PESHAWAR: Politics, they say, is the art of the possible and if indications are anything to go by the secular-nationalist Awami National Party may soon find itself getting into an electoral alliance with the right-wing JUI-F.
According to credible sources, talks between the two political parties, which had fought the 2008 elections against each other, are warming up and have entered into some sort of an electoral adjustment in two districts crucial to the ANP — Charsadda and Mardan — while negotiations on similar adjustments in other districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa are in an advance stage.
One indication of the two parties getting eager to give a bear hug to each other came when the JUI-F agreed to participate in the ANP-sponsored multi-party conference on working out a so-called political consensus on peace talks with Pakistani militants.
To return the favour, the ANP agreed to participate in a soon-to-be-held grand tribal moot sponsored by the JUI-F on the same subject. Not just that, the ANP saw to it that it found its mention in the joint declaration issued at the end of its conference in Islamabad.
The possibility of the two erstwhile political adversaries, who until very recently did not see eye to eye on militancy in Pakistan, working out an electoral arrangement, may seem odd although the two parties have shared political history. ANP’s predecessor, the National Awami Party, was part of the coalition government headed by Maulana Mufti Mehmood, father of Maulana Fazlur Rehman, after the 1970 elections.
How does the new-found political bonhomie pan out in the months leading up to the coming elections is probably still early to predict, but if leaders from both sides are to be believed work is in progress to expand seat adjustment in Charsadda and Mardan to other districts of the KP.
So hopeful are some of the ANP leaders that if things go the way they are it would be possible to see the two parties getting into an electoral alliance.
And the war-on-terror? A lot of water has flown under the bridge, says one leader. Maulana Fazlur Rehman is on record having opposed “armed struggle” for the enforcement of sharia and the ANP says it would support peace talks with militants accepting the writ of the State and Constitution.
If there were still any doubts the two parties are now sharing podiums and tables to push the agenda of talks with the militants.
Sensing the delicate situation it finds itself in, the ANP has been in an over-drive to keep the all-too-shrewd Maulana from Dera Ismail Khan in good humour. And it has worked — so far.
Whether leaders of the two political parties would be able to take this newly-established relationship down to their workers and voters is hard to tell. The JUI-F has been giving hard and tough time to the ANP in its stronghold of Charsadda in the past. Just to recap, in 1990 JUI’s Maulana Hassan Jan defeated veteran politician Khan Abdul Wali Khan after a bitter and hard-fought election campaign. Thereupon, a shocked Wali Khan threw in the towel and retired from active politics.
Where does this leave ANP’s erstwhile ally, the PPP? The prognosis is not good. The ANP leadership is unhappy over the hawkish and at times belligerent tone of the PPP’s new KP president, Anwar Saifullah Khan.
So much so that the ANP President, Asfandyar Wali Khan, said publicly that if there was one political party he would not get into an electoral alliance with, it was the PPP. The ANP official says the PPP leadership — that is the one in Islamabad — has come to realised and is seeking to mend ways and patch up with it; hence the almost back-to-back two meetings between Anwar Saifullah and Chief Minister Ameer Haider Khan Hoti. There could be some seat adjustments between the two parties but an electoral alliance? Not likely, says the ANP leader.