Reflecting On The ANP's Fall From Grace

The decline of the ANP began three decades ago when Wali Khan withdrew from politics and retreated into seclusion, leaving his son Asfandyar Wali Khan in charge of the party's operations

Reflecting On The ANP's Fall From Grace

In the light of Ghaffar Khan's spiritual beliefs and his enduring heroic fight for independence from the British Empire, as well as his unwavering commitment to the rights of the Pashtun people and Wali Khan's persistent efforts to establish a progressive Pakistan rooted in liberal democracy, equality and a desire for a peaceful and prosperous homeland, we have arrived at a moment where the ANP has lost its esteemed reputation among Pashtuns by clinching just one seat in the KP assembly. The party now feels extremely paranoid, disconnected, clueless and directionless.

The decline of the ANP began three decades ago when Wali Khan withdrew from politics and retreated into seclusion, leaving his son Asfandyar Wali Khan in charge of the party's operations. He demonstrated himself to be the most inept administrator of the party and the least competent planner and manager. His primary focus was on consolidating power within his household rather than decentralising it to the party's workers and other official bodies. The despotic and hereditary nature of dynasty politics, camouflaged by a semblance of democracy, has severely undermined the current standing and prospects of the ANP. The ANP and Pashtun communities deserved better representation than being subjected to the rule of hereditary leaders.

The issue with the ANP's dynastic politics lies in its hierarchical structure, which extends from the highest to the lowest levels. It is not restricted to the central leadership since it has now expanded to all other districts of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and other provinces. One can count the symbolic 'idol' leadership of ANP on one's fingertips. These well-known individuals are the ones who are sought for advice by the central or provincial hereditary leader of the party; they are chosen for various official positions, and they are the ones who receive the party's nominations in elections. It results in a lack of leadership for current dedicated political workers and potential future workers. A political party consistently needs new eyes and new brains. However, it appears that the ANP has been resistant to change due to a tendency to adhere to traditional practices, which has hindered progress in both the party's policies and structure.

Workers affiliated with any political party are regarded as the messengers of its vision and wheels of change. These devoted workers dedicate their energies to a political ideology, hoping their lives will flourish once the seeds of the ideology blossom. However, their purpose is not limited to simply chanting slogans. They also aim to visualise the potential for advancing their political careers, such as running for elections or becoming part of the party's central leadership. Regrettably, the current leadership of ANP is either unable to comprehend this reality or entirely oblivious to this ongoing phenomenon.

Limiting political workers' responsibilities to promote solely their ancestors' narratives does not empower them. On the contrary, such actions render them more handicapped and useless. Restricting the capabilities and services of one's political workers also boomerangs. It causes the structure and narrative of the political party to become more vulnerable and delicate. Perhaps this is rotting in the case of the ANP too! The club of old faces, no new faces in sight, and a deficient system for cultivating new leaders inside the political party have severely damaged the reputation and credibility of ANP among its Pashtun constituents. 

The political party must develop trust in its people and embrace innovation without fear, as failure to do so may result in a lack of public trust and potential loss of electoral support. Undoubtedly, employing the tactic of ‘rotating the strike’ in cricket is a superior method for establishing a durable partnership. Similarly, implementing a rotation of leadership, both at the macro and micro level, inside a political party will similarly foster a long-lasting connection with the populace and nurture more trust among its members.

To extricate itself from the current social and political predicament, the ANP must undergo a comprehensive process of rebranding, reorientation and reinvention at all levels. Currently, it appears irrelevant in the life of the local Pashtun population. There is a substantial mismatch between the local Pashtun community's issues and the narratives the ANP stressed in its political agenda. Previously, the ANP used to dominate both local and national politics. However, currently, they are merely observing the unfolding events in the national and local arenas. 

Silence yields more problems than solutions: political parties should carefully analyse and discuss significant events, presenting them to the public for discourse and remembrance. However, it is crucial not to leave one's people and workers at the mercy of the leadership of other political parties and even social media to figure out the issues concerning their lives by themselves. This irrelevance and silence created a space for some other genuine moments in the region to lead the Pashtuns’ cause and problems and cut the sympathies and affiliation of the Pashtuns from ANP. The loss of workers, the political capital of any political party, has devastating effects, and no one can better understand than the present ANP leadership – if they look around.

There is always a time in people's lives, including the political parties, to engage in self-reflection and soul-searching to evaluate oneself critically and one's standing, too. The time has arrived for ANP to reexamine its objectives, performance, and structure. There is a dire need for them to redefine their goals, objectives, and strategies too to better address Pashtuns’ problems and be visible in national politics. There is a need for a new thesis on Pashtuns’ lives so their present and future issues can be brought into the public discourse at both local and national levels.

Elections are like exams, and diligent individuals engage in preparation well in advance, rather than cramming in the final two months. It is necessary to update the slogans and establish a new charter to bring about positive changes in the lives of the Pashtun people. There is much to offer to Pashtuns to bring a dynamic change in their social, economic, political and cultural lives. The ANP must reestablish a strong connection with the lives of the people. They should evoke empathy and comprehensively understand people's issues while offering effective political solutions.

All these outcomes are achievable through active engagement in politics. Now, leaders inside the ANP who desire to withdraw from politics temporarily should reside in solitude and allow for the emergence of new individuals to undertake this honourable task on behalf of the party and the public. Allow them to connect with people and become integrated into their daily existence. Let the people feel their presence and ideas. Let this process begin or be prepared to stagnate in the status quo.