On September 29, the Afghan government signed a peace agreement with Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, the leader of the Hezb-i-Islami party, also known as HIG.
Hekmatyar, in hiding since 1997, has been on the US state department’s list of designated terrorists since 2003. The agreement allows for his return, calls for the removal of sanctions against him and pardons him of the crimes he has been accused of committing.
The deal has met with a mixed reaction from Afghans, with opponents and human rights activists criticising it for the impunity it grants him, while some see it as a necessary step towards peace.
Hekmatyar was one of the most influential leaders in the fight against the Soviet forces in the 1980s. When the Soviet-backed government in Kabul fell in 1992, Hekmatyar locked horns with important leaders of the resistance. After briefly accepting the position of prime minister in the interim government, he resorted to firing countless rockets at civilian neighbourhoods in Kabul, earning him nicknames such as “Rocketyar” and “the Butcher of Kabul”.
When the Taliban took over in 1996, Hekmatyar was forced to flee the capital, while some of his followers joined the Taliban.
After the US invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, Hekmatyar declared war against coalition forces and allegedly formed alliances with the Taliban and al-Qaeda, although he has denied this.
HIG has taken responsibility for a number of attacks in Afghanistan and is suspected to be behind an assassination attempt on former President Hamid Karzai.
While a faction broke from Hekmatyar’s HIG and joined the government after 2001, questions remain about how the peace deal will affect politics in Afghanistan.
As Kabul prepares for the return of Hekmatyar, Al Jazeera spoke to Muhammad Amin Karim, Hekmatyar’s representative and chief negotiator of the HIG delegation…
Read the entire interview here.