Gulbuddin Hekmatyar arrives in Pakistan for talks on Afghan peace 

In this file photo Pakistan's Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi (L) shakes hands with Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, Hizb-e-Islami chief, before a peace conference, in Bhurban, Pakistan Saturday, June 22, 2019. (AFP PHOTO / PAKISTAN FOREIGN MINISTERY)
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Updated 19 October 2020

Gulbuddin Hekmatyar arrives in Pakistan for talks on Afghan peace 

  • Gulbuddin Hekmatyar’s son, Habib ur Rehman, describes Pakistan’s role as ‘key’ to Afghan peace 
  • Pakistan says it is engaged with all Afghan stakeholders for the sake of the ongoing peace process between Kabul and the Taliban 

ISLAMABAD: Hizb-e-Islami chief Gulbuddin Hekmatyar arrived in Islamabad on Monday for talks on Pakistan’s role in the Afghan peace process. 

A former warlord who fought against the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in the 1980s and later served as the country’s prime minister, Hekmatyar is on a three-day visit in Pakistan at the invitation of the Foreign Office. He leads Hizb-e-Islami, a militia which is also a political party. 

The visit comes nearly three weeks after the official Islamabad trip of High Council for National Reconciliation (HCNR) chairman Abdullah Abdullah — Afghanistan’s top envoy for the ongoing negotiations between the Kabul government and the Taliban — as Pakistan is engaged with all Afghan stakeholders for the sake of the peace process, the Pakistani ambassador to Kabul, Mansoor Khan told Arab News. 

“We are in touch with President Ashraf Ghani and his government. We invited Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, who is chairman of HCNR and also a leading politician in Afghanistan coming from the Jamiat-i-Islami party and had a useful exchange of views with him about the peace process and bilateral relations. Now we will be hosting Gullbuddin Hekmatyar who hails from another leading Afghan party Hizb-e-Islami,” Khan said. 




Hizb-e-Islami chief Gulbuddin Hekmatyar meets Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi in Islamabad on October 19, 2020. (Photo by Pakistan’s Foreign Office) 

He added: “Pakistan has a policy of expanding its outreach to all Afghan leaders and politicians so that conditions for the intra-Afghan negotiations remain conducive and the process continues to move forward.” 

Prior to intra-Afghan talks in Doha, Qatar, which started on Sept. 12, Pakistan also hosted a Taliban delegation to discuss the peace process. 

Hekmatyar’s upcoming visit was announced by Pakistan’s special representative for Afghanistan, Mohammad Sadiq, who wrote in a Twitter post on Saturday that the Hizb-e-Islami leader will meet with the Pakistani prime minister, president and other top officials. 

The Hizb chief will also meet the Jamaat-e-Islami chief, senator Siraj ul Haq, according to Hekmatyar’s schedule available to Arab News. 

Hekmatyar’s son, Habib ur Rehman, who will be in the delegation, described the visit as very important because of Pakistan’s “key” role in the peace process. 

“As Pakistan’s role is a key to the peace process, so we want to have a better understanding with Pakistan,” he told Arab News from Kabul on Sunday. 

“We will discuss the difficulties in the peace process and how to remove the obstacles, and how to make the peace process successful,” he said. 

Besides Hekmatyar’s son, the delegation will include several other top Hizb-e-Islami leaders. 

According to Asif Khan Durrani, who has served as Pakistan’s ambassador to Iran, the United Arab Emirates and as deputy head of the Pakistani mission in Afghanistan, by inviting all Afghan leaders Pakistan shows its willingness to engage with all stakeholders of the peace process which it sees as Afghan-owned. 

“Pakistan had previously put all eggs in one basket, which was a mistake. Every leader has importance in Afghanistan and inviting Hekmatyar after Dr. Abdullah Abdullah is a positive gesture,” Durrani told Arab News on Sunday. 

“Whatever Afghans decide for their future is their prerogative and Pakistan should not be blamed in case Afghans leaders and the Taliban could not reach an agreement,” he said. 


