Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s organic political force: ANP’s rise, fall and continuing struggle

A view of Bacha Khan Markaz, the ANP's Central Secretariat in Peshawar.
Updated 25 February 2018

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s organic political force: ANP’s rise, fall and continuing struggle

PESHAWAR: The Awami National Party’s red flag can be seen everywhere in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s PK-3 constituency. The area has traditionally been a stronghold of the Pashtun nationalist party, and it never lost a voting contest here until the last general elections in 2013.
Back then, the country’s relatively new Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party managed to defeat the ANP’s Haroon Bilour, who had replaced his deceased father, Bashir Ahmed Bilour, after the Taliban assassinated him in a suicide attack in December 2012.
There are several other areas in Peshawar and other KP districts where the ANP has a significant following. Yet the party has never been able to form an independent government in the province, though it has spearheaded several coalition administrations.
This is despite the fact that the ANP prides itself on being the province’s organic political force. However, unlike Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz or the Pakistan Peoples Party, which have usually remained the strongest political entities in their respective provinces of Punjab and Sindh, the ANP has largely failed to dominate KP’s electoral politics, even though it has always marketed itself as a Pashtun political party.
But KP is not an easy province to govern. The incumbency factor always militates against political parties administering the region, making its people change their rulers in almost every general election. The ANP, which claims to champion the rights of the Pashtun population, has not been immune to this habit of change, either.
Today, the party claims to follow the legacy of Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan, who launched the Khudai Khidmatgar – or Servants of God – movement in 1929 to drive out the British from the subcontinent. His son, Khan Abdul Wali Khan, founded the ANP as a left-wing party in 1986. Asfandyar Wali Khan, who belongs to the family’s third generation, is leading the political faction, making it a dynastic entity. Yet ANP leaders claim they desire radical sociopolitical transformation of the country.
“The red in our flag symbolizes revolution,” Senator Zahid Khan told Arab News. “ANP’s ideology is Pashtun nationalism, and our objective is to work for the rights of the oppressed.”
The party’s secular political orientation turned it into a target for the Taliban between 2008 and 2013. ANP leaders publicly criticized the militant network as well, and their offices and front-running candidates were frequently targeted by suicide bombers. The party lost a large number of activists to the scourge of terrorism, making it difficult for its leaders to run an aggressive election campaign.
“More than a thousand ANP leaders and workers were killed in terrorist attacks while we were ruling the province,” Khan said.
He added that even after the party lost its government in KP, nearly 250 ANP members have become victims of target killings in the past few years.
Regardless of such hardships, the party’s detractors believe it failed to deliver while governing the province. Juma Khan Sufi, who remained quite close to ANP’s founding fathers, accused it of indulging in corrupt practices during its last tenure. He also criticized its relations with India and Afghanistan.
“ANP should stop playing politics in the name of Pashtuns and its leaders should become Pakistanis,” he said. “They should not toe the line of Kabul and New Delhi.”
But the party’s vice president, Senator Baz Muhammad Khan, told Arab News that the ANP faced such criticism because it demanded Pashtun rights, and the federation viewed its politics quite negatively.
“Why was Bashir Bilour, our senior minister, killed? Why have our leaders been targeted since the party’s inception? They did not have personal enmities. They were only targeted since they were demanding the rights of the province and its Pashtun population,” he said.
Asked about ANP’s less-than-satisfactory election performance in 2013, Senator Zahid Khan said elections were always rigged in Pakistan. He also claimed that the party never got a level playing field.
“Why did we lose in 2013? It was because the PTI was holding public rallies while our party was being attacked. While other parties were campaigning, we were attending funerals of our party colleagues,” he said.
He pointed out that the ANP had faced criticism not only domestically but also internationally: “We were disliked at the international level when we opposed the Cold War. The ANP also said that what was happening in Afghanistan during the late 1970s and much of the 1980s was a war between the United States and Soviet Union, and it must not be misconstrued as jihad.”
Responding to the allegation that the ANP had a soft spot for India and Afghanistan, Khan said: “Our leadership was killed and targeted by militants. Is this not enough to prove our patriotism toward our country?”


