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QK archives: Farid Toofan

Farid Toofan
The NEWS on Sunday 2005

Radically different

The intelligence agencies want to create two factions in the ANP. If so far this factionalism has not emerged, full credit should go to Begum Nasim Wali Khan.

By Raza Rahman Khan Qazi

Farid Toofan started his political career in 1967 by joining the National Awami Party (NAP). He also spent some time in the National Democratic Party afterwards and became its provincial general secretary. When Awami National Party (ANP) was founded, he joined it and served as its provincial general secretary twice.

Hailing from Karak, Farid Toofan did his graduation from Bannu College and LLB from Sindh Muslim Law College, Karachi. While studying, he was also the president of Pakhtoon Students Federation.

A two-time provincial minister, Farid Toofan is a very outspoken character and has made many political foes through his devil-may-care statements. The self-styled Pakhtoon nationalist is always in the middle of controversies. He was recently removed as secretary general of ANP' Frontier chapter by party chief Asfandyar Wali on disciplinary grounds. Many believe he became a victim of serious differences within the Wali family. He sided with Begum Nasim Wali in her tussle with Asfandyar Wali, her stepson. Begum Wali was also removed as the provincial head of ANP by Asfandyar.

Recently, The News on Sunday interviewed him. Excerpts follow:

The News on Sunday: What is it that you and Begum Nasim decry the most in the ANP's new agenda?

Farid Toofan: Today's ANP is not the one that Baacha Khan founded. The two distinguishing characteristics of the ANP of the yore had been its Pakhtoon traditions and principles. Asfandyar Wali has done away with both. In Pakhtoon traditions, women enjoy great respect but in the contemptuous manner in which Asfandyar removed Begum Wali was an absolute violation of these traditions. Moreover, ANP and its fore-runners have always been the champions of provinces' rights. But when Asfandyar removed Begum Wali and me as provincial president and general secretary of the party respectively, he completely bypassed the party's provincial cadre.

TNS: Why should intelligence agencies, as you allege, want to create problems within the ANP?

FT: The ANP has always challenged the wrong doings and the undemocratic acts of establishment. For instance, on the construction of Kalabagh Dam, on naming the Frontier as Pakhtoonkhwa, on provincial and fundamental rights.

The way the ANP has pulled out of the ARD (Alliance for the Restoration of Democracy) shows how the party leadership has given a free hand to the agencies in running the party affairs. The excuse given was that the ANP had differences with ARD over Afghan policy. If it were the real basis for withdrawal from an alliance headed by a democratic leader like Nawabzada Nasrullah, then why did the party had an alliance with Nawaz Sharif whose Afghanistan policy was diametrically opposed to ANP's? When you want to sit in the government, the Afghan policy is not an issue but when the question of restoration of democracy arises then it becomes an impediment. Why didn't the ANP recently attend All Parties Conference? Because the establishment did not want it to. A party which once had a role against the establishment, is playing in the hands of establishment today.

The intelligence agencies want to create two factions in the party. If so far this factionalism has not emerged, full credit should go to Begum Nasim. Asfandyar is all out for the bifurcation of the ANP. Begum Nasim has desisted from any legal or political confrontation on the ground that after two years everyone will know how competent Asfandyar is for running the party. The intelligence agencies want to create two factions in the party. If so far this factionalism has not emerged, full credit should go to Begum Nasim. Asfandyar is all out for the bifurcation of the ANP. Begum Nasim has desisted from any legal or political confrontation on the ground that after two years everyone will know how competent Asfandyar is for running the party.

I tell you an interesting thing. When Asfandyar and his cohorts were trying to strike a deal for the acquittal of (senior ANP leader) Azam Hoti (in an accountability reference) and the establishment was using delaying tactics, Asfandyar spread the word that ANP was going to join ARD. He met (ARD leaders) Amin Faheem and Chaudhry Nisar and promised them that the ANP would join the ARD if they came to Peshawar. Both ARD leaders came to the city, talks were held at the Bilour's house but, in the meanwhile, the establishment had agreed to acquit Hoti. So, the ANP refused to join the ARD, using guarantees on provincial autonomy as an excuse.

Azam Hoti was a convict but today he is a free man. Has an absconding convict been ever bailed out in Pakistan? He was sentenced for 14 years in absentia and he had to appear in person for a bail from the high court. Hoti did not fulfil this requirement.

TNS: You have levelled serious allegations time and again against the ANP's present leadership...

FT: I level these allegations because the leadership has been brought in by the establishment. Many ANP dissidents, who now have returned to the party's fold and are in the driving seat in running the party, are the same people who some years ago had formed National Awami Party Pakistan (NAPP). Then they had serious differences with the ANP. But now that NAPP has fizzled out, they are coming back into the ANP because their disassociation was personal and not ideological.

Two men are behind whatever has happened in the ANP. They are Hoti's son Ghazan and Afrasiab Khattak. I don't know what will happen to the ANP now because Afrasiab Khattak has a track record of dividing parties.

Since Pervez Musharraf came to power, Afrasiab Khattak and Azam Hoti are trying to derail the ANP from its traditional line. Afrasiab and company are trying to suggest that the ANP has a new role to play in the changed circumstances. But undemocratic forces are taking advantage of these policy shifts.

TNS: But don't you think that Asfandyar's action against you was legal?

FT: His action against us was akin to a martial law clamped by a dictator. Asfandyar's first martial law regulation came in the form of a unique decision in the political history. When he removed me as an officebearer, he did not merely suspend my basic membership of the party. He rather expelled me and banned my re-entry for ten years. It is totally against the ANP constitution which in fact has been suspended by the party dictator. It is the same treatment which Musharraf meted out to Nawaz Sharif. We have put everything we had on stake for the sake of the ANP while Asfandyar has never suffered in his only 15-year long political career. His political baptism happened with a golden spoon in his mouth because he is the son of Wali Khan, (the ANP founder).

