Advertisement

Afghan factions sign accord to end war

By ANWAR IQBAL

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan -- After six hectic days of talks and a marathon all-night negotiating session, the main Afghan mujahideen factions signed a peace accord Sunday aimed at ending the fratricidal war they have fought since ousting the Soviet-installed regime nearly one year ago.

The accord, which takes effect immediately, appeared to satisfy the two main protagonists by giving one the presidency and the other the prime ministry, which will be given more power than previously. The pact left key questions unanswered, including the allocation of Cabinet seats among the factions.

Advertisement

Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, whose country helped the Afghan mujahideen defeat the Soviet-installed government in a 13-year war and then hosted the past week of talks, called the accord 'historic' and said he hoped it would restore peace to Afghanistan.

The main Afghan leaders joined Sharif at a news briefing to discuss the agreement, but they did not answer questions.

Advertisement

The accord, signed in the presenceof Pakistani, Saudi and Iranian mediators and scores of local and Western journalists, allows Afghan President Burhanuddin Rabbani to remain in office for another 18 months and gives the office of the prime minister to the dissident Hezb-i- Islami party.

It asks the Hezb-i-Islami chief, Gulbadin Hekmatyar, to assume the office or nominate someone to take over as the prime minister of a new, combined mujahideen government. The agreement transfers some powers held by the president to the prime minister to better balance the two offices.

But the accord failed to resolve the issue of Cabinet representation, which after the first few days of the negotiations became the main sticking point preventing an agreement.

Rabbani wanted the presidency and the Defense Ministry for his Jamiyat-i-Islami party, while Hekmatyar refused to give the two most important posts to one group.

Hekmatyar at one stage angrily left for home and reached the town of Peshawar, on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, before Pakistani officials persuaded him to return Friday night.

Hekmatyar also threatened again Saturday to return home amid reports that Afghan government troops under Rabbani's control had launched a new attack on positions occupied by his forces around Kabul.

Advertisement

Some 6,000 people have been reported killed in less than two months of renewed battles between Hekmatyar's and Rabbani's forces.

The final agreement said: 'The Cabinet shall be formed by the prime minister in consultations with the president, and leaders of mujahideen parties within two weeks of the signing of this accord.'

But Hekmatyar, when asked if the issue of the allocation of ministries was resolved, said: 'It is the duty of the prime minister to appoint the new Cabinet.' He did not mention the accord's condition that he could do so only in consultation with the president.

Asked if he accepted Ahmad Shah Masoud, the present defense minister who is backed by Rabbani, he said: 'We will appoint a competent defense minister.'

Despite such ambiguities, Hekmatyar appeared and spoke as if fully pleased with the final agreement. 'I am happy, very happy,' he told reporters after Sharif's news briefing. 'We have achieved, all we wanted to achieve.'

Rabbani, looking tired and sad, declined to answer any questions.

All mujahideen groups signed the accord. But former Gen. Rasheed Dostum, whose Gleemjam militia once backed the communist government of President Najibullah, was not included in the pact even though he controls the most powerful armed group in northern Afghanistan.

Advertisement

The militia general helped spark the fall of Najibullah's government by breaking with the Afghan president and severing the regime's northern supply lines. Prior to the break, the mujahideen has made only slow inroads against the government, but Najibullah fell within months of his break with Dostum.

Asked why Dostum was excluded from the negotiations, Sharif said, 'The accord is among the mujahideen groups who took part in the holy war against the Communists.'

He said the new government would now decide its own policy toward Dostum. The presence of the former communist militia chief near the center of power in Kabul has outraged Hekmatyar and has become one of the main reasons for the continued fighting among the mujahideen factions.

The accord authorized the Organization of Islamic Conference, which represents more than 50 Muslim countries, to act as a guarantor.

The OIC, Sharif said, will devise a mechanism to implement the agreement and to ensure that all future disputes were resolved through negotiations.

A spokesman for the Shiite Hezb-i-Wahdat party, another major rival of the Rabbani government that has been fighting pitched battles against government troops in Kabul, described the accord as a 'necessity.'

Advertisement

Asked how his group could agree to recognize Rabbani as president, the Shiite spokesman said: 'We have accepted him as president for 18 months because there are many other issues to be addressed besides the presidency.

'But if those issues are not resolved in 10 months,' the spokesman said, 'I can't say what will happen.'

Latest Headlines