Hekmatyar asks supporters to participate in polls
KABUL (Pajhwok): In a surprise move, Gulbadin Hekmatyar, the leader of Hizb-i-Islami Afghanistan (HIA), the second largest militant group after the Taliban, has asked his supporters to participate in this year’s presidential and provincial council elections.
Dr. Ghairat Baheer, the HIA political wing in-charge, told Pajhwok Afghan News Hekmatyar had made the decision some time ago.
The former prime minister through letters to HIA leaders in provinces had called for active participation in the April elections, said Baheer, who added no decision had been taken as yet on supporting a particular candidate.
He said the group had decided to play a transparent role in the elections.
The Hekmatyar-led HIA, which has been waging insurgency against the Afghan government and foreign troops, had previously denied taking part in the landmark elections.
A copy of Hekmatyar’s letter has been obtained by a Pakistani newspaper Express Tribune. “Convey to Hizb-i-Islami members to take part in the provincial council elections and support those candidates who are either related to us or have a positive view about the party,” the letter said.
Hekmatyar said his party was not directly taking part in the elections due to the presence of occupation forces, but would exercise the right to vote to get those candidates elected who were close to the party and its ideology.
The HIA is divided into several groups, including a non-violent group led by Abdul Hadi Arghandiwal, the incumbent economy minister.
The Arghandiwal-led group’s executive body member, Mohammad Khan, is contesting the presidential elections as Dr. Abdullah Abdullah’s first-vice presidential candidate.
Another key leader of the group, Qutbuddin Hilal, is contesting the elections as an independent candidate.
Though the Hekmatyar group has not yet announced its support for a particular candidate, analysts believe the group is likely to support Hilal.
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