Friday September 24, 2021

Voice for democracy

May 18, 2021

With the passing of Nasim Wali Khan, Pakistan has lost one of the few leading female politicians in the country. Though she was the widow of ANP leader Abdul Wali Khan, Nasim had carved a niche for herself in the political landscape of the country in the 1970s. When her husband was arrested and implicated in the Hyderabad Conspiracy Case and the National Awami Party (NAP) -- the first incarnation of the ANP -- was banned in 1975 by Z A Bhutto’s administration, Nasim Wali entered politics and continued the democratic struggle of her husband, and her father-in-law Bacha Khan. At that time her children were too young to play an active role in politics, so she took up the challenge and formed the National Democratic Party (NDP) with Sher Baz Khan Mazari. When Bhutto planned early elections in 1977, Nasim took a leading role in the Pakistan National Alliance (PNA) against the PM Bhutto.

Despite widespread allegations of rigging in those elections, Nasim Wali won the honour of becoming the first directly elected female member of parliament winning from two constituencies in Charsadda and Swabi. She was also part of the agitation of the PNA that led to the dissolution of the parliament of which she had not taken oath in protest with other PNA leaders. Throughout the martial law period of General Ziaul Haq, Nasim stood by her husband as a solid rock and never wavered in her commitments to democracy and politics in the country. In 1986, she became one of the leaders of the ANP when her husband and his comrades launched a new left-wing party in the country. In 1988, when party-based elections were held after 11 years, Nasim Wali contested for the provincial assembly of the NWFP (now Khyber Pakhtunkhwa) and continued her winning streak for four consecutive elections.

In the 1990s, she became provincial president of the ANP and served for four terms. She was a politician of outstanding merit even as she experienced political turmoil and familial differences with her stepson Asfandyar Wali who had taken the helm of leadership in the ANP after the death of Wali Khan in 2006. For some time, she led her own faction of the ANP but then resolved her differences with the other group. In a country where we desperately need women actively taking part in politics, the demise of Nasim Wali has left a void that will be difficult to fill.