The chief of Awami National Party and the scion of Khan Abdul Wali Khan, Asfandyar Wali Khan is one of the most influential politicians from Pakistan’s yesteryears.
He has helped normalise the relationship between Pakistan and Afghanistan. It could be said it was due to his and Mehmood Khan Achakzai’s efforts, which resulted in the Afghan president’s tour to Pakistan and a visit to the General Headquarters in 2014.
Wali's party is a unique political organisation among its contemporaries. Its unrivaled quality is the absence of a central figure in the party. A decentralised setup allows for powers to be delegated to party officials, allowing them to adapt to circumstances.
What this means is that Wali seemingly has little to do with many of the key decisions, such as the direction the ANP is taking in its home province, where a senior party figure has spent millions in constructing and rehabilitating seminaries in order to win the conservative vote, as well as allowing Himayatullah Mayar, a supporter of Mashal Khan's killers, to contest elections from Mardan, and placing party vice president Bushra Gohar behind four little known candidates on reserved seats for women.
Wali himself is contesting from NA-23 Charsadda, where he was defeated by JUI-F’s Maulana Gohar Ali Shah in 2013. He has to face Shah again, who is running on an MMA ticket this time, making it harder for the ANP chief to beat him.
Wali has the ability to draw masses to public gatherings and revive popular support for ANP, but his ailing health makes it difficult for him to run the electoral campaign for himself and the party, which has to face a conglomerate of religious parties, the MMA, and the PTI in the upcoming elections.
The ANP chief believes racial profiling of Pakhtuns in Punjab is shameful and has called for the government to “order a judicial inquiry into the issue of racial profiling, harassment and persecution of Pakhtuns” in the province to determine responsibility.
An advocate of Fata’s merger with KP, Wali told a public meeting in Pishin that after Fata’s merger, the ANP would work towards establishing a Pashtun province comprising southern and northern Pashtun areas that would be stronger than Punjab.
Wali has also termed the demands of Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement — a movement for the rights of those affected by the war against militancy in the tribal areas — valid, adding that PTM's demands are not new in fact as ANP has been raising the same issues at various platforms for decades.
Khan, whose party was actively targeted by the Taliban, has also called on the state to eliminate any distinctions between good and bad Taliban and has supported operations against militants active in the Malakand region and Fata.
Wali also condemned the lynching of Mashal Khan, the 23-year-old student of Abdul Wali Khan University, Mardan, who was killed by a vigilante mob inside university premises for allegedly "publishing blasphemous content online". The allegations against Mashal later turned out to be false.
Following a thrashing defeat in the 2013 polls and the PTI’s forming of a government in Peshawar, the ANP chief and his party have at best had an uneasy relationship with PTI. Wali has called into question the PTI chairman Imran Khan’s democratic credentials on occasion and has pledged to defeat his party in the July 25 polls.
Wali is a proponent of peace between Afghanistan and Pakistan and has called for respectful and humane treatment of Afghan refugees. The ANP leader stresses that Afghan refugees should not be harassed and should be repatriated with dignity and honour.