Like no one can work without Asfandyar's permission on his lands in Rajar, it's the same in the ANP which he considers as his ancestral property. The present leadership of the ANP, except for Asfandyar, has left and rejoined the party more than once. Afrasiab Khattak left the party thrice even when it was under Wali Khan's leadership. In 1978, when Wali Khan was in jail, Afrasiab came to me and said: "Wali Khan does not understand politics so I am establishing a new party. Due to his policies our leaders have gone to jail and Pakhtoons and Balochs are suffering a lot". Afrasiab then formed National Progressive Party. When under Wali Khan's leadership, the ANP forged an alliance with Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz), Ajmal Khattak, Latif Afridi and Afzal Khan left the party. Haji Bilour once challenged party elections in court. In all the difficult times, and even when Baloch leaders had left Wali Khan, I was the only one loyal to Wali family. I always enjoyed Wali Khan's trust. He would always appoint me if and when need arose for tough negotiations.

TNS: Isn't it true that you and Begum Nasim were expelled because under your leadership the ANP suffered unprecedented electoral losses?

FT: No, I was expelled because they wanted to expel Begum Nasim. They first wanted to remove her loyalist from the party. The pretext they offered for the expulsion was that I created differences between Begum Nasim and Asfandyar.

According to the ANP's constitution, no one can be elected party president for the third term but Asfandyar wanted to amend the party constitution to make way for his third term. He and his fellows also asked me if I could support the change. I, however, unequivocally said no. I did not support the idea even when Ajmal Khattak completed his two terms as the ANP president. I never favoured this undemocratic step. It was as a punishment for this refusal that I was removed.

The current rift in the ANP is different from the earlier ones because it is playing itself out in Wali Bagh, (the party headquarter), while the rifts in the past used to be at the branch level.

TNS: How do you see your own political future?

FT: Asfandyar has treated me like an egoist and a ruthless feudal lord. He feels as if I was his tenant. He believes if he has expelled me from his party, no one else should allow me to join their party. He thought I would join Pakistan People's Party or Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz). So, his team contacted the leadership of both the parties and counseled them not to let me in. Recently Afrasiab along with representatives of six NGOs held a press conference on the violation of women's electoral rights in Dir and Kohistan districts. When you are violating a man's fundamental rights of political participation enshrined in the UN Charter, how can you demand the same rights for women. I have appealed to human rights bodies to prevent the violation of my rights.

Asfandyar recently held a meeting with Benazir in Dubai only to tell her that I am an outspoken person and that letting me in her party would have a negative affect on the cooperation between the two parties.

Here I must add that I have always adhered to the party discipline. My 38 years in ANP is a proof of this. Whichever party I will join it will be forever because changing parties overnight is someone's else habit, not mine.

TNS: Why do you say that the ANP has left its leftist, progressive and democratic ideology?

FT: The ANP is no more in Pakistan Oppressed Nations Movement. It's no longer in the ARD. Similarly, Pakhtoon unity is no more an issue for the party.

Once Mahmood Khan Achakzai told Begum Nasim that his Pakhtoonkhwa Milli Awami Party wanted not just an alliance but a merger with the ANP because he considered Wali Khan his mentor. Achakzai at the same time told Begum Nasim that he would never leave her even if her own brother did so. (It is ironic that it was) Azam Hoti who hindered this merger.

TNS: How can you say that some leaders of the ANP are against the unity of Pakhtoon nationalists?

FT: The ANP is no more a party. It is a limited company. To misappropriate funds of Baacha Khan Trust is to sell his belongings. Today Baacha Khan Trust has a paid secretary who gets Rs 40,000 as salary while at evening pizza parties are arranged at Baacha Khan Markaz. It is a pity that all this is done in the name of a leader who preferred to eat dry bread for the sake of his nation. Now the opportunist leadership of the party has eyes on the property of Baacha Khan in Afghanistan.

Asfandyar is not an intelligent person. He has become a puppet in the hands of others.

TNS: Do you think the ANP can prevent the construction of Kalabagh Dam -- a cherished goal of the party -- if the government decides to go ahead with it.

FT: On the issue of Kalabagh Dam, policy statements by the ANP can be construed as attempts to keep up appearances. I am witness to the party's special committee meeting which was held on 28th December 2004 just before Musharraf's speech to the nation to take it into confidence on the uniform issue. In the meeting Asfandyar, who had just come back from Islamabad, told us that President Musharraf was going to announce the construction of Kalabagh Dam as he was determined in this regard. We asked Asfandyar then what? He retorted that we must admit that the ANP cannot stop him. So in order to keep up appearances we will hold protest meetings and take out rallies. Some of us said it would not be enough. I asked Asfandyar given the regional situation if we really wanted to oppose the construction of the dam, could Musharraf still build the dam? He replied that we could not go to that extent. So the problem is the present ANP leadership is no longer capable of suffering the political hardships which was once the party's hallmark.

TNS: How do you view the ANP politics in the years to come?

FT: Cracks within the ANP will create a political vacuum which will work to the advantage of other parties in the province. During the last elections, Azam Hoti sold party tickets to prospective candidates. Even Ilyas Bilour, who has spent time in torture cells for his politics, got the Senate ticket after paying Rs 0.3 million. So sacrifices and work for the party is not a criteria. Only money is. During the last general elections a candidate was given the party ticket by taking Rs 1.5 million from him. But he was not a graduate. The sitting MPA in the same area was not awarded the party ticket. So the seat went uncontested by the party. In coming years every ticket of the ANP will be sold. There are people who are hoping that they will purchase the chief ministership of NWFP after the next election.
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