Afghanistan says Pakistan scholarship scheme will have 'positive' impact on bilateral ties

Updated 26 October 2020

Afghanistan says Pakistan scholarship scheme will have 'positive' impact on bilateral ties

  • Over 16,000 Afghan students have applied for the Allama Muhammad Iqbal Scholarship which offers grants to 800 undergraduate, 150 Masters and 50 PhD students this year
  • Afghanistan’s special envoy for Pakistan urges Pakistan government to increase the number of scholarships in medicine and engineering

PESHAWAR: Mohammed Umer Daudzai, Afghanistan’s special envoy for Pakistan, on Monday lauded a Pakistani scholarship for Afghan nationals, saying it would have a ‘positive impact’ on the bilateral relationship and on the lives of the people of Afghanistan.

According to Pakistan’s Higher Education Commission (HEC), over 16,000 Afghan students have applied for the Allama Muhammad Iqbal Scholarships in Pakistan, which offers 800 undergraduate, 150 Masters and 50 PhD grants.

The programme was launched in 2009, and 5,000 Afghans have so far benefited from it, gaining degrees in various fields including medicine and engineering. At least 100 seats are reserved for female students as part of the scholarship each year.

“The 800 scholarship this year that Pakistan has offered to Afghanistan is very important; it will have a very positive impact on bilateral relationships,” Daudzai told Arab News on Monday. “It will have a great impact on the life of people of Afghanistan because ... a significant number of these scholarships are in medicine and engineering which is very important for us.”

He added: “The Pakistani scholarship for Afghans is cheapest and most feasible because of the two countries' proximity. Afghan students can travel to their home country easily without involving huge expenses.” 

He also urged the Pakistan government to increase the number of scholarships in medicine and engineering.

“We noticed that a significant number of the youths that participated in this year's scholarship are Afghan girls, which is important,” Daudzai said. “It’s indicative of the trust that families in Afghanistan have to send their daughters to Pakistan."

Afghan students attend a pre-orientation session at the Pakistan Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan, on October 24, 2020 for the fully-funded Allama Muhammad Iqbal Scholarship program for academic year 2020-21. (Photo courtesy: Pakistan Embassy Kabul)

Pakistan’s Foreign Office Spokesperson Zahid Hafeez Chaudhri said the fully-funded Allama Muhammad Iqbal Scholarship Programme for Afghan Nationals was a “valuable” contribution to develop Afghanistan’s human resource sector.

“Pakistan has already contributed in the neighboring country’s development. And this (scholarship) programme will help develop Afghanistan’s human resource sector,” Chaudhri added.

Last week at the pre-orientation programme organized in honor of Afghan students at the Pakistan Embassy in Kabul, Pakistan’s Ambassador to Afghanistan Mansoor Ahmad Khan said more than 50,000 Afghans educated in Pakistan were now serving Afghanistan’s public and private sectors.

In this October 24, 2020 photo, Mansoor Ahmad Khan, Ambassador of Pakistan to Afghanistan, addresses a pre-orientation session for 800 Afghan students (not in photo) selected under the fully-funded Allama Muhammad Iqbal Scholarship program for academic year 2020-21. (Photo courtesy: Pak Embassy Kabul)

Farzana Sharifi, an Afghan female student at COMSATS University Abbottabad, told Arab News that many Afghan students were keen to study at Pakistani educational institutions because of the quality of the universities and low costs.

However, she said Pakistani institutions needed to start orientation classes to prepare Afghans better to speak and understand Urdu and English.

“Special orientation classes need to be arranged for newcomers so they become familiar with the language of the medium of the particular university,” Sharifi said. “In addition, our students should be given special incentives while crossing the border or traveling in Pakistan.”

Ahmad Milad Azizi, a networking officer at the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology in Kabul who graduated with bachelors degree in computer science from a Pakistani university in 2015, said the scholarship programme for Afghan students was also a great opportunity for Afghans to learn about Pakistani culture.

“Islamabad needs to explore measures to ease students’ travel from and to Pakistan,” he added. “I suggest the government of Pakistan increase the number of scholarships because our country direly needs qualified manpower and professionals.”