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Lay Down Arms, Talk Peace

Lay Down Arms, Talk PeaceLay Down Arms, Talk Peace

Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, the leader of Afghanistan’s Hezb-i-Islami, has called on the Taliban to come to the negotiating table in his first public appearance in 20 years.

At least 200 people welcomed Hekmatyar on Saturday in Afghanistan’s eastern Laghman Province where he was conducting meetings with members of his team for the past two days, Aljazeera reported.

“Ask the militants who are they fighting with? The government? The people-the innocent people of Afghanistan?” Hekmatyar said at the public gathering. “If you lay down your guns and come forward, I will be the first one to call you my brother. To the Taliban, [I say] come forward, let’s talk about peace and prosperity, and join us in this peace process in Afghanistan.”

Hekmatyar is expected to make a speech in the coming days in Kabul where many Afghans have mixed feelings about his return.

Large posters of Hekmatyar and his group members were seen lying torn on streets.

Hekmatyar founded Hezb-i-Islami in the mid-1970s. He briefly accepted the position of prime minister in an administration following the collapse of a Soviet-backed government in 1992.

Hekmatyar was designated as a “terrorist” by the US State Department in 2003, but in February, the UN Security Council lifted sanctions on him, which paved the way for his to return to Afghanistan.

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