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Afghan government inks landmark peace deal with warlord

Influential former militant group signs peace deal, agrees to disband armed wing

Afghan government inks landmark peace deal with warlord

By Shadi Khan Saif

KABUL, Afghanistan

The Afghan government has signed a landmark peace deal with former rebel leader Gulbudin Hekmatyar’s Hezb-e-Islami party on Thursday.

After years of political wrangling, uncertainty and doubts on both sides, the Afghan government finally managed to convince the influential militant group to give up its armed activities and join Afghan politics.

Hezb-e-Islami has until now maintained its identity as an independent armed group during a decades-long insurgency that has been mainly led by the Taliban, but at midday Thursday signed the peace agreement with the High Peace Council (HPC), which will be endorsed by Afghan President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani and the group's leader Hekmatyar.

The peace council's head Pir Syed Ahmad Gilani said at the event that efforts are also underway to bring all other anti-government groups to peace talks.

Without naming any specific group and thanking Gulbudin for accepting the peace offer, Gilani asked armed rebels to join peace process.

Ghani's National Security Advisor Mohammad Haneef Atmar noted the government will play its part in lifting sanctions against the Hezb-e-Islami leaders and facilitating the return of Hekmatyar to Kabul after years in hiding.

The party's representative Karim Amin acknowledged they would respect the Afghan constitution and have no demands in terms of sharing power with the present government.

Hekmatyar has been in exile for nearly two decades now and many of his loyalists who stayed behind now enjoy power and perks of political life after leaving his party.

According to the copy of the peace agreement shared with the press, Hezb-e-Islami will dismantle its armed wing and cut ties with other armed groups while the Afghan government will commit to recruit its commanders and fighters for the country's security forces.

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