ANP targeted again


That the Awami National Party (ANP) has vowed to contest the elections despite having one of its leaders killed in a targeted assassination speaks of true resilience and the sacrifices for democracy’s sake that should not have to be made.
Haroon Bilour was murdered on Tuesday night in a suicide blast in Peshawar, later claimed by the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP); leaving 21 dead and more than 60 injured. The party has announced a three-day peaceful mourning period. The PTI and PPP halted electioneering for one day. This is only right and just. For democracy will only blossom when all stakeholders stand united against a common and deadly threat.
There, are, of course many ways to ‘engineer’ elections. A point well understood by the TTP; particularly in the run-up to the 2013 polls. Back then, the militant group urged a boycott against the popular vote. The system of parliamentary elections, it argued, was a western invention standing diametrically opposed to Shariah. Indeed, it singled out all rallies held by the ANP, the PPP as well as the MQM. For these political parties were on the TTP hit list. Not least because the latter was eyeing control of the country’s commercial hub: Karachi.
The ANP had long been deemed a ‘legitimate’ target due to its support of Army operations in Swat (2009) and in North Waziristan (2014) to clear the areas of terrorists. Indeed, Haroon’s father — Bashir Bilour — was killed in a TTP-claimed attack the end of 2012. All of which raises questions as to the establishment’s responsibility when it comes to keeping politicians safe from those who would label them anti-state. The Army talks a lot about the sacrifices it has made in the war on terror at home. And it is true. No one is disputing that. But the uniformed and non-uniformed are on the same side on this front. Thus the military apparatus should perhaps stop momentarily and consider the heavy losses borne by the civilian leadership. Just as the Chief Justice, in light of the recent assassination, may wish to revisit his order that provided for the withdrawal of VVIP security.
Be that as it may, the burden of blame is a collective one. And it is to be shared by all sides equally; including those political parties that did not stand as firmly against the resurgent and violent religious right as they should have. Even now they have meekly accepted the launching of violent extremists into the electoral fray. Their rhetoric is toxic and will only rupture the democratic system from within.