Pakistan welcomes Afghan peace deal with Hezb-e-Islami

By Muhammad Shakil

Pakistani Prime Minister Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif (right) meets with then-Deputy Afghan Foreign Minister Ekhlil Ahmad (left) in Islamabad last November. Pakistan has expressed support for a recent peace agreement between the Afghan government and Hezb-i-Islami. [Courtesy of Pakistani Press and Information Department]

Pakistani Prime Minister Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif (right) meets with then-Deputy Afghan Foreign Minister Ekhlil Ahmad (left) in Islamabad last November. Pakistan has expressed support for a recent peace agreement between the Afghan government and Hezb-i-Islami. [Courtesy of Pakistani Press and Information Department]

PESHAWAR -- The recent peace deal between the Afghan government and Hezb-e-Islami (HI), an armed group led by Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, is a step forward for political stability and will produce positive results for both Pakistan and Afghanistan, political and security analysts say.

Pakistani authorities welcome the peace accord, saying peace in Afghanistan is in the best interests of Pakistan and the whole region.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and Hekmatyar, who appeared by video link, formalised the agreement September 29.

Under the terms of the agreement, HI agreed to cease hostilities, cut ties to extremist groups and respect the Afghan constitution.

"This is a chance for the Taliban and other militant groups to show what their decision is: to be with the people and join the respected caravan of peace, like Hezb-i-Islami, or to ... continue the bloodshed," Ghani said at the ceremony.

Pakistan supports for Afghan-led peace deal

The Pakistani government called the consummation of the peace agreement "encouraging".

"Pakistan has consistently emphasised that there is no military solution to the conflict in Afghanistan," the Pakistani Foreign Ministry said in a statement September 29. "A politically negotiated settlement through an Afghan-owned and Afghan-led peace process is the most viable option for bringing lasting peace and stability to Afghanistan."

"It is our earnest hope that this peace agreement provides an opportunity for similar agreements between the Afghan government and other Afghan insurgent groups for achieving durable peace," the statement said.

Following the signing of the agreement, Sartaj Aziz, national security and foreign affairs adviser to the Pakistani prime minister, met with Ghani October 5 on the sidelines of the Brussels Conference on Afghanistan.

Aziz reiterated Pakistan's desire for a peaceful, stable and prosperous Afghanistan, saying lasting peace in Afghanistan is vital for stability and progress in Pakistan as well.

Both sides agreed to continue efforts for peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan through a politically negotiated settlement, according to news reports.

A 'milestone victory' for Afghanistan

The peace treaty between HI and the Afghan government will boost the morale of Ghani's camp, which has been confronting problems on various fronts including the Taliban threat, said Shamim Shahid, a Pakistani senior journalist and security analyst.

"It is a milestone victory of Ashraf Ghani to conclude the first peace treaty since 2001," he told Pakistan Forward. "It will not only change the political course of Afghanistan, but its overall effects on the region will be far-reaching."

"Our whole region has seen the worst since the rise of militancy, and the peoples of Afghanistan and Pakistan see the establishment of peace as a prerequisite for their survival and growth," he said.

"Political stability in Afghanistan after the peace agreement will help the two countries decide on a road map for co-operation in the future," he said.

Pakistani support for the Afghan peace agreement will convey a message of reconciliation to insurgent groups on both sides, encouraging them to abort offensives, he said.

"People suffering from militancy in both Afghanistan and Pakistan are on the threshold of a new beginning," he said, adding that the deal will help both sides "explore new ways to promote peace through mutual support and co-operation".

Bringing militants to the negotiating table

"It is well established that dialogue is a process of persistent efforts that are dependent on the existence of a mediating player, a set of rules or a precedent that serves participating parties with a course to sit together to reach a conclusion," said Rustam Shah Mohmand, former Pakistani ambassador to Afghanistan.

"The peace accord between Afghanistan and HI can be made an example to invite extremist elements in Pakistan for dialogue," he told Pakistan Forward.

"It is possible that militants in Pakistan need a way to come to the table," he said. "The precedent of the [agreement in] neighbouring Afghanistan will help them realise the availability of a more prudent option to pursue their objectives."

Pakistan and Afghanistan share interests in various fields resulting from shared borders, a common religion and cultural similarities, he said, adding that political stability in both countries will be a factor in deciding their peaceful co-existence.

"The treaty will ultimately lead the government of Ashraf Ghani toward more political stability and pave the way for a congenial atmosphere to foster co-operation," Rustam said. "Co-ordination will help remove mistrust [between the two] countries."

A boost for Pakistan-Afghanistan relations

Both Pakistan and Afghanistan need co-operation and better understanding of each other's priorities and problems to resolve common issues, said Brig. (ret.) Mehmood Shah of Peshawar, former security secretary for Pakistan's Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA).

"Prevailing circumstances compel Afghanistan to seek assistance from its neighbours in combating numerous challenges ranging from insurgency to the economy," he told Pakistan Forward.

"The peace deal with Hekmatyar is worth welcoming and a major political win for the Afghan government," he said, adding that the impact of the agreement will be multifaceted for both Afghanistan and Pakistan.

"Pakistan's sincerity is clear because it has welcomed the peace deal and has reiterated its support for the on-going peace process," he said.

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