Monday, 26 January 2015

Interview with history:Ajmal Khattak

Originally published prior to the 2002 Pakistan general elections. This interview done by The NEWS on Sunday (September 2002)
Was after Ajmal Khattaks expulsion from the ANP and prior to his last electoral foray. He led the newly formed National Awami Party Pakistan. The party along with his former colleagues were routed by the newly formed religious political alliance the MMA. He then rejoined the ANP which he stated with till his death.

Ajmal Khan Khattak:
Marxist on the defensive

By Raza Rehman Khan Qazi

Ajmal Khan Khattak was a founding member of the now banned National Awami Party and some other progressive and leftist movements in Pakistan. Khattak has always been a down right Marxist-Leninist. He has been the leader of the house in the Senate and a long time president of ANP. He was expelled from the latter for alleged deals with the military government of Musharraf. Subsequently, he formed a new party by the name of National Awami Party Pakistan.

In a recent interview with Political Economy, he talked about his separation from the ANP and the formation of NAP, the chaos of domestic politics, his personal philosophies and the changing global scenario. Excerpts follow:

PE: What were the reasons for your separation from ANP?

AK: Till now I am unable to comprehend my sin for which I was expelled, because in the last meeting Wali Khan warmly said adieu to me. But after three days I was given a notice in which it was written that you covertly and without the party's consultation met military generals and held a press conference.

PE: It is alleged that your return from self-exile and playing an important role in Pakistani politics after 1988 has been a result of secret deals with the military?

AK: We did not return through a deal. When we were returning we thought we would be arrested, therefore, instead of all our paraphernalia we brought one suitcase. Had we made a deal with someone we would have made it with PPP or PML-N, and if these parties have any proof of any deals they should bring them to light.

The fact of the matter is that when Musharraf came he met me on his own desire, and subsequently when I said that there was a silver lining and progressivism in his words from this the impression developed.

PE: What was the purpose of the meeting?

AK: Musharraf told me that he had come into power; the matter that how and why he came was not discussed. He said that he wanted to ameliorate the country and I should support him in this. I told Musharraf to ask his fellow generals and I would ask my party. Later, he offered me to come in the government. I replied that I want to serve the people and it can better be done in politics and not in power. Before Musharraf, I had seen only one other general and that was Mirza Aslam Beg as a civilian. The first general I have seen in uniform and that stuck to me was Musharraf. In fact, I raised the clamour of national conciliation in Sharif's time as I sensed the danger to the country and regarded as a time bomb. When Musharraf came he asked me how this danger could be averted. I replied, through national conciliation.

PE: What do you mean by national conciliation?

AK: No one else could comprehend its meanings. It means jirga, in which all the people set aside old animosities and gather for conciliation against a common enemy. I meant that the country was faced with a danger and all the military, ulema, politicians, intellectuals, technocrats and bureaucrats should sit together and find ways to avert it.

PE: You are also charged with forming a King's Party

AK: Had I not been given a notice by ANP in an absurd manner and I had not left the party wilfully, then it might have been possible for me to have acted selfishly or someone else would have offered me a deal. In the notice that I received from ANP, only three days were given to me to clarify, while in the next day's papers it was given that if he (Ajmal) had decency he should tender his resignation. So, the ANP leadership should be asked whether I left the party or they expelled me. In fact, I revived the Party (former NAP) which they left. Had I joined some party the blame would have been just. NAP was founded by people like Abdul Samad Khan Achakzai, Mian Iftikharuddin, Baccha Khan etc. I, in league with certain friends from Karachi, formed Pukhtoon Students Federation and had been a key player in NAP. Wali Khan was not a candidate of NAP's presidentship. He was not a council member. When in Peshawar, elections for party's council were being held two candidates Mahmud Ali Qasoori and Usmani were vying for presidentship; but in case of a lockjaw we--I and one Saddiq Khan--decided to bring a third person in the form of Wali Khan.

PE: Is it true that ANP is a party of one single family?

AK: The people with whom I spent half a century, I cannot say anything against them.

PE: Nationalists and progressive are charged of receiving funding by former USSR?

