The Taliban have claimed responsibility for the gunning down of the son of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (KP) Information Minister Mian Iftikhar Hussain outside his home in Peshawar. Mian Iftikhar, outspoken in his calls to end militancy, had been on the hit-list of extremists. In his place, his 26-year-old son has died. Other ANP figures have been struck down too and the attempt to snuff out more continues.
The killings in KP may not, as senior ANP figures have stressed, lead to any alteration in the party’s strong line against extremism but killings inevitably cripple political parties and their activists. The ANP, a party of the people, has vanished behind buildings guarded by barricades, sacks of sand and guards. Its ministers hesitate to interact with people. We cannot blame them for this given the threat they face, but in such an environment, when representatives are cut off from people, democracy suffers and militants gain an edge.
We have seen the PPP suffer as well. Benazir Bhutto was killed because she refused to disappear and insisted on keeping contact with the people. Now we see less willingness on the part of leaders to appear in public. The situation is a dangerous one, a reminder that with each leader felled, a blow is delivered to the spirit essential to democracy and all that goes with it. There is an urgent need to somehow change things. The ANP has struggled to do so in KP, becoming fodder for the bullets of the Taliban after defeating forces which backed the militants at the ballots. It should consider why it has failed to push back militancy. The PPP too needs to consider the same question. Perhaps these parties have done too little for people, failed to take them along. They must consider where this leaves them. The death of the minister’s son is tragic. But tragic too is the gradual demise of democracy and its values.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 28th, 2010.