The Sec­ond Com­ing

Begum Nasim Wali’s en­try into pol­i­tics could ac­cel­er­ate the demise and dis­in­te­gra­tion of the ANP.

Southasia - - CONTENTS - By Rus­tam Shah Mohmand The writer is a for­mer in­te­rior sec­re­tary and am­bas­sador.

Could Begum Nasim Wali in­fuse a new dy­namism into the ANP and its work­ers?

Af­ter long years of hi­ber­na­tion, Begum Nasim Wali Khan, a for­mer leader of the Awami Na­tional Party and the wife of the late Khan Wali Khan, has de­cided to res­cue the party from the clutches of those who have, ac­cord­ing to her, “nearly de­stroyed the legacy of Bacha Khan and Wali Khan‘’. In the state­ment that an­nounced her come­back, she ac­cused the cur­rent party lead­er­ship of gross in­com­pe­tence, cor­rup­tion and in­dif­fer­ence to the cause that the party has stood for since the in­cep­tion of Pak­istan.

Whether, and to what ex­tent, her re­turn to ac­tive pol­i­tics would change the ori­en­ta­tion or poli­cies of the ANP re­mains to be seen. The ANP, once a for­mi­da­ble force in the pol­i­tics of Khy­ber Pakhtunkhwa, and at times, in Balochis­tan, has been re­duced to a non-sig­nif­i­cant po­si­tion fol­low­ing its hu­mil­i­at­ing de­feat in the May 2013 elec­tions. It could barely cap­ture two seats in the Na­tional As­sem­bly.

The woes of the party are deepseated. The fun­da­men­tal malaise that af­flicts most po­lit­i­cal or­ga­ni­za­tions in Pak­istan is that lead­ers are tempted to trans­form their par­ties into fam­ily fief­doms. Dy­nas­tic con­trol of po­lit­i­cal par­ties robs them of their quin­tes­sen­tial at­tributes of trans­parency and com­mit­ment to pub­lic wel­fare and casts doubts on their pledge to up­hold the rule of law. This prac­tice be­comes even more omi­nous when the prog­eny down the line do not show the re­solve, ca­pac­ity or char­ac­ter that was the hall­mark of their forefathers in manag­ing and guid­ing par­ties.

The ANP also suf­fers from this ma­lig­nant and de­bil­i­tat­ing malaise. When the ba­ton was passed on to As­fandi­yar Wali Khan, af­ter Begum Wali was con­ve­niently side­lined, it was im­me­di­ately ob­vi­ous that some ‘ ma­jor‘ forces were at play in help­ing re­align the party and mak­ing it com­pat­i­ble with the wider in­ter­ests and agenda of the United States.

In 2007, the Chief of the party, As­fandi­yar Khan and his close as­so­ciate, Afrasiab Khat­tak were in­vited to the U.S. where they were al­legedly briefed about U.S. goals in the re­gion and were taken into ‘con­fi­dence’ about the role ‘nationalist par­ties’ can play in re­strict­ing the in­flu­ence of ‘re­li­gious’ par­ties that were in power in the fron­tier prov­ince at that time. Azam Hoti, the brother of Begum Wali, re­cently claimed at a press con­fer­ence that the U.S. had given $35 mil­lion to As­fandi­yar Khan in re­turn for the party’s sup­port for its agenda against the Tal­iban and their sup­port­ers in Pak­istan. That was the be­gin­ning of the emer­gence of a new cadre of ‘lead­ers’.

When the party came into power in KPK, and also won a few min­is­te­rial slots in the fed­eral cabi­net, most of its lead­ers faced un­sa­vory charges of cor­rup­tion. This an­noyed many ded­i­cated work­ers of the party. More­over, the ANP was also seen to be toe­ing the U.S. line, which went against the dom­i­nant sen­ti­ment in the Pakhtoon ar­eas. Work­ers were dis­il­lu­sioned and many of them be­came to­tally in­dif­fer­ent to a move­ment which they re­garded, un­til then, as one that epit­o­mized self­less ser­vice to the peo­ple and which was al­ways will­ing to of­fer sac­ri­fices to safe­guard the in­ter­ests of the Pakhtoons.