Linde traps Pakistan as South Africa level T20 series

Updated 12 April 2021

Linde traps Pakistan as South Africa level T20 series

  • Pakistan opening batsman Mohammad Rizwan fell into a trap off the first ball of the match and never recovered
  • South Africa deliberately placed mid-off Aiden Markram inside 30-meter circle to tempt Rizwan to go over the top

JOHANNESBURG: Pakistan opening batsman Mohammad Rizwan fell into a trap off the first ball of the match and the tourists never recovered as South Africa romped to a six-wicket win with six overs to spare in the second Twenty20 international at the Wanderers on Monday.
Man of the match George Linde revealed at the post-match presentation that South Africa deliberately placed mid-off Aiden Markram inside the 30-meter circle in order to tempt Rizwan to go over the top.
Rizwan danced down the wicket and went for a big hit but only succeeded in hitting a high catch to Markram.
“We had a game plan to bring that guy up and I was happy when he (Rizwan) came down the wicket,” said left-arm spinner Linde who went on to take three for 23.
He also held three catches in the deep and Pakistan were restricted to 140 for nine on what South African captain Heinrich Klaasen said was “a 180-190 wicket.”
South Africa showed up Pakistan’s batting shortcomings by racing to a series-levelling victory. Opening batsman Markram set the tone by slamming 54 off 30 balls.
There was a brief wobble when leg-spinner Usman Qadir took two wickets in successive overs to reduce South Africa to 92 for four but Klaasen (36 not out) and Linde took the hosts to the target with no further alarms.
Linde finished off a good day by scoring 20 not out off ten balls.
Pakistan captain Babar Azam made 50 and shared Pakistan’s only productive partnership, 58 off 49 balls for the third wicket, with Mohammad Hafeez (32).
“Aggression cost us the game,” said Babar after five of his batsmen fell to catches when they mistimed big hits.
“Early wickets cost us and the South Africans bowled really well,” he said.
Klaasen said the execution of South Africa’s bowlers was “spot on.” He singled out fast bowler Sisanda Magala, who had a nightmare first over, starting with three no-balls and then bowling three wides in conceding 18 runs.
“He begged me for another over,” said Klaasen. “He said, ‘I’m your guy today’ and he proved it.”
Magala’s next three overs, including two at the ‘death’, cost only 14 runs and he took the key wicket of Babar, his first in international cricket.
Klaasen said the message to the South African batsmen was to be positive and to base their approach on the quality of the pitch rather than the runs required.
“We want to play aggressive cricket but not cowboy cricket,” he said, pointing out that he tempered his aggression after Qadir’s double strike.
The series moves to nearby Centurion for the final two matches, on Wednesday and Friday.


Protests across major Pakistani cities after religious party chief arrested in Lahore

Updated 12 April 2021

Protests across major Pakistani cities after religious party chief arrested in Lahore

  • Saad Rizvi has threatened government with protests if it does not expel France’s ambassador over cartoons of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH)
  • Rizvi has called on the government to honor what he says was a commitment made in February to expel the French envoy before April 20

ISLAMABAD: Protests erupted in major Pakistani cities, causing massive traffic snarls, while main intercity highways remained blocked as police arrested the leader of a religious political party, the Tehreek-e-Labiak Pakistan (TLP), on Monday, a day after he threatened the government with protests if it did not expel France’s envoy to Islamabad over caricatures of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).

Saad Rizvi was arrested in the eastern city of Lahore to “maintain law and order,” Ghulam Mohammad Dogar, chief of Lahore police, told AP.

Hafiz Saad Hussain Rizvi, center, son of late Khadim Hussain Rizvi, founder of Tehreek-e-Labbaik party, gestures with party leaders during a gathering in Lahore on January 3, 2021. (AFP/File)

Rizvi called on the government to honor what he said was a commitment it made in February to his party to expel the French envoy before April 20 over the publication in France of depictions of the Prophet (pbuh).

The government of Prime Minister Imran Khan says it had only committed to debating the matter in Parliament.

“Protests broke out at numerous places in Karachi and other major cities following the development,” Pakistan’s Dawn newspaper reported.

Police use water cannon to disperse supporters of Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) during a protest in Lahore on April 12, 2021, after the arrest of their leader, who has called for the expulsion of the French ambassador. (AFP)

In a video message, another TLP leader, Syed Zaheerul Hassan Shah, called on supporters to come out in the streets in protest, saying the government had "completely deviated from" the agreement it had reached with the TLP.

“Carry out protest demonstrations on roads and wherever you are, jam the entire country," Shah said. 

Rizvi became the leader of the Tehreek-e-Labiak Pakistan party in November after the sudden death of his father, Khadim Hussein Rizvi. 

Rizvi’s party wants the government to boycott French products and expel the French ambassador under an agreement signed by the government with Rizvi’s party in February.