AK: I was in Kabul and Moscow and could be the most effective conduit for such funding. Had we received funding from a super power, would I be living so humbly here (pointing towards his mud resident)? We did not receive funding from anyone.

PE: Pukhtoon nationalists are believed to be unIslamic. Please comment.

AK: If Pukhtoon nationalists mean Abdul Ghaffar Khan's (Bachha Khan) movement, it was never unIslamic. Even my very own National Democratic Movement was not anti-Islam. In fact, it was the first article of erstwhile NAP's constitution that no law would be made repugnant to Quran and Sunnah.

PE: Do you think that the solution of Pakistan's problem is a new social contract or constitution?

AK: The solution of Pakistan's complex and convoluted problems is not amendments or a (new) constitution. The only remedy is that on the basis of national conciliation old and dilapidated political culture be done away with and to make Pakistan a modern, welfare, democratic, federal, Islamic, and republican State. Otherwise, all ways except national conciliation are heading towards complete destruction. National conciliation does not mean a new social contract. It means various religions, beliefs, languages, nations, cultures, that are the soul and substance of Pakistan should sit together and pledge its solidarity. Pakistan can go forward only through such mechanism; otherwise, the situation would be regrettable leading to utter destruction of unimaginable measures. Today, mullahs have joined but irreconcilable differences lurk beneath.

I told Musharraf that no one likes your different amendments. Let the people gather and you should not fear them; then we would think what kind of elections to hold. But no one listens.

PE: Are there any chances of establishment of some kind of democracy after elections?

AK: In the name of terrorism an international coalition was formed which today is unstable. It could not bring peace to Afghanistan and the argument that the Taliban have finished, is erroneous. Their roots spread into Pakistan's tribal areas and other places. While Kashmir is also a very dangerous issue, armies are eyeball to eyeball. In Iraq, hostilities have started. Bush has become mad and wants to kill people. So Pakistanis, whether progressive or not, would oppose this on Islamic and anti-American grounds. Al Qaeda, Muslims and Pakistanis would stand up and there would be chaos. Moreover, people in Pakistan are very hard pressed and with the economic difficulties aggravating they would start to loot and plunder. So, to say that after elections there would be peace is wrong. I reckon how we would go to the parliament and what kind of a parliament it would be and what decisions it would take.

PE: Do you mean that elections are unfeasible?

AK: Elections were necessary anyway, after reaching at a national conciliation. I am telling you a dangerous thing. If we say that yesterday so and so was thief and oppressor and be left out then how many would be left out because most of them were thieves. Now if you do not bring them in, for how long they would stay out. We, Pukhtoons, bring the vagabond to jirga so that he is stopped from making mischief. So how elections would be held when so and so are not allowed to contest. As for conciliation, it may be difficult but not impossible. In fact, all those who oppose conciliation their interests would be affected.

PE: Then why is your party contesting?

AK: We cannot win elections nor we are contesting them for a win. A number of people came to me for tickets including nawabs. Our party would have been the fourth largest runner in these elections had we given tickets to everyone.

PE: Do you think elections would be held?

AK: Elections are incompatible with the circumstances.

PE: What are the salient features of NAP's manifesto?

AK: Our manifesto is based on three things and how to rectify them. First, to think that despite of having all natural and human resources why Pakistan is in a state of retrogression. Unfortunately, with Pakistan's creation a system was put into place that was pro-imperialist, anti-people, and a mechanism of loot and plunder. Second, politics and government has become a struggle for power. Third, masses, nations, women, minorities got ignored--rather destroyed--so a reaction erupted.

PE: What, do you think, would be the structure of the next government, after the amendments and National Security Council?

AK: The greatest mistake in Pakistan's political culture has been the constant strengthening of military and bureaucracy and weakening of politics. In fact, both military and bureaucracy are very strong, while other civil society organisations are their slaves. The use of force is not a remedy. As far as the role of military is concerned it should not be more than the constitutional one--that of defense of the State. However, in today's emergency situation, if you admit or not, it has attained a role which we have to remedy.