PESHAWAR: Three years to the date, Bashir Ahmad Bilour, one of the leading voices against militancy and extremism of his time, was slain in a suicide attack.
He was a senior provincial minister and leader of the Awami National Party (ANP). During his life, the then president of Pakistan, Asif Ali Zardari, awarded Bashir Bilour the Tamgha-e-Shujaat for his services. His third death anniversary will be observed across Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa on December 22 (today).
Before the militants were eventually successful, he was targeted on several occasions—even his home was not spared. However, on December 22, 2012, when he was attending a party meeting, a militant detonated a suicide vest and Bilour was critically wounded. The ANP leader was rushed to the Lady Reading Hospital where he died.
He left behind three sons including Haroon Bilour, the former mayor of Peshawar and now an active ANP leader, and the late Usman Bilour, a KPCCI president. Usman, who kept away from the fray of politics, died of a cardiac arrest in December 2014.
Bashir Bilour was born on August 1, 1943 to a prominent business family. In 1988, he contested general elections. And though he lost those polls, he went on to win his constituency, PK-III, Peshawar-III, five times in a row. Bashir Bilour was elected to the provincial legislature in the 1990, 1993, 1997, 2002 and 2008 general elections.
“Since one of the basic tactics of the militants was to spread fear, he would counter it by reaching everywhere; even those places which posed a threat to his life,” said Dr Khadim Hussain, an academic. He said Bashir Bilour would even be present at negotiation with militants as he was always familiar with their strategy and tactics in play. He added the late minister was not only a strong voice in the ANP, but also in general.
During his time, Bashir Bilour placed himself as a major obstacle between terrorists and their objectives. Hussain added Bashir Bilour changed the narrative and introduced one which stated loud and clear that politics could not be based on religion. He was a proponent of nonviolence till the very end.
“I am proud to be his son and will try to follow his teachings and way of life,” Haroon Bilour told The Express Tribune. “He told us this is our war and we have to fight it as he did—with bravery and principles. He even sacrificed his life.” He added authorities and the country realised what Bashir Bilour had been saying all along after the APS massacre which resulted in the National Action Plan.
Haroon, while talking about his father’s personality, said there would be no other like him. “He never feared his enemies,” said Haroon. “We still remember how he would respond when the family warned him about threats.”
He recalled Bashir Bilour’s words: “The night when we are destined to be in the grave can never be spent at home.”
Awami National Party will commemorate his third death anniversary at Gor Gathri which, according to an announcement issued from Bacha Khan Markaz, will be attended by the central party leadership.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 22nd, 2015.