HIA negotiator optimistic of dialogue with government
In an exclusive interview with Q Afghan News, the HIA delegation’s chief, Eng. Mohammad Amin Karim, sounded optimistic about the outcome of peace talks.
But he also spoke of pressures on President Ashraf Ghani, saying some individuals were trying to create hurdles to the reconciliation effort. Karim particularly questioned the silence of Prof. Abdul Rab Rassoul Sayyaf.
The HIA leader said they had found President Ashraf Ghani fully committed to, and genuinely interested in, the peace dialogue -- a goal shared by his Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Dr. Abdullah Abdullah.
While ruling out compromise on the country’s core interests, he hoped the HIA would achieve its goal -- national sovereignty and defence of people’s rights -- through political talks. It should be a goal, not a condition, he explained.
About guarantee of the execution of a possible agreement with the government, Karim said that the UN, friendly countries like Turkey, Saudi Arabia, the High Pace Council and the Ulema Council could play a key role in trust-building.
From the HIA point of view, he said, there should be no role for Pakistan in the intra-Afghans peace parleys. The government of Afghanistan was committed to resolving knotty issues in the peace process with the US, he added.
Complete text of the interview
Q: What’s the result of peace talks between the HIA and the Afghan government?
A: Before changes in the HPC, the party had held negotiations with the government through Masoom Stanikzai, former secretary to the panel, Hanif Atmar and Ashraf Ghani. The current round is a continuation of the previous talks. Whenever peace talks reach a serious stage, there are some hostile natural or unnatural impediments. But an inference could be drawn from inimical reactions that some people are against the resolution of issues through dialogue; they secretly create hurdles to the talks.
Q: Do you think the peace talks continued in the future? And how much hopeful you are about the results?
A: If we were not optimistic and had not won commitment from the government, we would not have come to the negotiating table. We are optimistic of a positive result and well aware of the barriers and opposition to the process. We know the security and economic situation is getting worse and continued war is detrimental to the national interest. Therefore, there is need for peace and we have honestly joined the talks. We want the president not to surrender to pressures and remain committed to peace. As long as the president stays committed, we are ready to honestly continue talks with his administration.
Q: What are the red lines for HIA in peace talks?
A: The red lines have already been mentioned in the party’s manifesto, such as no compromise on national sovereignty, the Islamic system, rehabilitation, justice and rule of law. These are some of the necessary conditions for a peaceful society. We have set no preconditions for talks; our demands are the demands of the nation...
Q: There are rumours the government has offered some ministries to the party. Is it true? If it is, will you accept those positions?
A: In the past,the government held out several such offers, but at the beginning, we are talking on principal issues and the HIA inclusion in the political set-up will be the last subject of discussions. We are currently debating social justice, a legitimate system and the creation of the right environment for building trust and peace. If asked by the government, the HIA is ready to do all it can to steer the country out of the current crises and bring justice and legitimacy to the existing system.
Q: Have you met the president and the CEO? If yes, who is more interested in peace talks?
A: I have met President Ghani several times and found him honest and committed to peace. I also had an introductory meeting with Dr. Abdullah and his deputies. I noticed the CEO’s support for peace talks and hope he will translate this into reality. This time around, we did not meet the president because we have decided the HIA will directly contact in case of any problem during the dialogue.
Q: Hasthe HIA made any changes to the Meesaq-i-Mili (National Convention) raft submitted to the Karzai government and the one given to the current administration, especially on the withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan?
A: With the passage of time, many changes have transpired, such as 95 percent of foreign troops are to leave the country. Not only the numbers have been cut, the quality has also changed. In the given circumstances, if we continue to fight for the complete withdrawal of foreign troops, we will face the Afghan security and defence forces. This is one reason why we are honestly committed to peace. We didn’t and won’t want to fight against the Afghan forces for getting control of the country. We hope the government would agree that our aim is the objective of all Afghans -- restoration of national sovereignty and defence of the rights of people through political dialogue. It’s a goal, not a condition.
Q: Is there any change in your stance on the presence of foreign forces in Afghanistan?
A: Over the past 48 years, or since the creation of HIA, we have been committed to the freedom and sovereignty of the country and our goals won’t change in the future either.
Q: What sort of guarantees will you demand if you reach a deal with the government?
A: We want to reach a deal that is acceptable to all Afghans. All parties, including HIA, will be committed to that. Unfortunately, past experience shows intra-Afghan talks have been unsuccessful. Thus there is need for involvement of other institutions such as HPC, religious scholars and friendly countries like Saudi Arabia and Turkey.
Q: To what extent, your talks with the government would be successful, especially in the absence of the US that has been involved in the conflict?
A:It’s true the US and its allies are key players in resolving the Afghanistan conflict. But in line with an agreement with the HIA, the government in Kabul will remove the obstacles created by foreigners in the way of peace talks. The participation of NATO and US representatives in talks with HIA is conditional on foreigners staying aloof from the internal affairs of Afghanistan and eventually ending their military mission here.
Q: If the US ends its military mission and offers to contribute to the development of Afghanistan, will the HIA agree?
A: The US must recognise Afghanistan as an independent country of brave people and eschew treating the Afghans like slaves. Mutual respect is a key principle of good relations between countries. In the past 15 years, the US has miserably failed to implement its pledges of good governance, strengthening of democracy, eradication of drugs, fight against terrorism, etc. They failed to present the image of Afghanistan they had claimed to and thus things went wrong for them. Their strategies could not succeed and created a win-win formula of power-sharing that has resulted in more disorder and the people of Afghanistan have to suffer.We have more points of mutual interest, such as the supply of gas from Central Asia to South Asia.The project is backed by the US and the HIA has agreed to protect the pipeline.
