LONDON: Afghan warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar in an interview published Wednesday has denied having any links with the Pakistan Taliban, condemning the Pakistani militant outfit’s strategy of blowing up schools and blocking girls’ education.
Hekmatyar, a former prime minister who leads Afghanistan’s second largest militant group Hizb-i-Islami, told Britain’s Daily Telegraph newspaper that he was against the blowing up of schools and educational institutions “not only in Afghanistan and Pakistan but elsewhere in the world.”
“I don’t think that a devoted mujahid could be involved in such things,” said Hekmatyar, accusing ‘foreign intelligence agencies’ of being involved in such attacks.
The Pakistani Taliban’s blocking of girls’ schooling was thrown into the spotlight in October by its attempted murder of 15-year-old education campaigner Malala Yousafzai on her schoolbus.
Hekmatyar indicated that Hizb-i-Islami, notorious for its bloody siege of Kabul in the 1990s, has softened some of its hardline Islamist policies which included banning women from education.
He insisted that the group considers “education is as necessary for girls as it is for boys”, though they object to combined male and female classes.
‘Ready to contest 2014 presidential elections’
In the video obtained by the Telegraph in response to questions asked through an intermediary, the Hizb-i-Islami leader said that his group was ready to contest the 2014 presidential elections on the conditions of a “complete withdrawal of all foreign forces” and equal representation of all parties for a “peaceful transition of the government” through “free and fair elections.”
“The foreign forces have failed and the situation is worsening by the day,” said the former premier, who is shown in the video with a white beard and wearing a black turban.
Hekmatyar, designated a global terrorist by the United States, warned that Afghanistan could collapse into bloody civil unrest after Nato troops withdraw, 13 years after the US-led invasion.
“We might have a dreadful situation after 2014 which no one could have anticipated.”
However, the Afghan warlord also vowed to kill as many Western soldiers as possible before Nato combat forces withdraw from the country in 2014, adding that fresh attacks would send a warning to “others waiting to invade Afghanistan”.
“Before the withdrawal of invading forces, the Mujahideen would like to witness with their own eyes a scene that will teach the invaders to never think of coming this way again,” he said.
Nato is aiming to train 350,000 Afghan soldiers and police by the end of 2014 to take over responsibility for security.
But trust between the two sides has been seriously undermined by “insider” attacks by Afghan forces that killed more than 60 foreign troops in 2012, and the transition process has been beset by other problems including desertions.
Hekmatyar also blasted Britain’s Prince Harry, who has been serving in Afghanistan since September as an Apache helicopter pilot, as a “jackal” who was “drunk” while on duty.
“The British prince comes to Afghanistan to kill innocent Afghans while he is drunk,” Hekmatyar told the Telegraph.
A spokeswoman from Prince Harry’s office at Clarence House declined to comment on Hekmatyar’s remarks.