Saddled with filial dissension
The Awami National Party (ANP), the worst-affected political entity due to politics of annihilation by the Talibans in Pakistan in the main, is in a new crisis with the announcement of Begum Nasim Wali Khan, the widow of Pakhtun nationalist leader and one of the founders of the National Awami Party, Khan Abdul Wali Khan, that she will beef up the ANP by sidelining the present top brass comprising her stepson Asfandyar Wali Khan, Azam Khan Hoti and Ameer Haider Hoti and put her grandson Lawangeen Wali Khan at the helm. ‘We are convening a jirga in near future to look into the possibility of electing honest people to manage the party’s affairs. Political chapters of Asfandyar Wali Khan, Azam Khan Hoti and Ameer Haider Hoti have closed after the debacle in the general elections,’ she told ANP workers at Wali Bagh ten days ago.
Although the ANP leader Mian Iftekhar Hussain paid no importance to Begum Wali Khan’s statement and ‘factional move’, stating that she has not been with the party for several years and the overwhelming majority of party workers and masses following the ANP have faith in the leadership of Asfandyar Wali Khan, a serious structural crisis in the ANP is a reality and it hampers the struggle against the sanguinary offensive from the Islamic terrorists who treat the secular ANP as an ‘ideological menace’, to quote the erstwhile chief of Pakistani Taliban outfit TTP, Hakimullah Mehsud, who was killed by a US drone attack in North Waziristan on 1 November this year. The ANP is afflicted with a filial squabble. Interestingly, Azam Hoti, Begum Wali Khan’s brother is opposed to Asfandyar Wali and Afrasyab Khattak.
Begum Wali Khan has an advantage, out of her paternal heritage. She is the daughter of an activist of Khudai Khidmatgar (volunteer in the service of God), the pace-setting non-violent movement among the Pashtuns, launched by her legendary father-in-law Bacha Khan or Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan in the erstwhile North West Frontier Province during the British colonial period in the 20th century. Known as Mor Bibi too, there is undeniably a dynastic tinge, albeit stated bluntly, in her resolve to impose her grandson from the above. This is bound to kick up controversy, her clean image as a defender of Pashtun cause notwithstanding. She stated very bluntly, ‘I am not following anyone’s dictation, nor I wish to promote my grandson Lawangeen Wali Khan; but the wrong policies forced me to raise my voice. There is no room for Asfandyar Wali Khan, Azam Hoti and Ameer Haider Khan Hoti in the party because tainted people can’t run it. People know that Chief Minister House and its annex remained a centre of bargaining during the five-year term of ANP government to accumulate wealth at the cost of workers’ sacrifices.’
Whether the octogenarian leader, the first woman elected to the National Assembly of Pakistan from a Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province general seat in the 1977, will be able to carry along with her the majority of rank and file of ANP is the burning question as she is for dialogue with the terrorists. Most of the cadres of ANP cannot be easily convinced of the need for sitting on the table with the ‘killers of over 700 best activists and ground-level leaders of ANP’ for their commitment to secularism and democracy. For them, the offer of dialogue will be interpreted by the Taliban honchos as a hint of the weakness of ANP leadership. These workers are for braving the Taliban threat. This resolve is timely as there is a growing consciousness that to combat the Talibans is to fight for freedom, with acceptance of ANP slogan Azadi ya Maut (freedom or death), inherited from the historic Hur resistance movement against British colonialism. It was obvious for the ANP cadres to have endorsed the spirited rebuff from the ANP leader and former railway minister Ghulam Bilour, after his brother Bashir Bilour embraced martyrdom. He recalled his brother’s determination not to bow down to the Talibans ‘whether it’s Pakistan or ‘Qabaristan’ (graveyard)! We shall not surrender. Pakistan must not allow freedom to those that impose zulm (evil).’ The ANP slogan even during organised Taliban violence was Watan Ya Kafan (either the country or the coffin).
True, there is a growing chagrin towards the Talibans and other strains of Islamic terrorists for many of whom terrorism is a money-spinning. But as they thrive on high illiteracy and religious fear thereof, they may not free comfortable in talks for truce. ‘Even leading Taliban functionaries do not possess the basic minimum knowledge of not only history and politics, but Islam too’, said an academic at the Quaid-e-Azam University in an email to a common friend, although he does not relate this to the factional squabbles inside the ANP. In a way there is a scope for conversion of pessimism due to continuous terrorist threat from the Talibans into an opportunity, as confusion about the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf and its supreme Imran Khan is very much simmering.
The Central vice president of PTI Mian Mukarram Shah is of the view that to save the nation from suicidal attacks and as for good will ministries of religious affairs should be given to Taliban in federal cabinet and all provincial cabinets as well. He opined this in the Urdu online daily Jasarat. Imran Khan, whose personal rapport with the late President Zia-ul Haq, unquestionably the most hated military dictator of Pakistan, is well-known, visited Waziristan to win support of Talibans.
There is no denying that tackling and restraining of Taliban issue is quite complicated but if it is astutely handled, democratic forces will gain and the party which succeeds in it will get instant mileage. No political party has a richer heritage than the ANP, rather its original roots, the National Awami Party. Back in 1957, the party was the magnetic core of democrats and the Left when other forces – rather detractors – veered round to the left-wing and secular National Awami Party (NAP). IPA