Political temperatures are rising once again across Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa with parties such as the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) holding rallies in the province while others are following suit.
K-P has been at the centre of the ongoing insurgency and the region has suffered consequently as the constant threat and fear of attacks dampened political activity across the province.
However, the PTI rally held at the Jhagra village in Peshawar on November 25, 2011, was the first major political event in the provincial capital after a long-drawn-out gap. The event pushed other political parties to get out there and hold their own public rallies. PTI also held another rally in December in Mardan – the second largest city of the province. PTI leaders also say that a third rally is on the cards for Peshawar; however, a date is yet to be decided.
Awami National Party (ANP) Information Secretary Malik Ghulam Mustafa was of the view that political activity in the province was bound to increase over the next few months. “There are talks going about mid-term elections and definitely political parties will increase their activities,” Mustafa said.
However, he was of the view that the establishment was responsible for the surge of political activities as Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) feels threatened by PTI’s growing power.
Taking their cue from PTI, the ANP also arranged two rallies, one in Charsadda on December 24, which was attended by ANP chief Asfandyar Wali Khan and one in Mardan on December 31.
ANP’s third show of power is scheduled to take place in the provincial capital on January 27, on the eve of the death anniversary of Baacha Khan and Wali Khan. Mustafa told The Express Tribune that unlike previous occasions, the rally will be held in the outdoors in Malik Tehmash Football Stadium Shahi Bagh. A rally has also been scheduled to be held in Swat in December.
Jamaat Islami (JI), which has been comparatively active as compared to other political parties, held a Jalsa-e-Inqilab in Peshawar on December 19 and has also made vigorous efforts in arranging protests against price hikes, electricity and gas shortages. JUI-F also arranged its first rally on January 1 in Mardan.
PML-N, which has been beset by internal wrangling, has so far not been able to arrange any significant rallies. Similarly, Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q) have also been inactive in the province.
Mustafa admits that militancy has affected political activity in the region, adding, however, that ANP and PPP were the only parties who had withstood militancy and suffered.
Politics held hostage
In July earlier this year, at least seven people were killed and 26 others injured when a suicide bomber blew himself up when he was stopped by police from entering the venue of a public meeting of the PML-Q in Battagram.
In March, a suspected suicide bomber struck a convoy of Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman in the second such attack targeting him. His party decided to shelve a series of programmes launched about a week ago. In April 2010, a suicide bomber attacked a JI rally against load-shedding and killed more than 20 people.
The ruling ANP has also come under attack on many occasions. A suicide bomber tried to kill ANP chief Asfandyar Wali Khan in Wali Bagh on the eve of Eid. Another political gathering of the party also came under attack in Charsadda in February, 2008, killing more than 30 people. Pakistan Peoples Party Sherpao (PPP-S) Chief Aftab Ahmed Khan was the first politician to come under attack in K-P. Sherpao was lucky enough to survive two suicide attacks targeting him.
In addition, PML-Q provincial chief Amir Muqam also came under attack from militants when a suicide bomber managed to enter his Hayatabad residence, killing at least five people, including his cousin and politicians Pir Mohammad Khan in November, 2007. Taliban militants also targeted a polling station in the Sultanwas village of Buner District, killing about 40 people in December 2008.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 6th, 2012.
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