The ruling Awami National Party (ANP) on Saturday sent out a message asking militants to constitute an ‘empowered’ team for holding talks with a panel of political parties.
“For any talks to be carried out, they (militants) ought to constitute an empowered team,” provincial information minister Mian Iftikhar Hussain told participants of a gathering convened at Nishtar Hall to observe the chehlum of slain minster Bashir Ahmad Bilour, who was targeted in a suicide attack on December 22, 2012.
ANP is currently trying to muster support for an all parties conference (APC) to discuss strategies to combat militancy and negotiate with militants. Hussain, however, said militants must have a say in their respective groups for the talks to be successful.
He reiterated his party would again reach out to those who had not “fully” responded to earlier invitations. While Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) and Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) have publicly turned down the offer, Hussain said the invitations had been accepted by some parties and others had not yet submitted a “full reply”. He, however, chose not to single any party out. “Those who have faith should join us for the APC.”
The slain minister’s brother, Ghulam Ahmad Bilour delivered an emotionally charged speech.
“Militants claim they are standing up for Islam. Is Islam not followed in North Waziristan, Bajaur, Swat and Tirah?” questioned the railways minister referring to militant onslaughts in the area. “I ask the Taliban to settle for talks. We will forgive the blood of our Pashtun children, if no more blood is shed.”
About the proposed APC, Ghulam Bilour said: “We have extended the invitation not just for ourselves, but for the whole nation, to get rid of the scourge of terrorism.”
“We will avenge the death of Bashir Bilour by winning the upcoming general elections,” he said, as party activists punctuated his speech with charged slogans.
“People cannot be hoodwinked by slogans to vote for the Book (Holy Quran) anymore,” added Bashir in an apparent jibe directed towards the ruling era of Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal in K-P. “Today, these well-to-do Mullahs can be seen moving around in Land Cruisers, but they do not raise their voice against the killing of innocent people.”
The late minister’s son, Barrister Haroon Bilour vowed to fight the prevailing conditions with courage and to stand by the party through all tribulations.
Banners honouring Bashir Ahmad Bilour adorned the walls of the hall. The senior minister, who was also the parliamentary leader in the K-P Assembly, was known for his vocal stance against militants. He was said to be the first to condemn terror acts and assure victims of counteraction. Party stalwarts, including Senator Afrasiab Khattak, Senator Zahid Khan, Senator Haji Muhammad Adeel and K-P Assembly Speaker Kiramatullah Chagharmati along with others were also present.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 27th, 2013.