In such a dis­mal set­ting, with the

cadres hav­ing lost all hope of the ANP play­ing any de­ci­sive role for democ­racy or the pro­tec­tion of the rights of the peo­ple, what could be the role of the for­mer leader of the party – Begum Nasim Wali Khan? Could her ad­vent into the po­lit­i­cal arena be a game changer? Could she in­fuse a new dy­namism into the party and its work­ers? Could she purge the party of the el­e­ments that have dis­fig­ured it and are fun­da­men­tally in­com­pat­i­ble in­tel­lec­tu­ally with the pol­icy that has been es­poused by its found­ing fa­thers?

For one thing, the age­ing wife of Wali Khan may not be able to ei­ther at­tract at­ten­tion or evoke sym­pa­thy among the de­clin­ing num­bers of work­ers who con­sti­tute the core of the party. Her age would mil­i­tate against her carv­ing out a space for her­self in a rein­vig­o­rated po­lit­i­cal en­vi­ron­ment. There is no charisma in the oc­to­ge­nar­ian leader that would work for her. It may be too Her­culean a task for her to un­der­take.

Many party ac­tivists were dis­ap­pointed when she sur­ren­dered tamely to the lobby of Afrasiab and As­fandi­yar when they con­spired to end her dom­i­na­tion over the party. Also, most party loy­al­ists do not see any revo­lu­tion­ary change ei­ther in the pol­icy or the man­i­festo of the party with her reemer­gence from obliv­ion af­ter all these long years.

The ANP has very lit­tle to show for its achieve­ments when it ruled the KPK from 2008 to 2013. To the com­mon man, a change in the name of the prov­ince has not de­liv­ered any­thing. The party has lost its ap­peal to the peo­ple, more so to the elec­torate. Begum Wali can­not change all this in her fi­nal in­nings when she is no longer en­joy­ing a ro­bust health and does not have the en­ergy or vi­tal­ity to un­der­take the mon­u­men­tal task of rein­vent­ing a party that has lost its lus­ter and failed mis­er­ably in com­ing up to the ex­pec­ta­tions of the peo­ple.

The five-year stint of the ANP in of­fice – the first since Dr Khan Sahib’s gov­ern­ment in the fron­tier prov­ince was sacked by Mr. Jin­nah on Au­gust 21, 1947, barely seven days into the cre­ation of the coun­try – was marked by sheer in­com­pe­tence, cor­rup­tion and nepo­tism and has de­prived the party of its very rai­son d’être. In these cir­cum­stances, the re-en­try of Begum Wali would not al­ter ei­ther the im­age of the party or the at­ti­tude of the peo­ple to­wards it.

What the party needs is a re­assess­ment of its goals and ob­jec­tives, a fun­da­men­tal re­ori­en­ta­tion of its strat­egy, a new man­i­festo, a revo­lu­tion­ary so­cioe­co­nomic pro­gram and an un­tainted lead­er­ship which could in­spire work­ers and at­tract ed­u­cated peo­ple who could launch the party on a new tra­jec­tory. It needs a new lead­er­ship which could end the mil­i­ta­riza­tion of the prov­ince and the tribal ar­eas. Begum Wali does not seem to pos­sess the at­tributes that such a role would re­quire.

Her en­try into pol­i­tics would thus change very lit­tle. As a mat­ter of fact, this phe­nom­e­non will be tran­si­tory, not long-last­ing. It will be a flicker that would fade out soon. It may, on the con­trary, ac­cel­er­ate the demise and dis­in­te­gra­tion of a party which is fast be­com­ing out­dated and ir­rel­e­vant in the cur­rent scheme of things.

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