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November 2, 2015

Veteran ANP leader Afzal Khan Lala passes away

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November 2, 2015

MINGORA: Veteran Awami National Party (ANP) leader and former federal minister Mohammad Afzal Khan passed away after protracted illness on Sunday. He was 89.
The Pakhtun nationalist leader, who was born in Bara Drushkhela village in Matta Tehsil in Swat in 1926, breathed his last at the Combined Military Hospital (CMH) in Rawalpindi, where he was under treatment. He died of complications arising from liver cirrhosis.
Commonly known as Afzal Khan Lala, he was laid to rest at his ancestral graveyard in Bara Drushkhela village. A large number of ANP workers, local and political figures, well-wishers and commoners attended the funeral prayer for the deceased. Many Afghans also reached Swat to attend the funeral and offer condolences to his family.
Corps Commander Peshawar Lt General Hidayatur Rehman and General Officer Commanding (GOC), Malakand Division, Major General Nadir Khan, also attended the funeral along with other army officers.
The rush of people and vehicles in Mingora and beyond overwhelmed whatever little arrangements the district administration and the police could make for the smooth flow of traffic. Thousands of people converged on the Mingora town on their way to Matta for the funeral.
The cops seemed helpless in regulating the flow of traffic as a large number of vehicles caused a gridlock in the Mingora city, Fizzagat and Matta Bazaar.
Afzal Khan Lala was a man of principles and a true democrat. He wanted the unity of Pakhtun people and was a steadfast proponent of “Lar or bar, yaw Afghan” which meant that Afghans in Afghanistan and Pakistan were one.
Afzal Khan began his political career by affiliating with the erstwhile National Awami Party (NAP). He was elected as a Member of Provincial Assembly (MPA) in the 1970 general election.
Being a close confidant of the late nationalist leader Khan Abdul Wali Khan, he was one of the three ANP ministers who served in the short-lived provincial government under the then chief

minister Maulana Mufti Mahmud.
In 1975, the government of Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto arrested him in connection with the Hyderabad conspiracy case along with Wali Khan, Ghous Bakhsh Bizenjo, Nawab Khair Bakhsh Marri, Sardar Attaullah Mengal and other ANP leaders. They were released by General Ziaul Haq in 1978. The same year he was elected as the provincial president of the ANP.
In 1990, he along with some other ANP party leaders broke away and formed the Qaumi Inquilabi Party. One of the reasons for the break-up was Afzal Khan Lala’s anger against the decision of the ANP leadership to form an alliance with the Islami Jamhoori Ittehad, an Islamic alliance.
Afzal Khan as a candidate of the PDP, an alliance of his party with the PPP, was elected Member of the National Assembly from Swat in the 1993 election and was made a federal minister. He served in the federal cabinet from 1993 to 1996.
In 1997, he withdrew from electoral politics and later allied himself with the Pakistan Oppressed Nations Movement and advocated giving provincial autonomy to various ethnic groups in the country.
Afzal Khan Lala rejoined the ANP in 2005, but his supporters complained he wasn’t given the status that he deserved. He also wasn’t happy when the ANP-led provincial government led by Chief Minister Ameer Haider Hoti negotiated a peace agreement with the Swat Taliban headed by Maulana Fazlullah as he opposed any deal with the militants.
Afzal Khan faced life threats from the Taliban militants when they held sway in Swat. He survived attempts on his life in which his relatives and supporters were killed and injured. His house too came under attack.
However, he refused to leave his house in Bara Drushkhela and shift to Peshawar and Islamabad as almost all the important Swati politicians had done. He uttered the famous words at the time that he would prefer to die than leaving his hometown.
The government in 2009 conferred on him the highest civil gallantry award, Hilal-i-Shujaat, in recognition of his bravery in the face of terrorism. APP adds: Meanwhile, Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif on Sunday expressed grief over the demise of veteran ANP politician Muhammad Afzal Khan Lala.
The prime minister in a message to the bereaved family euologised his services for democracy in the country.Afzal Khan was in favour of military action against the Taliban and once he said talks will militants should only be held if they laid down their arms.
Khan Lala who lives in a well-guarded house surrounded by fruit trees said that he had faith. “Being a Muslim I have faith in Allah. Nothing can happen to me no matter if Fazlullah puts my name on his list or not,” he said.

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