JAWZJAN -- The leaders of two groups of militants, one belonging to the Taliban and the other to the "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria" (ISIS), surrendered to the government in Jawzjan Province in a ceremony held February 12.
In total, 13 former militants -- ten Taliban and three ISIS members -- surrendered their weapons and joined the peace process, according to Mohammad Reza Ghafoori, a spokesman for the Jawzjan governor.
"Upon realisation of the legitimacy of the Afghan government and security forces, ten Taliban and three ISIS members, under the command of Ahmad Shah and Ghulam Rasool aka Qahraman, respectively, who had been committing destructive activities in Qush Tepa and Darzab districts, have given up fighting and have joined the peace process," he told Salaam Times.
"Some of these Taliban and ISIS militants have been fighting the government in the villages of Chaqma Chaqur and Shur Qoduq in Qush Tepa District, as well as in some areas of Darzab District," he said.
"Now, after these former militants joined the peace process, the security situation in those areas is going to improve," Ghafoori said.
'Thieves and plunderers'
"During the time I spent in the Taliban, I witnessed how they murdered, oppressed, robbed, looted and otherwise mistreated civilians, and that was why I joined the peace process," former Taliban leader Ahmad Shah told Salaam Times.
"After spending six months in the Taliban, I decided to leave the group and to join the government forces," he said. "I call on other Taliban members to stop abusing and murdering Afghans, to start living a peaceful life and to join the peace process."
Ghulam Rasool, the former ISIS group leader, expressed his own regret for past involvement with terrorists.
"They are a bunch of thieves and plunderers who have come to ruin our country and to destroy schools and universities," he told Salaam Times about ISIS. "We were wrong to join them."
"We regret our past activities. We have joined the peace process to work for the development of our country and to serve our people," he said.
'Doors to peace are open'
Local government officials held a ceremony to welcome the former militants.
"War and opposition to the government are not solutions to the problem of Afghanistan," Mawlavi Abdulhayat, a member of the Jawzjan Provincial Council, said at the ceremony. "It is high time for militants to take advantage of the government's general amnesty for joining the peace process and to lay down their arms."
"The government welcomes insurgents with open arms, and the doors to peace are open," Mawlawi Mohammad Akram, head of the Jawzjan Peace Council, told Salaam Times. "Both the government and the Peace Council will support them with all they have in their power."
Almost 100 Taliban and ISIS fighters have joined the peace process with their weapons in Jawzjan during the current solar [Hijri] year, which began March 21, according to Akram and other provincial officials.
"Unfortunately, there are still some insurgents who haven't realised the truth," he said. "I hereby call on them to refrain from further abusing the public and to come and join the peace process."