents problematic elements from annoying civilians.
I would say that as the HIA believes in the electoral system. HIA has always struggled and will strive for a government which has the vote of their people.So it is common that those parliaments which were formed after obtaining votes from citizens should consist of different parties. The party which wins the majority of seats in the parliament should have the full right to shape the government according to their desire, but if no the parties which are in a minority can join the other political parties to form a coalition. All my allegations on above topic are steady on the basis of international law and most civilized countries in which such system exists.
What kind of compromises is HIA willing to make for the peace process to move forward?
The HIA is ready for all kinds of compromises on the basis of its rules and policies for bringing peace and prosperity to the country. That’s why the HIA has signed a peace agreement with the Government in order to sustain peace and stability in the country. For this reason the HIA underrated many of its conditions in order to succeed the inter-Afghan negotiation via Afghans with Afghans and for Afghans without intervention of any foreign power. We still respect the international community which supports this inter-Afghan negotiations and peace agreement.
On the other hand the HIA will never compromise the full freedom of the country, electoral system and formation of a government without the will of the people and Afghanistan’s national interest. This was the reason that the HIA accepted the temporary government of the Mujahedeen with a condition that within duration of six months all parties should strive to pave the ground to held a fair and transparent election.
But unfortunately the leadership of the mentioned parties were very weak and failed to establish the mentioned sustainable presidential election except receiving and fulfilling orders of their bosses.They were worried about holding elections and giving rights to the people to choose their desired leader as they would fall from power. Its all deeper among parties which brought huge and an unforgettable disaster to this country and nation.
A people based/chosen government guaranties peace and prosperity in the country. One thing must be clear that elections mean nothing when it is being held under others authority or influence. We will not count it as a people's government when foreign interlopers lead the elections. For the resurrection of peace and electoral system individual freedom and independence of the nation has great importance. The HIA demands a fair, wide, transparent and free of fraud elections under direct observation of fair and unbiased organizations to allow all parties to participate equally and nobody shall stay out of this system. If we make an inclusive government and allow all parties to play an equal role, then the peace and security of the country will be automatically granted. The HIA will do its best in order to implement fair policies which are a part of our main believes.
Your offensive against foreign powers has also caused thousands of civilian casualties and when HIA was in power in the nineties, it was considered responsible for turning Kabul into rubbles, is HIA willing to completely put down its guns and enter the Afghan political scenario, how is your party going to persuade the people of Afghanistan to vote for you?
Firstly the whole nation has participated in the holy Jihad to fight for their freedom and independency included different parties with an extra ordinary role of Hezb-e-Islami. It is clear to all that HIA was considered the backbone of this resistance and Jihad.
Around one and a half million Afghans were martyred in the Holy Jihad. A similar number had been injured and have lost their limbs, million others have lost their homes and migrated to neighboring countries. All these casualties and losses were caused by the foreign invaders.
The leadership of HIA has done its job honestly and faithfully for the freedom of its country and it never betrayed its people and nor did it give away the national interest of the country. During this war, only a few times a number of sold militias under the name of Mujahedeen attacked the compounds of HIA and caused deathblow casualties. As an eye witness of such affairs I haven’t seen that the HIA or its leadership has taken any step in which there were chances of causing casualties to the civilians. The reasons behind this was that the HIA had always been amongst the people and it had the support of the majority of the nation.
Secondly Inter-Kabul war was not as much internal as it is being said. Foreign countries, particularly our neighbors were deeply involved in this war and had negative roles. They were afraid of the formation of Mujahedeen’s Government in Afghanistan. They were struggling to wage a war in between mujahedeen under the name of fanaticism, nationalism, linguistic and religion. I was witness of such war conflicts which has been initiated for the first time in between Hezb-e-Etihad Islamiunder the leadership of“Us tad Abdurrab Rasool Sayyaf” and Hezb-e-Wahdat Islami under the leadership of Hazara’s leader “Ali Mazaary”. Their conflicts had religious roots as SUNNY Muslims belonged to Hezb-e-Etihad Islami fought with Shiite Muslims belonging to Hezb-e-Wahdat Islami under the conflicts in between their belief of the same religion. Then the “SHORAY-E-NEZAAR” ( Nezaar Council ) under the leadership of Ahmad Shah Masoodalso fully participated in that war conflict in order to support its friendly Sunny party. Western side of Kabul province has been demolished completely due to these wars.