Tehreek-e-Labiak and other religious parties denounced French President Emmanuel Macron since October last year, saying he tried to defend caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) as freedom of expression. Macron’s comments came after a young Muslim beheaded a French school teacher who had shown caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) in class. The images had been republished by the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo to mark the opening of the trial over the deadly 2015 attack against the publication for the original caricatures. That enraged many Muslims in Pakistan and elsewhere who believe those depictions are blasphemous.

Rizvi’s party gained prominence in Pakistan’s 2018 federal elections, campaigning to defend the country’s blasphemy law, which calls for the death penalty for anyone who insults Islam.

It also has a history of staging protests and sit-ins to pressure the government to accept its demands.

In November 2017, Rizvi’s followers staged a 21-day protest and sit-in after a reference to the sanctity of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) was removed from the text of a government form.


Pakistan’s central bank says studying feasibility of issuing its own digital currency

Updated 12 April 2021

Pakistan’s central bank says studying feasibility of issuing its own digital currency

  • State Bank governor says “comprehensive internal survey” being carried out to learn about trends in other countries
  • Global central banks developing digital currencies to modernise financial systems, ward off threat from cryptocurrencies, speed up payments

KARACHI: Pakistan’s central bank is conducting a “comprehensive internal survey” to study the feasibility of launching a digital currency in the country, the governor of the State Bank of Pakistan said on Monday.  

Global central banks are looking at developing digital currencies to modernise their financial systems, ward off the threat from cryptocurrencies like bitcoin and speed up domestic and international payments. China is one of the most advanced in its effort, and last month proposed a set of global rules for central bank digital currencies, from how they can be used around the world to highly sensitive issues such as monitoring and information sharing.
“There are many things involved and we are conducting a comprehensive internal study that what are the trends in other central banks,” governor State Bank Dr Reza Baqir said while speaking to journalists at the Pakistan Stock Exchange. “When our study would be completed the outcome will be shared … The experience of other central banks and may be the basis for our considerations.”

Pakistan central bank governor Dr. Reza Baqir speaks at a gong ceremony at the Pakistan Stock Exchange in Karachi, Pakistan, on April 12, 2021. (Photo courtesy: Pakistan Stock Exchange)

In an interview to international media last month, Baqir said introducing a digital currency would boost the government’s efforts at financial inclusion and allow it to make “progress in our fight towards anti-money laundering and towards countering terrorism financing.”
The Bank of Japan began experiments this month to study the feasibility of issuing its own digital currency, joining efforts by other central banks that are aiming to match the innovation in the field achieved by the private sector. The first phase of Japan's experiments, to be carried out until March 2022, will focus on testing the technical feasibility of issuing, distributing and redeeming a central bank digital currency (CBDC).

As digital currencies such as bitcoin gain more traction with mainstream companies and investors, and as private efforts like the Facebook-backed Diem seek approval, the onus is on central banks to accelerate plans to issue digital cash to fend off threats to their control over money.

The People's Bank of China is aiming to become the first major central bank to issue a CBDC, part of its push to internationalise the yuan and reduce dependence on the dollar-dominated global banking system.

The European Central Bank is also exploring the introduction of a digital euro, within the next five years. It’s running into opposition from Germany, though, where the Bundesbank worries that a digital euro could pose risks to banks.

A CBDC that gains wide acceptance in international trade and payments could ultimately erode the dollar’s status as the de facto currency of world trade and undermine US influence, many analysts say.

But cybersecurity experts also warn against threats to security as well as privacy risks.
“It provides opportunities for malicious hackers and cyber crooks to carry out frauds, scams, and theft through phishing and ransomware attacks,” Muhammad Khurram Khan, founder & CEO of the Washington DC-based Global Foundation for Cyber Studies and Research, told Arab News. “To build a secure, resilient and privacy-preserving ecosystem, the central bank of Pakistan needs to implement strong data security standards, processes, protocols, and technologies to protect against burgeoning cyber risks.”
“One major challenge associated with digital currencies is the consumer's privacy concerns,” Khan added. “Therefore, the central bank has to make sure to protect the rights of users for their privacy while they make transactions.”


Pakistan hopes UK will review adding it to 'high risk' countries over terror funding

Updated 12 April 2021

Pakistan hopes UK will review adding it to 'high risk' countries over terror funding

  • UK government list replicates 21 countries listed by Financial Action Task Force for being high risk or under increased monitoring
  • Since 2018, Pakistan has been on FATF “grey list” of countries with inadequate terror financing and money laundering controls

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan said on Monday it hoped the United Kingdom would review its decision to add Pakistan to a list of 21 countries that were at ‘high-risk’ over terror funding and money laundering concerns.

