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Moment of truth: ANP’s electoral rout

May 18, 2013

ANP CHIEF Asfandyar Wali Khan has offered a mature, forthright analysis into his party’s failure to perform on May 11, highlighting the party’s own weaknesses as well as the bloody campaign the TTP conducted against the ANP. Addressing a news conference on Thursday, the ANP leader showed grace in defeat, saying that his party accepted the poll results, though with reservations, and would sit in the opposition. The party has been reduced to one seat in the National Assembly, while it has gone from ruling KP to four seats in the provincial legislature.

There is much weight in Asfandyar Wali’s claim that TTP chief Hakeemullah Mehsud set the election agenda as far as disallowing the ANP to freely campaign is concerned. The party has paid with blood for its opposition to the militants. While other parties the Pakistani Taliban deem ‘secular’ were also targeted, clearly the ANP’s cadre bore the brunt. According to Asfandyar Wali, 61 party activists were killed between March 30 and May 11. Nevertheless, poor governance over the past five years was a major factor in the drubbing the party received at the ballot box. For the voters, corruption and the ANP government’s failure to maintain law and order in a province on the frontline of the battle against militancy overshadowed the party’s sacrifices. Which is why the ANP has done right by forming committees to look into the reasons behind the party’s electoral rout. There are lessons here for other parties who were also sent packing; they too must identify their flaws and take action where needed as the ANP plans to do, for instance, by expelling any member found to have prevented women from voting.

The party’s internal issues aside, the ANP chief’s comments on the larger picture of militancy must be considered by all parties. Asfandyar Wali focused on drone strikes, saying that while his party condemned them, he considered suicide attacks a worse violation of national sovereignty. While drone strikes invoke strong emotions and the ‘collateral damage’ caused by the strikes cannot be ignored, even the fiercest critics of these unmanned killers remain quiet on suicide attacks and the many innocents religious militants kill. There is no realisation by these parties that their silence will save neither them nor democracy should the militants expand their list of ‘undesirable’ political targets. The bloodshed witnessed over the past five years should propel the incoming rulers towards taking decisive steps to tackle militancy, even as they concentrate on other aspects of good governance.