KABUL: The leader of one of Afghanistan’s biggest political parties has accused Iran of destabilizing the country to further its own economic interests.
Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, the chief of Hizb-e-Islami (The Islamic Party), who signed a peace agreement with the Afghan government and now lives in Kabul, said: “Iran is the only neighbor of Afghanistan which has invested for 30 years for the continuation of war in our countries.
“Tehran has achieved economic benefits from the war in Afghanistan and has succeeded in gaining access to the Afghan market. Now the Afghan market is in Iran’s hands.
“Iran’s exports to Afghanistan’s now stands at $5 billion. The official figure of the exports is $2 billion and the rest is smuggling. Now even the markets in Afghanistan’s eastern Khost and Nangarhar provinces are flooded with Iranian goods and Iranian dates are sold in Laghman and Nangarhar that border Pakistan.”
Arab News joined Pakistan’s delegates at a Pak-Afghan Track-II dialogue in Kabul this week.
The forum, known as “Beyond Boundaries,” urged both countries to work toward “ease of business” at international crossing points by rationalizing regulations as well as improving infrastructure and services for traders.
Hekmatyar said Central Asian gas could open trade with the world via Pakistan and Afghanistan, but Iran is trying to block this channel through Afghanistan and wants the Central Asian trade to be carried out via Iran. Tehran wants its gas to go to India through Pakistan and Afghanistan instead of the TAPI (Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India) project.
“TAPI is a big project and it connects Central Asian with the world via Pakistan and Afghanistan, but Iran tries to connect Central Asia via Iran. So Iran wants Pakistan and Afghanistan out of this project. This project has lots of benefits and that is why Iran creates problems and hatches conspiracies,” Hekmatyar said.
He claimed that Iran wants to block the Afghan route for the export of Central Asia oil and gas to Pakistan and India and even rest of the world. “This approach only benefits Iran, and Pakistan and Afghanistan are forced to look toward Iran. That is why Iran wants continuation of war in Afghanistan so Pakistan and Afghanistan should not get benefit of it and Iran remains the only beneficiary of this war.”
To a question about the Daesh presence in Afghanistan, he said Daesh is not a major issue but their presence has always been exaggerated.
“Iran is playing the same game in the name of Daesh like it has done in Iraq. Iran has sent nearly 30,000 trained Afghans to Syria for war there. Many have been killed and now Iran wants to bring them back to Afghanistan. Iran has requested the Afghan government to allow them return. Some have already been deployed in northern parts of Afghanistan. Daesh in Afghanistan is Iran’s game and not the US and Pakistan,” he said.
Hekmatyar said his party will take part in parliamentary elections in October.