The list replicates countries listed by the global watchdog, the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), for being high risk or under increased monitoring.

Since 2018, Pakistan has been on FATF’s “grey list” of countries with inadequate controls over terrorism financing, which has made foreign firms more cautious about investing in Pakistan.

In a statement issued from Islamabad, Foreign Office (FO) spokesperson Zahid Hafeez Chaudhri said Pakistan hoped the "UK would review its regulations in light of facts on ground and avoid politically motivated and misplaced measures."

FATF has said Pakistan had now met over 21 targets out of 27 set for it in 2018 but still needs to demonstrate that law enforcement agencies are identifying and investigating the widest range of terrorism financing activity.

The watchdog also asked Islamabad to demonstrate that terrorism financing probes resulted in effective, proportionate and dissuasive sanctions.

Pakistan has lately been pushing through tougher legislation and other measures to ward off blacklisting by the FATF.

In recent months, it says its law enforcement agencies have cracked down on militant groups - especially Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and its welfare arms, Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) and Falah-e-Insanyat - and on their sources of income, arresting, trying and convicting several of their members and leaders.

Pakistan denies long-standing accusations that it has nurtured and supported militant groups for use as proxies to project power in the region, particularly towards its arch-rival India and in Afghanistan.


Pakistan calls for enforcement of coronavirus health rules to avoid ‘crisis-like situation’

Updated 12 April 2021

Pakistan calls for enforcement of coronavirus health rules to avoid ‘crisis-like situation’

  • Planning minister says hospitals filing up, “weak” adherence to coronavirus standard operating procedures
  • Pakistan in the midst of third wave of coronavirus, recorded 4,584 new infections in last 24 hours with 58 deaths

ISLAMABAD: Planning minister Asad Umar, who also heads the government’s pandemic response authority, the NCOC, said on Monday hospitals in Pakistan were filling up and infections were rising, calling on the administration to enforce coronavirus standard operating procedures.
Pakistan is in the midst of a third wave of the coronavirus and recorded 4,584 new infections in the last 24 hours, with 58 deaths. Health officials said on Sunday Pakistan had lost over 650 people to COVID-19 in the last week. 
“Reviewed situation of disease spread, fill up of hospitals & SOP compliance status in the NCOC meeting today. SOP compliance remains very weak & pressure on hospitals is increasing,” Umar wrote on Twitter. “Administration has been asked to ramp up compliance enforcement to avoid a crises like situation.”


On April 6, less than a week ago, Umar had said the coronavirus situation was improving:
“Increased restrictions, broader lockdowns & stronger sop [standard operating procedures] enforcement starting to have effect,” he said on Twitter. “Initial signs of positivity slowing. However, due to momentum of last 2 weeks patients on critical care & mortality will stay at high levels for some time.”

Pakistan recently re-imposed a number of restrictions to stem the spread of the coronavirus, including closing schools, disallowing indoor dining and large gatherings like weddings and making masks mandatory in public places. 
Earlier this month, Pakistan announced new health guidelines for Ramadan which begins in the South Asian nation on April 14, including banning the entry of people older than 50 years and ado­lescents in mosques and shrines during the holy month.
Mosques around the country will remain open during Ramadan with strict adherence to COVID-19 standard operating procedures, the government has said. 
Last year after the coronavirus first broke out, a restriction on congregation provoked a backlash in Pakistan, with attacks on police as they attempted to halt prayers at mosques.
Health experts have repeatedly warned that congregations pose the biggest threat to Pakistan’s limited health care resources and infrastructure, which will crumble under the weight of a wide-spread outbreak of the coronavirus.
“Rows of the praying individuals should be aligned so that there is a distance of 6 feet between individuals,” the National Command And Operation Center said in published guidelines, saying people should perform ablutions at home. “It is obligatory that mask is worn before coming to mosque or imambargah and not to shake hands or hug anyone in the mosque.”
Unlike in the past, the government said sehr and iftar, the meals to keep and break the fast respectively, should not be held at mosques or shrines. Typically, mass sehr and iftars are held for poor people at mosques in Muslim countries. The ban will also apply to the seclusion of Itikaf when Muslims spend the last 10 days of the month in mosques to pray and meditate, with the government asking people to seclude at home. 
“If during Ramzan, the government feels that these precautionary measures are not being observed or the number of affectees has risen to a dangerous level, then the government will revise its policy related to mosques and imambargahs, as for other departments,” the NCOC said. “The government has also the right to change the orders and policy regarding severely affected specific areas.”