Role of Afzal Khan Lala in Swat Crisis
Afzal Khan Lala is a legend in NWFP politics. His political career is stretched over past fifty years, moving from party to party and finally settling down with ANP.
Afzal Khan Lala began his political career affiliated with National Awami Party (NAP) in opposing the rule of the Wali of Swat. Formally joining the party in 1969 after Swat's merger into NWFP, he was elected member of provincial assembly in Pakistan’s 1970, first ever national election. A close confidante of Abdul Wali Khan he was one of three NAP provincial ministers appointed in the short lived coalition government of Mufti Mehmud. In 1975, he was arrested by the government as part of general crackdown against the opposition and was charged as part of the Hyderabad tribunal. Released in 1978, he was elected provincial president of the Awami National Party, however in 1990 he along with senior party leaders formed a breakaway party called the Pakhtunkhwa Qaumi Party (PQP), in protest against the Awami National Party’s decision to form an alliance with conservative opponents the Islami-Jamhori-Ittehad (IJI). Allying his group to the Pakistan’s People Party, Afzal Khan was elected to the National Assembly in the 1993 elections. Serving as Federal Minister for the Northern areas and Kashmir from 1993-1996, he withdrew from electoral politics from 1997 onwards. He then allied himself with the Pakistan Oppressed Nations Movement (PONM) advocating full provincial autonomy for the various ethnicities of Pakistan. In 2005 he rejoined the Awami National Party. [WikePedia]
Afzal Khan is one of those staunch opponents of Taliban who are not in exile or dead. In recent past, there were several attempts made on his live, killing his relatives and body guards. He refused to leave Swat and stayed at home when most of ANP leadership went underground fearing assassination attempts by the Taliban.
On April 30th, Afzal Khan Lala, along with some of his family members, was airlifted by an army helicopter from his village Bara Darushkhela near Swat. He was first moved to Peshawar and then to Islamabad. The News took this as a signal of another operation in the valley (which later turned out to be true).
In Islamabad, Afzal Khan had a field day with media, popping from one channel to another, giving interviews against Taliban and Swat Peace Deal. He also provided fodder to “human rights' activists by authenticating alleged flogging of a girl in Swat, an issue on which his party’s government in NWFP was not very vocal.
As observed in first week of May, government and its media machinery started exploiting public opinion against Swat Peace Deal. The ‘analysts’ who were so in favor of the peace process few weeks back now saw the deal an opportunity to strengthen Taliban. Within days after Afzal Khan Lala’s arrival in Islamabad, operation in swat started. In fact, it was started at least two days before Prime Minister Gillani’s official announcement of ‘War Against Taliban‘ on May 7.
It is not very clear what Afzal Khan Lala has actually achieved or how crucial is role is in current scenario, however, his importance can be understood by today’s announcement that President Asif Ali Zardari will award him with Hilal-e-Shujaat, second highest civil award for gallantry. For record, this is first official announcement from Zardari after his return from the lengthy foreign tour. If he has to confer awards, why not start with the army personnel who are giving their lives in Swat for Pakistan.
As a rule, announcement of Hilal-e-Shujaat happens on August 14 and the Investiture on March 23 each year. However, according to Farhatullah Babar, spokesman of the President, the President, relaxing the rule, has ordered immediate conferment of the award. A special Investiture ceremony will now be held soon to confer the award on Afzal Khan without waiting for March 23.
Tags: Afzal Khan , Swat , Asif Ali Zardari , NWFP , Pakistan
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