ANP faces new challenges in Peshawar after losing Bilour
PESHAWAR, Dec 25: Senior politician Bashir Bilour’s sudden departure from the political scene has exposed his Awami National Party to new challenges in Peshawar city, creating room for other parties to manoeuvre, according to political experts.
His death might not affect the party’s central decision making process and strategic policies, but his assassination in a fatal suicide bomb attack by Taliban last Saturday has exposed ANP leadership’s vulnerabilities, opine experts with deeper insight into ANP affairs.
“ANP has lost a loyal, steadfast and an experienced leader, who created a lot of political goodwill for his party in Peshawar city and now it remains to be seen whether the party has someone to fill the void created after Mr Bilour’s death,” said Dr Ijaz Khan Khattak, a senior international relations professor at University of Peshawar.
In his removal from the political landscape of the inner Peshawar city lie greater opportunities for other political forces, particularly Pakistan People’s Party and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz.
According to ANP insiders, Mr Bilour was not part of the party’s decision making nucleus. He, however, held sway over ANP’s policies concerning Peshawar city from where he won the provincial assembly elections five times in a row.
“Though he represented ANP’s mainstream thinking, the party’s politics and its policies are not likely to undergo any change in his absence,” said Dr Khattak.
An ANP insider told Dawn that Mr Bilour’s death not only carried devastative political repercussions for the Bilour clan, it had served a serious blow to the party’s future, at least in Peshawar.
“Frankly speaking, the party has a chance to gain politically from the sad demise of Mr Bilour ahead of the shortly expected next general elections, but in the long run ANP is likely to suffer as Mr Bilour knew Peshawar politics very well,” said the ANP member, asking to keep his identity secret.
Mr Bilour, he added, had a strong grip over the politics of old Peshawar city that involved four provincial assembly constituencies. His absence, according to the source, would certainly harm ANP and his family alike in the longer run.
“Mr Bilour was instrumental in making his son Haroon Bilour and his elder brother Haji Ghulam Ahmed Bilour to take active part in ANP’s politics,” said the source, adding that after his death it would be a big challenge for the Bilours to maintain strong bonds with the central ANP leadership.
Farid Toofan, a longtime former associate of the slain leader, when contacted, said that Mr Bilour’s sad demise had won his family an unparallel position on Peshawar’s political map for all times to come. He, however, opined that ANP would suffer if it tried to cash in on Mr Bilour’s blood.
“Even if the Bilour family had marginally lost political base for remaining in the government for more than four years, it would now dominate Peshawar’s politics for ever (after Mr Bilour’s assassination),” said Mr Toofan, a former ANP leader, who was expelled from the party a few years ago at the height of an intra-party power tussle between its incumbent leader Asfandyar Wali Khan and his stepmother Begum Nasim Wali Khan.
Mr Bilour’s death, he added, could prove a double-edged sword for ANP. The party, Mr Toofan maintained, had a slim chance to en-cash the political capital created after Mr Bilour’s demise. At the same time, the party might also suffer if its opponents took it to task for exploiting Mr Bilour’s assassination to its advantage.
Political forces rival to ANP, he said, would keep silence for next 15 to 20 days if its leadership tried to cash in on Mr Bilour’s death. “After that, the rival political leaders would resume their tirade against the ANP-led provincial government, pinpointing mismanagement and flaws in Mr Bilour’s local government ministry,” said Mr Toofan.
The ANP insider, however, thinks otherwise. He said that his party was to gain because Mr Bilour’s targeted killing had strengthened ANP’s stature as a true liberal political force that had lost several important leaders in its stand against the extremist forces.
“ANP has chances to get voters’ sympathy and anchors of television news talk-shows are expected to appreciate Mr Bilour, adding to ANP’s political capital,” said the ANP source.