A day after the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa chief minister, Amir Haider Hoti, sought “do-or-die” action against militants, the Awami National Party (ANP) called for dismantling the sanctuaries of insurgents who want to destroy “our state and society”.
“We are on the defences in our streets and alleys, and they (terrorists) are at ease in their sanctuaries,” ANP chief Asfandyar Wali Khan told a news briefing at the Chief Minister House in Peshawar on Tuesday. “We should evolve a national consensus on a comprehensive strategy for defeating terrorist outfits,” he added.
At the news briefing, Asfandyar was flanked by ANP’s top cadres, including Chief Minister Hoti, Senator Afrasiab Khattak, Senator Zahid Khan and Senator Haji Adeel. The briefing followed a high-level consultative meeting of the party which also passed a resolution. The meeting came three days after senior ANP politician Bashir Ahmed Bilour was assassinated in a suicide attack in the Dhaki Nalbandi area of Peshawar.
“[We] appeal to all political parties to take a clear stand on this issue (terrorism). If the experience of the recent past is anything to go by, terrorists will not forgive any political or religious party, even those who have literally acted as supporters [of terrorists] and apologists. It will be an exercise in futility to appease terrorists,” says the resolution read out at the briefing.
Asfandyar said the militants wanted to enforce the obscurantist system of their namesakes from neighbouring Afghanistan. “They have a peculiar mindset that does not tolerate dissent,” he said and cited as proof the assassination attempts on Qaumi Watan Party chief Aftab Ahmed Sherpao, JUI-F Amir Maulana Fazlur Rahman and former Jamaat-e-Islami chief Qazi Hussain Ahmad.
The ANP chief said his party was opposed to US drone strikes in tribal regions and consider them as a breach of Pakistan’s sovereignty. “At the same time we also oppose the existence of sanctuaries for local and foreign terrorists on our soil,” he added.
On a conciliatory note, Asfandyar said the ANP did not rule out peace talks with reconcilable militants. “The ANP supports negotiations with all those who recognise the writ of the state and renounce violence,” he said and called for “effective and meaningful action” against those who challenge the state’s writ.
Tuesday’s meeting authorised Asfandyar to convey ANP’s concerns to all political parties and state institutions and prepare a decisive line of action.
Notwithstanding government’s assurances, the recent upsurge in militant violence has provided grist for rumour mills that the next parliamentary elections could be delayed. However, Asfandyar categorically said that his party would “not tolerate” a delay in elections as it would be “disastrous”.
The ANP chief also recalled the slurs his party had to face in the past. “Those [ANP] who were dubbed as traitors in the past are today fighting the battle for the country’s survival,” he said.
The meeting paid tribute to “Shaheed” Bashir Bilour and other “martyrs” of the Dhaki Nalbandi suicide attack. “We shall continue our non-violent struggle against extremism and terrorism,” said the resolution passed at the meeting.
On the occasion Barrister Haroon Bilour, the successor of Bashir Bilour, was appointed as adviser to the provincial chief minister.
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Published in The Express Tribune, December 26th, 2012.