Back in the fray: ‘Peace talks with the Taliban are a must’

Asfandyar Wali Khan returned to his hometown after a period of five years to celebrate Eid.

Our Correspondent August 11, 2013
ANP chief Asfandyar Wali Khan. PHOTO: FILE


Awami National Party leader Asfandyar Wali Khan asserted it was important to initiate peace talks with the Taliban in order to establish peace in the war-torn province.

While talking to the Charsadda Union of Journalists, Asfandyar claimed militants were patrolling the outskirts of Peshawar. He pointed out after the DI Khan jailbreak it had become even more necessary for the government to hold talks with the Taliban.

Asfandyar had returned to his hometown after a period of five years to celebrate Eid. During his three-day stay in Wali Bagh, party leaders, MNAs, MPAs and workers met him amidst tight security arrangements.

Asfandyar left Charsadda in 2008, after a suicide attack targeting him on Eid day killed his personal guard among others. The ANP stalwart left for Islamabad and did not even return during the 2013 elections. He cast his vote through a postal ballot.

He was criticised by his stepmother, politician Begum Naseem Wali, for ignoring his hometown and was defeated by Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) leader Gohar Ali Shah, who secured a convincing victory.

“If these peace talks fail, I will support a military operation similar to the ones conducted in Swat and Malakand,” asserted the ANP leader during the press conference, adding political ownership for such operations was necessary. “If all leaders and stakeholders do not come to the table, this bloodshed will not end.”

Asfandyar also criticised Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf Chairman Imran Khan over his attitude on the all-parties conference, which he alleged was delaying the moot. He chastised the PTI chairman and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) Chief Minister Pervez Khattak for calling the militants their friends and brothers and lowering the morale of law enforcement officials.

He also stressed the importance of framing a concrete policy for Afghanistan after Nato withdraws its troops in 2014, adding in the absence of such a policy there is likely to be more bloodshed in the Pukhtun belt. “During the previous government foreign policy was not made by the army,” he claimed.

To a question, the veteran politician maintained the Baloch should be given constitutional rights and encouraged to come to the table for talks. “Otherwise, the situation will worsen in Balochistan as well.”

Published in The Express Tribune, August 12th, 2013.