Afghan government opposes Hekmatyar’s separate talks with Taliban

Hizb-e-Islami chief Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. (AFP)
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Updated 22 October 2020

Afghan government opposes Hekmatyar’s separate talks with Taliban

  • Hizb-e-Islami chief announced that he would start his own negotiations with the Taliban while intra-Afghan discussions between Kabul and the group are underway
  • Government source says Qatari authorities accepted Hekmatyar’s bid but the US, which is facilitating the peace process, has blocked it

KABUL: The Afghan government opposes any separate negotiations outside of its own with the Taliban, a spokeswoman for the Peace Ministry said on Thursday, after a former prime minister announced his intention of starting talks with the group to help bring peace to the war-torn country.

Speaking at a think-tank in Islamabad during his visit to Pakistan on Wednesday, Hizb-e-Islami chief Gulbuddin Hekmatyar — a former warlord who fought against the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in the 1980s and later served as the country’s prime minister — said he had decided to start his own negotiations with the Taliban. The statement came as peace talks between the Kabul government and the group, which have been underway in Doha, Qatar since September, appear to have made no headway.

Intra-Afghan talks began on Sept. 12 after a US-Taliban peace deal was signed in late February. Under the agreement, the US committed to withdraw all foreign forces from Afghanistan by next year’s spring. In return, the Taliban promised to seek reconciliation with the Afghan government.

“Peace is a national process. The government has presented vivid mechanisms for participation of all political and social strata,” Najia Anwari, the spokeswoman for the Afghan Ministry of Peace, one of the key institutions handling the peace process, told Arab News.

“Similarly, the current government delegation is inclusive. The government’s responsible behavior with this national process leaves no room for individual approach,” she said.

An official close to the High Council for National Reconciliation (HCNR) chairman Abdullah Abdullah — Afghanistan’s top envoy for the negotiations between the Kabul government and the Taliban — said that the Qatari authorities, which are hosting the intra-Afghan talks, had accepted Hekmatyar’s bid and even prepared the ground for his visit, but the US, which is facilitating the peace process, had blocked it.

The Hizb-e-Islami party leader will possibly be allowed to participate in the next round of talks, as part of a team under the umbrella of the HCNR, but not in his personal or factional capacity, the official said, asking not to be named.

He added that if Hekmatyar waas allowed to begin his separate outreach to the Taliban, other groups may come with their own bids and the whole process could fall apart.

During his Islamabad visit, Hekmatyar accused Afghan President Ashraf Ghani of trying to remain in power and called him a big hurdle in intra-Afghan dialogue, aimed at ending decades of conflict.

“We have decided to start our own negotiations with the Taliban. First, it would be between the Taliban and Hizb-e-Islami, and then all other political parties will join us,” he said.

A spokesman for the Taliban, Zabihullah Mujahid, told Arab News that he could neither confirm nor deny whether Hekmatyar had contacted leaders of the group to discuss his plan.

In the past the Taliban, the main insurgent group in Afghanistan, has openly rejected offers for forging any alliance with Hekmatyar. A highly controversial commander, the Hizb-e-Islami chief has been called by some the “Butcher of Kabul,” accused of being responsible for civilian deaths and the destruction of the city in the early 1990s during the civil war.
 


3 funeral workers fired over Maradona coffin photos

Updated 9 min 50 sec ago

3 funeral workers fired over Maradona coffin photos

  • The images distributed across social media have created outrage, even death threats, across a nation that venerated Maradona
  • Claudio Fernández confirmed that he’d lost his job at the Pinier funeral home, along with his son Ismael and Claudio Medina

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina: Three funeral workers have been fired for posing for photos alongside the body of soccer star Diego Maradona shortly before his funeral.
The images distributed across social media created outrage, even death threats, across a nation that venerated Maradona, who died Wednesday of a heart attack at age 60. Tens of thousands lined up for a chance to file past his body at the nation’s presidential palace on Thursday.
Claudio Fernández confirmed to Radio Diez on Friday that he’d lost his job at the Pinier funeral home, along with his son Ismael and Claudio Medina.
One of the images shows Fernández and his son — smiling and with thumb raised — alongside Maradona’s body in the coffin on Thursday. Medina appears in another in the same pose.
Fernández insisted that he hadn’t known they’d planned to take a photograph, much less distribute it. “It was something instantaneous. I’d just raised my head and my son did it like any kid of 18,” he told the radio station.
He said he had been receiving threats from others living in the El Paternal neighborhood where Maradona debuted as a professional in 1976 with the Argentinos Juniors team.
“They know me. I’m from the neighborhood,” Fernández said. “They say they are going to kill us, break our heads.”
The team issued a statement saying it was considering expelling Fernández from its membership rolls.