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Asfandyar Wali Khan

March 23, 2013

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Asfandyar Wali Khan is the current president of Awami National Party (ANP) and has served as a member of both the national and provincial assemblies, as well as the Senate.

Biography

Asfandyar was born in Shahibagh in Charsadda (a town in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province) on February 19, 1949. He is the son of Khan Abdul Wali Khan, a well-known Pakhtun nationalist and politician.

He obtained his early education at the Jesus and Mary Convent and later at Lahore’s Aitchison College. Later on, he acquired a Bachelors degree from Peshawar University. Asfandyar is proficient in the Pashto, Urdu and English languages.

Early political career

The ANP chief had his initiation into politics as an activist in 1968 during the regime of General Ayub Khan. A student at the time, Asfandyar was a member of Pakhtun Student Federation (PSF) and also of its Central Executive Committee. The PSF was a purely student body lobbying for democracy.

He later opposed Ayub’s successor, General Yahya Khan, who took over in 1969 and declared martial law in the country, rendering defunct all political parties, including PSF.

Hailing from a political family, Asfandyar had the right environment to develop as a seasoned political activist and eventually as a leader. His father was among the founding members of National Awami Party (NAP) and was incarcerated several times under different governments, enabling Asfandyar to adjust to conducting politics during hostile, if not autocratic, regimes. Asfandyar’s father later became a member of National Democratic Party (NDP) which was formed after NAP was proscribed by the Bhutto government in 1975.

The same year, a politically active Asfandyar was arrested, tried and convicted by a special tribunal in Hyderabad jail. He was sentenced to imprisonment for 15 years but was released along with some others in 1978. Following the release, he resumed political activity and joined NDP. However, in 1986, NDP was merged with other smaller parties to form ANP.

The Wali Khan family also participated in the Movement for the Restoration of Democracy (MRD) which went on for several years with the aim of ousting ZiaulHaq but fizzled out before his death. Legislative career

Asfandyar’s parliamentary career began in 1990 when he was elected to the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (then known as North West Frontier Province) provincial assembly.

He was first elected to the National Assembly in 1993. Also winning another seat in the NA in the 1997 general election, he was later elected Senator for a six-year term (in 2003). In February 2008, Asfandyar was elected MNA for a third time in his legislative career.

While he acted in various capacities during his role as lawmaker, Asfandyar’s most notable feat has been to keep the party together in the wake of what can be viewed as frequent leadership changes in a hostile political climate.

He led ANP to considerable electoral success in the 2008 election, during which he was elected from NA-7 (Charsadda-I) with his party forming the government in KP. The development was encouraging as ANP had remained unsuccessful in the 2002 election.

A proponent of Pakhtun nationalism and provincial autonomy, Asfandyar also lobbied for the renaming of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa from NWFP.

The ANP under his leadership also supported the 2009 military operation in Swat, saying his party had “always opted for a negotiated solution” but had been “left with no choice except to support” the action in the valley.

Moreover, on the Kalabagh Dam issue, Asfandyar has stuck to and further defined his party's stance of opposing the project. He was also critical of a 2012 ruling by the Lahore High Court on the construction of the dam.

He also served as chairman of the National Assembly’s Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs during the tenure of the 2008-2013 Parliament.

As ANP chief

Asfandyar was first elected president for the party in 1999 and has been re-elected every time for the position since then.

With his grip on ANP’s inter-party dynamics, Asfandyar was a source of support to its most recent leading coalition partner, Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), and to President Asif Ali Zardari.

Espousing his party’s philosophy which is based on liberalism, provincial autonomy, and Pakhtun nationalism, Asfandyar has expanded it in the last eight to 10 years to include opposition to terrorism and to elements involved in terrorist activities.

Among other ANP leaders such as the late Bashir Ahmed Bilour and Mian Iftikhar Hussain, Asfandyar has also been targeted by militants. He narrowly escaped a suicide blast in October 2008 and his sister Dr Gulalai, a prominent surgeon, suffered injuries in an August 2010 attack in Peshawar. As chief of the party, Asfandyar also lost a stalwart like Bilour, who was killed in a suicide bombing at an ANP meeting in Peshawar.

Still, the ANP chief has remained undaunted and resolute. At a condolence meeting after Bilour’s death, he said the “assassination would not weaken” the party’s resolve to combat terrorism, adding that “it was a misconception” that the party would abandon its principled stance against militancy after Bilour’s murder.

— Research and text by Soonha Abro