Q: How do you assess the role of the Quadrilateral Coordination Group (QCG) comprised of Afghanistan, the US, China and Pakistan in the peace process?
A:The HIA has no problem with these countries if they play the role of mediators and observes till the end of the talks. The existence of the US could be justified because it has been part of the conflict. As far as China is concerned, it has not interfered in the internal affairs of any country; so it could also play a key role. But the HIA sees no need for the involvement of Pakistan. However, if the Afghan government and the US are comfortable with Pakistan, we will not show any disagreement.
Q: Some say the HIA has weakened on the battlefield because it has been divided into different fictions and hence it doesn’t deserve privileges. What is your take on it?
A:You mean that having more weapons and being stronger warriors is the best way to power or scoring points. Had it been the case, the US should have gained the control of Afghanistan because it is the world’s sole superpower, but it failed and now seeks resolution of Afghan conflict through talks.No party in Afghanistan has the ability to come to power by force. The conflict needs to be resolved through talks.
Q: During the talks so far, are there any points on which the HIA and HPC could not reach agreement?
A:We have just conducted the second round of negotiation and there will be definitely some pints on which we may not agree and problems may arise. It has been seen that peace talks in every part of the world have been tenuous and time- consuming, so it is a lengthy process. We cannot talk about all issues at once and around one table.
Q: The people of Afghanistan want to know the individuals who oppose talks. Why don’t some quarters want the HIA to join mainstream politics?
A:Being the head of the HIA delegation I don’t want to name the people whom I will be talking to in the future. It’s the duty of media to identify the circles. The objective of HIA is not to win a few ministries; being a national party, it will strive for social justice in each part of the country. The second prong of our mission is fighting against dictatorship -- the minority ruling over the majority. It may be in the form of the military, mafia groups and coterie of mullahs.
Commitment among members and supporters of the Jamiat-i-Islami Afghanistan (JIIA) to the party missions is our goal. We don’t expect them to come to HIA but some people in the party only struggle for power.
Q: What is reaction from jihadi leaders like Sayyaf to HIA’s decision on peace negotiations?
A: The media receives such information earlier than us; Sayyaf’s silence on negotiations defines his stance. I don’t know his position on the issue, but the silence of a credible jihadi leader about one of the biggest jihadi parties talking to the government has a powerful effect.
Q: What is HIA’s viewpoint on Taliban and Daesh groups?
A: Daesh is a non-Afghan phenomenon that has been created by flawed policies of the West with the collusion of the Iranian government in Syria and Iraq. Their actions like killing Muslims are based on their beliefs. Those now call themselves Daesh in Afghanistan are the splinter groups of the Taliban; they have just raise the black flag and lowered the white one. Talking about the Taliban is a different issue. The Taliban are mujahideen who have fought for 16 years to defend the country. But Taliban’s policy at the leadership level on the peace process is dubious. Are they focused only on Afghans regaining their independence, or their mission is to grab power by force? If they are intent upon coming to power, they should know the Afghans are tired of the use of force; we would definitely revisit the civil conflict of the seventies. The HIA is trying to prevent a recurrence of what happened in the seventies. The Taliban and HIA should jointly participate in intra-Afghan negotiations. They should join the groups that keep the interests of Afghanistan supreme and seek back their sovereignty from foreigners.
Q:What is the difference among Taliban, HIA and Daesh?
A: The Taliban movement was created in the 1990s outside of Afghanistan. The country’s critical situation was used to form the group, whose system is perceived as fear and hunger. Taliban’s beliefs are superficial and traditional; they are far from, and against, modernity. But HIA is an Islamic and intellectual outfit that has been struggling for rationality, justice and independence. It has always fought for the revival of the Islamic civilisation and promotion of Islamic beliefs in Afghanistan. Taliban and HIA are different in their origins, beliefs, and approach to governance, human rights, society and history. The Taliban’s interpretation of the Sharia law is confined to punishments, cutting of a robber’s hand and collection of judicial, political and legislative orders. On the other hand, the HIA has a clear definition of government, authority, policy and justice. I personally don’t believe in religiosity that is devoid of justice.
Q: Is HIA in contact with Taliban members?
A: A large number of HIA mujahideen are in Taliban ranks, because we don’t receive weapons from abroad and have no belief in conflicts among Afghan groups, overrunning districts and cities. Our struggle is against foreign occupation forces and preventing civilian casualties. A number of HIA supporters with a strong interest in fighting against foreigners as a religious duty took up arms and joined the Taliban, who have access to more arms and resources. But we want peaceful negotiations on achieving our goals and would encourage rebels to embrace peace.
Q: Do you believe in democracy and women’s participation in socio-political activities?
A: We believe in an Islamic system, which is also a national demand. We believe women also can participate in social and politics activities like men within the Islamic framework. The only issue our belief doesn’t allow is women’s involvement in vulgarity; our doors for are open for women.
Q: We know there are many HIA offices in Kabul and some other provinces. Is it HIA policy that some of its numbers are in the government and others are fighting against the government or it is because of differences within the party?
A: In fact it is the demand of the current situation and time. HIA uses very less number of its members for military purposes, our war strategy does not want re-equipping the thousands of our members who fought during the Soviet occupation. So most of HIA members chose to live in Afghanistan and find a source of receiving salary.
However, several HIA members face pressures and intimidation only because they are members of the party. Currently several HIA members are languishing in prisons and they are tortured for their membership of the party. Some of other members, who achieved important government posts, met the merit.
Thanks God that those who are working with the government are struggling only to enforce justice and Islam and fight against injustices. You would not find anyone from HIA to be involved in looting public assets or hurting national interests like others did.
Whenever a military force of a country achieves power, they first smash integrated political forces, this condition does not apply to HIA only.
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