War and Peace: Islamic Party Playing Double Game
Hikmatyar-led Islamic Party members will participate in the upcoming Loya Jirga, due to be held on Nov 21, 2013, in Kabul. According to Afghan officials, the list of representatives of the anti-government party has been handed to the Afghan government. The government of Afghanistan had previously called on the insurgent groups to take part in political processes in the country including the forthcoming Loya Jirga that will decide on the fate of the Bilateral Security Agreement between Afghanistan and the United States. If the Hikmatyar-led Islamic Party participates in the assembly, it would mark an important U-turn for the insurgent group that has fought against the Afghan government and foreign forces during last twelve years.
Islamic Party’s participation in the Loya Jirga would signal a message not only to the Afghan government but also to the rest of the insurgency fighting against the Afghan security forces. The message would be that a part of the insurgency may ultimately show willingness to negotiate with the government and denounce violence. If this happens, and if all involved parties get the message, it would be considered an obvious for the government of Afghanistan, and specifically for president Karzai who has long been persuading the Taliban and the Islamic Party militants to denounce war and violence and come to negotiations table.
However, the Afghan government needs to remain cautious on the Islamic Party of Hikmatyar intentions for participating in the Loya Jirga. The party has openly announced its opposition to the Afghanistan-US security agreement and presence of US forces in Afghanistan after 2014. Previously, Hikmatyar’s militant group had said it would continue fighting if the Afghan government allows a residual force of the US to stay in Afghanistan beyond 2014. And, during the past twelve years, the party has actively been involved in violence against not only foreign forces but also the Afghan security forces and the innocent people.
Though Islamic Party’s willingness to participate in the Loya Jirga may be considered as a sign of changing attitude towards the government’s call for peace, since the militant groups has not formally expressed interests for coming into negotiation table it would be premature to expect a drastic change of attitude from the insurgent group. Here, the question arises what are intentions of the Hikmatya Islamic Party from participating in the Loya Jirga given that it does not recognize the Loya Jirga and the political process at all?
An answer might be that the Islamic Party may be willing to play a double card in the peace process as well as the ongoing insurgency against the government. This scenario is logical particularly if we look at the recent history of Hikmatyar’s overture to the Karzai administration and, at the same time, its relentless and brutal war against the government. When there were flurry of diplomatic moves for kick-starting negotiations with the Taliban, the Islamic Party moved quickly to establish its own channel of talks with the government. As it was not taken serious from Kabul and the West, it remained wary of the peace efforts with the Taliban, while turning more critical to the negotiations between Afghanistan and the United States.