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ANP’s Policy Change Towards PTM: U-Turn Or A Strategy To Secure Vote Bank?

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The politics in Pakistan is always been unpredictable as loyalties are changed with the passage of time. And the stance of Awami National Party (ANP) towards Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement (PTM) in the recent days is a great example.

The ANP leadership was completely against the PTM and once in a TV interview Asfandyar Wali Khan, the chief of ANP, had termed PTM as an entity backed by the establishment.

Asfandyar had said that the two central members of PTM, Ali Wazir and Mohsin Dawar, had won elections not because of the votes but because of the establishment’s support.

And his son Aimal Wali Khan, the provincial president of ANP, too on several occasions in past had criticised the PTM.

Even though the party claims to be working for the rights of Pashtuns, the opposition of ANP towards PTM continued to split its supporters.

At the very beginning, the ANP had warned its supporters not to campaign for PTM and a kind of crackdown was launched against them in case of supporting the PTM.

Moreover, many core party members received show-cause notices over supporting the PTM. The prominent among them were Mohsin Dawar, Sanna Ejaz, Afrasiab Khattak and Bushra Gohar.

But suddenly the scenario changed and the ANP, which considers itself as a sole representative of Pashtuns, changed its stance towards the PTM, as a clear shift was noticed in the party policy.

For the very first time, the ANP’s support for PTM was observed when Aimal met Manzoor Pashteen at the residence of Asfandyar in Charsadda.

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Talking to media, Aimal and Manzoor said the only motive behind their support for each other was to protect the rights of Pashtuns. They said it was a kind of defining movement, which brought them together.

Earlier, Aimal had suggested organising a Qaumi Jirga to bring all the Pashtun leadership and intellectuals together.

Talking to NayaDaur, Sardar Hussain Babak, the ANP parliamentary leader in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly, said his party had always been working for the rights of Pashtuns and they party would continue their struggle through non-violent means.

He added that the way the state had dealt with the peaceful protesters in Waziristan in the holy month of Ramazan meant that the citizens of Pakistan had no right to protest peacefully for even their constitutional rights.

Babak had joined the PTM sit-in at Hayatabad, Peshawar, staged the Kharqamar incident, where he in speech said that the Pashtuns were showered with bullets but the mainstream media had blamed the victims for the attack.

On the other, former senior vice-president of ANP, Bushra Gohar, termed the change in the ANP policy as a positive step, saying the party being a nationalist entity could not ignore the sentiments of Pashtun youth who had been a victim of oppression for too long.

Talking to NayaDaur, she said the change showed that the ANP had recognised that it’s earlier anti-PTM stance was wrong and unjustified.

About the Qaumi Jirga, Bushra said, “I think a Pashtun Jirga needs a credible and transparent process to build a broad-based ownership and consensus on the objectives and agenda.”

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However, all the efforts to bring the Pashtuns together to evolve consensus on the various critical issues must be welcomed, she added.

Emphasising on the role and participation of women in the proposed jirga, she said a minimum of 33 per cent quota must be reserved for them in the consultative process.

Earlier, the Qaumi Watan Party (QWP) had also made an effort to bring all the Pashtun leadership under a same banner but could not get achieve the goal due to lack of proper planning.

Reacting on this development, Lehaz Ali, a senior journalist, said, “The PTM was a threat to ANP because many of the party workers have joined the PTM despite being asked by the leadership not to get involved in any activities for the PTM.”

He added that it was not a policy shift but a strategy to secure its vote bank as most of the party workers were joining the ranks of PTM.

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