‘Govt has launched a smear campaign against politicians’
By Zakir Hassnain
PESHAWAR: Nationalist parties would recover from their worst-ever defeat in the October elections, said the provincial president of the Awami National Party, Bashir Ahmed Bilour, on Tuesday while talking to Daily Times. He blamed ‘pre-poll rigging of the military regime’ for the poor showing of these parties in the recent elections.
Mr Bilour claimed that the government had launched a ‘smear campaign’ for the past three years against politicians to justify its act of throwing out the Nawaz government. “The regime has been branding the politicians as dacoits and thieves,” he observed.
Mr Bilour added: “The ulma, who call one another kafir (infidel), were brought together to fight against the nationalist parties. Their election symbol was a book, which they said represented the Holy Quran. That was how they managed to get votes from the electorate.”
He said that the election commission did not object to these tactics despite the fact that it was well aware of what was going on. “This was all to support the pre-poll rigging: a process unleashed by the establishment to punish nationalist leaders for their call for provincial autonomy,” Mr Bilour commented.
“The Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal exploited religion in the Pushtun areas where anti-American sentiments were already running high following the downfall of the Taliban,” said he. Mr Bilour added that majority parties should be allowed to form the next government though ‘they have come to parliament in the wake of a rigged election’.
He said the ANP would sit in the opposition and fight for provincial autonomy in the assembly. He added that the ANP would ‘cooperate with the MMA if they support our demand for provincial autonomy’. “We’ll put pressure on the MMA, however, if they don’t heed the ANP’s demand,” said Mr Balour. He claimed that his party had a role to play despite its poor performance in the national elections. “Sitting in the assembly is not important and we can’t go out of politics for the sake of it. The ANP will stick to its policies. We can return to assemblies in the next polls,” said he. Mr Bilour said efforts were afoot to unite nationalist and secular forces. “However, nothing concrete has emerged on that front until now. We have still not recovered from shock of our defeat in the recent elections.”
However, he pointed out that it was essential to form such an alliance for the sake of survival.
The ANP leader did not agree with the general impression that his party’s defeat was due to Pakhtunkhwa and Kalabagh dam slogans, apart from its ambiguous policies on Afghanistan and the presidential referendum.
“We did not make ‘Pakhtunkhwa’ the centre of our campaign since the renaming of the province had already been endorsed by the provincial assembly,” said Mr Bilour. “As for the referendum, the ANP neither supported it nor opposed it. We knew the government was bent upon holding it. So our central committee left the matter to the people to decide for themselves.”
Regarding Afghanistan, he said the ANP was against foreign interference in the domestic matters of that country. “The Afghans should decide their own future. We never wanted any bloodshed in that country.” He denied the ANP’s central leadership ignored the Bilours, saying: “This is not true. I am a parliamentary leader. I am the provincial president. How come people think the central leadership has ditched the Bilours?” However, he said he did not want to run for a party post during the elections scheduled in May next year.