'Butcher of Kabul' Gulbuddin Hekmatyar calls for peace as signs Afghan pact
KABUL (APP) - Notorious Afghan warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar called for peace as he appeared by video to sign a deal with President Ashraf Ghani Thursday, marking a symbolic victory in Kabul's struggle to revive talks with the Taliban.
The deal paves the way for Hekmatyar, who heads the now largely dormant Hezb-i-Islami militant group but has been in hiding for years, to make a potential political comeback despite a history of war crimes.
But analysts have said it represents a practical success in Afghanistan's 15-year bid to negotiate peace with militant groups, and comes as a boost for President Ashraf Ghani ahead of a development aid conference in Brussels next week.
"Now is the time for the Taliban to think about whether they want to continue the war or come for peace," Ghani said as he signed the deal at the presidential palace in Kabul.
Security was tight in the capital, with the road to the palace blocked. Chief executive Abdullah Abdullah, former president Hamid Karzai, delegates from Hezb-i-Islami and other politicians also attended the ceremony.
Hekmatyar, derided widely as the "butcher of Kabul", offered his congratulations to the government and "all those Afghans who want peace and stability in the region" as he signed a copy of the deal via video link.