Then the Coalition of JABAL-E-SERAJ had become dominant on Kabul city. This coalition included of Jamiat Party under leadership of Ustad Rabbani, Nezaar Council under leadership of Masood, former militias under leadership of General Dostum and other political and military influenced members of Parcham Party.
Former military Commander General of the Communist Regime, General Azeemmentioned in his book “Army and Politics” that the coalition hasstarted war against HIA to push them backward of Kabul surroundingsas the military campsof the fighters of HIA were based 15 KM away towards south of Kabul in CHAR-ASIAB region but they failed to do so.
The HIA never initiated the war it just defended itself. Unfortunately, the initiators of war against the HIA have hidden themselves among the civilians. They used to target the HIA from residential areas. General Fahim himself said that “he was commander of Ahmad Shah Masood and his compound was in TV hill. This hill is situated in the center of the city and through this hill they used to keep the enemy under bombardment and pressure”. A Commission of International Community prepared a detailed report about this issue but a number of powerful and problematic elements such as General Fahim and his other closed convicts have obscured that report and didn't let the Commission to broadcast it.
The HIA has asserted many times that a strong, free, independent and authorized transitional justice must be established in order to investigate, to trail and to adjudge all those people who are accused and responsible for civil war and casualties.
Similarly, yes the HIA stepped in into the political environment of Afghanistan after signing the peace agreement with the government. The HIA will follow its policy for which the party has been founded. The HIA was neither founded for war nor did its members on the initials imagine that a time will comethey will be compelled to pick up weapons. The aim of the party was to have the nation elected government in the country. The people shall select their representatives and the country should change to a cradle of peace. Unfortunately the interference of regional countries particularly theexistence of Soviet Union and its puppet government forced the HIA to migrate from the country but the HIA continued its armed struggle for the freedom of their nation against the invasion of Soviet Union.
The HIA now intends to end the military presence politically in Afghanistan which is only possible when we have peace and stability in the country.Naturally after signing the peace agreement the HIA ended its military activities. All commanders are being ordered by the leadership to put their weapons on groundincase if they need it for their own protection. That’s why the HIA’s leadership ordered all commanders and Mujahedeen to stop using weapons except for their self-defense and for the protection of their soil.
In July 2015, it is believed that Mr. Hikmatyaar called on his followers to support the Islamic State (IS) extremist group in its fights against the Taliban, how can Afghan nationals rest assured HIA will follow a moderate line once in power and prevent and will not harbor horror organizations like the ISIS?
IS (IslamicState) doesn’t exist in Afghanistan.If it exists they are of those disguised Taliban groups which wanted to act independently. Afghanistan has changed into a battlefield for the benefits and interests of the regional countries. Anyone can form a group here in order to put pressure on the regime.
At the beginning the Taliban was created to carry out attacks on the compounds of the HIA and to demolish them. The first attacks on HIA compounds happened in “SPIN-BOLDAK” South-East area close to border with Pakistan by the Taliban. Then they captured the compounds of the HIA one after the other in KANDAHAR Province. This was not the Taliban’s task.
They were just following orders to occupy the compounds of HIA one after the other and to demolish them. Ustad Rabbani was sending plenty of money to the Taliban by means of helicopters to consume it against HIA.
There is a huge gap difference exist in thinking and ideology of the Taliban and HIA for shaping the government, bringing peace and prosperity to the country. The Taliban are against elections, but the HIA policy stands on the fair and transparent election. The Taliban are against girl's education and wants to subjugate women under the jurisdiction of men. But the HIA is seriously in favor of giving women complete rights and help them to defend their rights themselves.
The Oslo Times International News Network