Hekmatyar`s Hizb-e-Islami `supports` TAPI project

Gulbuddin Hekmatyar asks fighters not to create any problems for the project.

Islamabad: Top Afghan militant commander Gulbuddin Hekmatyar`s Hizb-e-Islami group has expressed support for the proposed multi-billion dollar Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India gas pipeline, and asked its fighters not to create any problems for the project.

The Hizb-e-Islami also said it is ready to cooperate in implementing the USD 7.6 billion project as it is in the interest of the people of Afghanistan.

In an e-mail statement, the group led by the former Afghan prime minister asked its fighters not to create any problems for the project.

"Hizb-e-Islami asks its members not to allow armed groups to harm the project," said the statement issued in Pashtu.

"Only those will create hurdles for the project who are servants of aliens and are enemies of the countrymen and the country," said the statement e-mailed by the group`s spokesman Haroon Zarghoon.

Hizb-e-Islami believes that implementing the pipeline project will be helpful in ending the fighting in Afghanistan, the statement said.

"Hizb-e-Islamic has influence in Badghis, Herat, Farah, Nemroz, Helmand and Kandahar provinces and is ready to ensure the security of the pipeline," it said.

The group`s support for the TAPI project will not affect its armed resistance against foreign forces in Afghanistan, the statement said.

"Our attacks on the invaders will continue like in the past. Our mujahideen know who should be targeted. We only hit those who rain bombs on Afghans and who have occupied Afghanistan," it said.

The statement claimed that Iran and Russia are opposing the project as they do not want Central Asian gas to be transported through Afghanistan.

The Hizb also slammed the Pakistan government for adopting policies that "favour" Iran and Russia.

Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India signed a preliminary agreement earlier this month on the TAPI project, which is aimed at transporting Turkmen gas over Afghan territory to Pakistan and India.

The Hizb-e-Islami is active around western Herat, where the gas will begin its journey through Afghanistan though the group does not control most of the proposed route, which runs through Helmand and Kandahar provinces that are controlled by the Taliban.