The Telegraph, May 19, 2011
Afghan government strikes peace deal with controversial Taliban commander
The Afghan government has struck a peace deal with a Taliban commander who ordered the flogging and shooting of a pregnant widow accused of adultery
By Ben Farmer
The execution of Bibi Sanubar prompted revulsion inside Afghanistan and abroad after she was imprisoned, given 200 lashes before a crowd and then shot three times in the head.
Her death in an insurgent-controlled district of the north-west fed fears of a possible return to Taliban-era capital punishment if concessions were made in any peace settlement with the militants.
Maulavi Isfandar, who oversaw the execution, has now been granted amnesty as part of an £88 million, British and American funded programme to coax fighters off the battlefield.
Human rights groups inside Afghanistan condemned the move in Badghis province as "deeply disturbing".
Nader Nadery, a commissioner at the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission said: "He is reintegrated unfortunately.
"This shows how much the Afghan government and its international partners are serious about respecting and preserving the gains made in the last nine years.
"Justice can and should never be compromised for such horrible crimes by Maulavi Isfandar."
The case will alarm civil rights groups who fear the international coalition and Hamid Karzai's government are prepared to sacrifice fragile gains in human rights to find a political settlement and ease a Nato exit from Afghanistan.
Nato officers in Kabul who are supporting the reintegration programme declined to comment on Maulavi Isfandar's amnesty.
He and 27 of his men gave up their struggle in February in a deal brokered by Afghan intelligence officers and village leaders according to a local official.
They are some of up to 1,600 nationwide said to have joined the Afghan government's reintegration programme, which seeks to persuade insurgents to stop fighting with offers of amnesty, work, education and development for their villages.
Britain has agreed to pay £6.6 million toward the programme.
Many of those who approach the programme are only pretending to be insurgents to win rewards, critics warn.
Sharafuddin Majidi, spokesman for the governor of Badghis, said: "The National Directorate of Security and local leaders have invited 500 insurgents to join the government here. It has made us one of the safest provinces in the north." "We have not given Isfandar any money, but we are trying to find him and his men jobs." Bibi Sanubar, who was aged between 35 and 45, was executed in August after being accused of having an affair. Her alleged lover escaped punishment.
Another local commander, Mohammad Yousuf, was also implicated in her death.
Mr Nadery said: "The family of the victim are very much depressed and nervous about the fact that they often see the person who killed a member of their family in such a brutal way.
"It's very disturbing. It seems that whatever it takes, the important point is just to get these people to come over."
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