Veteran Afghan Mujahideen leader Gulbuddin Hekmatyar says the selection criteria for delegates could be pivotal to the success of an expected conference in Istanbul on peace in Afghanistan.
In an exclusive interview with Anadolu Agency, the former prime minister emphasized that only top leaders of influential political parties, Afghan government officials, and Taliban leaders should be invited to the proposed conference in a bid to avoid a repeat of the “failures of the Doha and Moscow meetings.”
“There are many obstacles and opponents of the peace negotiations both within the country and outside,” said the 71-year-old head of the Hezb-e-Islami party in the war-ravaged country.
“For instance, if the composition of the delegates [in Istanbul] is the same as it was in Doha, then the result would be the same failure. The Doha meeting failed because only two parties to the conflict [the Afghan government and the Taliban] were engaged,” he opined.
“The Kabul government insisted on the continuation of war, as the peace agreement was against its interests,” he charged, adding that other influential sides for war and peace in Afghanistan were not invited to Doha.
According to Hekmatyar, there have been no significant peace talks in Doha since the start of intra-Afghan talks in September 2020, following a historic agreement between the US and the Taliban in February 2020.
“In Moscow, a large number of delegates were invited without taking into consideration. This time [in Istanbul], only the influential parties associated with the war and peace should be invited,” he suggested.
Single representation by the Afghan Government
He added that the Afghan government should be represented as one party with all its institutions, including the High Council of National Reconciliation (HCNR), and parties within the government. And this delegation should be headed by President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani.
Regarding the Taliban, he said the “insurgent” chief Mullah Hebatullah would be unable to attend the proposed conference due to security and other concerns, but that his deputy should represent the group in the Istanbul conference.
Charging the HCNR for wasting huge funds and failing to advance the peace efforts, Hekmatyar said the leading political parties, his Hezb-e-Islami, the Jamiat-e-Islami, the Hezb-e-Wahdat, and former president Hamid Karzai’s delegation should all have a sole representative for the sake of fruitful and candid discussion for peace in Afghanistan at the proposed conference.
He added that negotiations in Istanbul should revolve around key points such as the withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan.
Outlining his plan for peace, Hekmatyar advocated that a transitional government-led and comprising individuals with a clean background and no political affiliation should be formed for at least a year to hold free and fair elections. This transitional government should not be a coalition of political parties that have been engaged in fighting against each other for the past 40 years, he added.
“Parallel to this transitional government, a high state council comprising the leaders of these factions should supervise this government and oversee fair and just elections via a new commission acceptable to all with a new system,” he said.
In the second stage, a Loya Jirga (traditional grand gathering of Afghan elders) should be called for the sake of the future system of governance and constitution, said Hekmatyar.
The Hezb-e-Islami leader believed that Turkey is the best host for the peace conference owing to its impartial approach and deep-rooted ties with Afghanistan. Hekmatyar said Ankara is committed to and working hard to ensure the Istanbul conference’s success for peace in Afghanistan.