UN removes Hekmatyar from terrorist list

The United Nations sanctions committee has removed Afghan warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar from its list of designated terrorists following his recent peace agreement with the Kabul government.

“Therefore, the assets freeze, travel ban and arms embargo … no longer apply to him,” the UN Security Council’s committee said in a statement issued in New York on Friday.

The move comes months after Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s government sealed a peace deal with Hekmatyar’s Hizb-e-Islami, or HIG, an insurgent faction.

The truce required Hekmatyar to cease fighting against the Afghan government in return for his removal from the UN blacklist, along with other leaders of his faction, and allowing his group to resume political activities in Afghanistan.

Friday’s announcement has set the stage for the fugitive warlord, a designated “global terrorist,” to return to Afghan politics after years in hiding, allegedly in neighbouring Pakistan, though his aides insist he is present somewhere in the country.

A member of Hekmatyar’s peace negotiating team, Atiqullah Safi, confirmed to Voice of America on Saturday that the group has formally been informed about the removal of their leader’s name from the UN terrorist list.

Local and international human rights groups have been critical of the peace deal from the outset and called for Hekmatyar be held accountable for his alleged crimes.

“His return will compound the culture of impunity that the Afghan government and its foreign donors have fostered by not pursuing accountability for the many victims of forces commanded by Hekmatyar and other warlords that laid waste to much of the country in the 1990s,” Human Rights Watch said in a recent statement.

AP adds: Amin Karim, the group’s chief negotiator told reporters on Saturday “The removal of sanctions proved that the solution is Afghan-owned negotiations inside the country and coming to a national consensus. If Afghans come to such a conclusion the international community is supportive of the peace process and it is good news for peace and the Afghan nation.” Karim had earlier said that he would return to the capital in “a matter of weeks, not months.”

Hekmatyar is seen as a potential rival to President Ashraf Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah, who have governed the country through a shaky, US-brokered power-sharing agreement since the disputed elections of 2014.

His return could stir up new political uncertainty as the government struggles to confront a reinvigorated Taliban that has been advancing on several fronts. “The Islamic Republic of Afghanistan has taken all the necessary measures for a respectable, safe, and honourable welcoming and we have taken all security measures according to the protocol. We are waiting for his (Hekmatyar) return and we don’t have any problem in this regard,” said Akram Khpolwak, a political affairs adviser to the Afghan President Ashraf Ghani.

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