News Analysis |
The chief of the Awami National Party (ANP) vowed to assimilate all Pashtun majority areas into a single unit, making it a single province. His pledge seemed to indicate that the ANP was returning to its extreme sub-nationalist base in order to woo voters.
Addressing a public meeting at Quetta, he said. “First of all, we will seek immediate merger of Fata with the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and later on merge the annexed territories of Afghanistan, now the administrative part of Balochistan in the north, creating a stronger and powerful province.” He asserted that with the merger of all Pakhtun areas into a single province, the influence of the Punjab will decline.
In order to gain votes, it also seems to be encroaching on the territory of its Pakhtun nationalist rival the PKMAP.
He also professed that he was an Afghan, he is an Afghan and he will remain an Afghan and opined that regional peace and security depends on the situation in Afghanistan. He alluded to other political parties that had utilized the ethnic card and reaped benefits for their provinces. In the same vein, he concluded an alliance with the PPP and its leader Asif Ali Zardari.
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He also took potshots at former ally, disqualified Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his party over the CPEC project. He alleged that the project had been misused for benefit of Punjab only. He also lambasted Sharif for “making a commitment” to him and then betraying him. He reminded Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi that Nawaz Sharif and his government were publicly committed to merging Fata with the K-P and later on he backed out.
He asserted that all Pakistani parties were committed to the merger except for the PML(N) and its Pakhtun allies, the JUI(F) and PKMAP. He also hit back at the JUI(F) supremo, Maulana Fazl-ur-Rehman for terming KPK-FATA merger as a part of “American Agenda”. Without naming Fazl-ur-Rehman, he reminded that it was the decision of the federal cabinet.
The ANP was the largest Pashtun nationalist party in Pakistan between 2008−2013 with influence lying in the Pashtun dominated areas in and around Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.
Asfandyar Wali’s words hinted at a return to the ANP’s extreme sub-nationalist roots. Rising from the ideology laid by Asfandyar’s grandfather Bacha Khan, the ANP once called the NAP worked on the agenda of a greater Pakhtunistan. It was largely supported by Afghanistan in its manner which also allowed its members to have safe havens within its territories.
From Afghanistan, the militant wing of the NAP also operated which was known as “Pakhtun Zalmi”. Engaged in terrorism inside Pakistan, the Pakhtun Zalmi desired the secession of the Pakhtun areas of Pakistan into Afghanistan. However, a variety of factors went against the crusade of the ANP.
One was the integration of the larger Pakhtun community inside the Pakistani social fabric. Primarily the access of Pakhtun transporters to lucrative routes all over Pakistan made them stakeholders in the well-being of Pakistan. The other most important were the destruction of Afghanistan by the Soviet occupation and subsequent civil war which deprived the ANP of a powerful benefactor.
Subsequent Islamization of Pakistani society specifically the Pakhtuns drove out all concepts of secular ethnonationalism which proved detrimental to the Left-wing ANP cause.
Subsequent Islamization of Pakistani society specifically the Pakhtuns drove out all concepts of secular ethnonationalism which proved detrimental to the Left-wing ANP cause. However, subsequent events turned in its favor for a time. The 2001 invasion of Afghanistan and following anti-militancy campaign by Pakistani government gave way to a groundswell of anger. The anger once expressed in the medium of Islamist MMA turned to the ANP in the 2008 elections.
The ANP was the largest Pashtun nationalist party in Pakistan between 2008−2013 with influence lying in the Pashtun dominated areas in and around Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. Although given a chance to govern from 2008−13, they proved unpopular amongst the ethnic Pakhtun they claimed to represent, and the party’s fortunes turned rapidly as they lost almost all of their seats in 2013 to Imran Khan’s PTI.
He alluded to other political parties that had utilized the ethnic card and reaped benefits for their provinces. In the same vein, he concluded an alliance with the PPP and its leader Asif Ali Zardari.
Now it seems they are trying to regain their lost prestige by appealing to more extreme forms of Pakhtun nationalism. As the anti-militancy campaign dies down, the ANP seems to be trying to exploit dissent over the CPEC project in order to gain votes. It also seems to be encroaching on the territory of its Pakhtun nationalist rival the PKMAP.
The hints of alliances with other sub-nationalist forces to take down the powerful Punjab province are also a staple of sub-nationalist rhetoric. As 2018 elections draw near, it seems that the ANP is going all out in order to regain its lost power one way or another.