Thursday September 23, 2021

Slowly but surely, ANP getting back on its feet in Karachi

With Taliban network in city shattered, party finally

managing to reorganise itself in District West

Karachi

Alamzaib Alai, a leader of the Awami National Party, still shudders whenever he sees destroyed houses and the wreckage of a vehicle while passing near the site of the April 23, 2013 bomb explosion in Quaid-e-Awam Colony, Mominabad Union Committee.

During the 2013 general elections campaign, Alai had hosted a street corner meeting at the site for his party candidate Bashir Jan, who was running for the PS-93 constituency. “That day, hundreds of supporters had gathered to support the ANP,” Alai told The News.

“When Bashir Jan arrived, a bomb exploded there. Bashir Jan and I survived but 12 people were killed and over fifty others injured.”

Since then, Alai continuously received threats from militant groups and survived more attacks.

On March 19, 2014, militants planted a 10-kg bomb near his house but it was discovered and defused.

In an attack on October 20, 2014 in Frontier Colony, he survived but one of his colleagues was killed.

The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan has killed many ANP leaders and activists in Karachi’s West district, which comprises several Pashtun-populated neighbourhoods.

“Besides dozens of activists, we have lost four district presidents and a secretary general in this district,” said Younas Bunairee, the ANP Sindh general secretary.

“Militant attacks have compelled us to stop all our political activities openly and we are unable to reorganise our party in this sensitive district.”

After the attacks, ANP officials decided to stop using Baacha Khan Markaz, the party’s provincial headquarters in Pirabad, as their centre of political activities and shifted it to Mardan House, the residence of ANP provincial chief Shahi Syed in Defence.

However, after the law-enforcement agencies’ ongoing crackdown in Karachi that has shattered the TTP network in the city and key Taliban commanders have either been killed or escaped, the ANP has recently kicked off its preparation for the party’s internal elections in the West district and all union committees. On May 12, the ANP announced the schedule for organising the party in the district. “We will organise district elections at the Baacha Khan Markaz on May 28,” Bunariee told The News.

He added that the party had decided to shift back political activities to Baacha Khan Markaz, and central, provincial and district leaders will daily sit there.

The Taliban influence

ANP leaders, intelligence officials and Pashtun activists said the turf war between the ANP and the Mutahida Qaumi Movement continued from 2007 to 2011, providing space to Taliban groups to organise their network in Pashtun neighbourhoods.

After the army launched operations in Swat, South Waziristan and Mohmand, Taliban militants from these areas began taking refuge in Karachi.

Some of them shaved their beards and cut their hair short, working as labourers, waiting for the right time to restart their militant activities.

“The Taliban saw that both violent political parties [the ANP and the MQM] in the city were collecting large amounts of money though extortion, kidnappings for ransom and other criminal activities,” said a relative of a TTP Swat militant, who was killed in a Rangers shootout in Ittehad Town.

“Inspired by these two political parties, Taliban groups also started forcibly collecting donations and extorting Pashtun traders,” he added.

ANP leaders said they had not realised the growing influence of Taliban in their areas. “When Taliban killed Hanif Advocate, the ANP’s West district general secretary on March 20, 2011, the ANP accused the MQM of killing him,” an ANP leader said requesting not to be named.

However, the ANP became aware of the Taliban’s growing influence for the first time when they killed Saeed Ahmed Khan, the ANP’s West district president, at his home in Metroville area on January 5, 2012.

Since then, the TTP openly threatened ANP activists to quit the party.

“Khan’s murder confirmed that Taliban militants had taken its war against the ANP to the streets of Karachi,” the party leader said.

Many ANP leaders and activists left the city and returned to their hometowns and Islamabad.

Many of them joined right-wing parties including the Jamaat-e-Islami, the Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat and the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf to save their lives from Taliban attacks.  

 

West district politics

The West district comprises the defunct towns of SITE, Baldia, Keamari and Orangi Town and hosts a number of Pashtun-populated neighbourhoods.

The ANP has been operating actively in the district for a long time, but the party achieved parliamentary success in the 2001 local bodies’ polls, when it secured the nazim slots in SITE and Baldia and also won many seats in union councils.

In the 2001 local government polls, the MQM boycotted the elections and by forging an alliance with the Pakistan People’s Party and the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, ANP candidates defeated the JI-backed candidates in the two towns.

In the 2002 general elections, the ANP was unable to win any seat in the West district as the Pashtun constituents there voted for an electoral alliance of six religious parties, the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal.

Pashtun leaders of the alliance’s two key components Jamiat-e-Ulema Islam-Fazl and the JI, Maulana Omar Sadiq, Hafiz Naeem Shamozai and Hameedullah Advocate, won Sindh assembly seats in the district.

In the 2005 local bodies polls, the MQM largely won in the towns of SITE and Baldia, defeating the ANP candidates who were backed by the JI, the PPP and the PML-N. However, at the union council level, the JI secure most seats in the Pashtun-populated area of SITE Town.

In the 2008 general elections, the ANP won the PS-93 constituency after forging an alliance with the PPP.

Analysts said the ANP had mustered the support of Pashtun transporters and influential Pashtun political figures under the banner of the Pashtun Action Committee formed after the May 12, 2007 violence.

The ANP formed its government in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and the PPP also included it in the Sindh government, giving it the labour ministry.

But in the 2013 general polls, the ANP was unable to win a single seat and in 2015 local government polls, Alai was the only ANP candidate in the West district who secured slot of the chairman on the party’s electoral symbol. However, several elected representatives later joined the ANP.