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Ali feels that the ANP needs a makeover; a structural change to cope with the changing demographics of KPK

Awami National Party (ANP), the party of great Badshah Khan and Khan Abdul Wali Khan has been voted out by the people of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in the general elections after they have ruled the province for five years. The party has failed to keep sustain hold of a single district in the province and is routed out of its very strongholds.

A lot has been written on their defeat. Many factors have been counted. The incumbency factor, hindrances in the electoral campaigns due to terrorists attacks, governance issues, news of corruption, commissions and kickbacks in development projects and a lot more. None of the above factors can be overruled but we need to highlight some neglected factors.

All the projections of their expected performance in the elections were based on a membership drive by the party at district and Tehsils level for intra-party elections. According to party internal sources, there were an estimated number of 2.5 millions memberships in these years. One must be skeptical of such a high number, while workers at the lower levels were discontented at the way these membership forms were filled with fake entries to bring out the results they want. According to them, this whole exercise was conducted to provide a cover to the favouritism by the member assemblies to fill the party posts with people of their choice, who had to equally distribute the commissions and kickbacks (approximately 22%) in development and construction projects and convey ‘all is well’ message to the higher officials on their visits or in case of any queries or complaints to them by the workers

Due to security threats and partly due to neglect, there was complete disconnect and lack of interactions from the party leadership at many level with the workers and common people. The elected members refrained from visiting their constituencies and preferred living in Peshawar or Islamabad. Some of the workers have complained that party officials at high levels and district and tehsil levels (with a few exceptions) didn’t pay a visit to the homes and families of the victims of bomb blasts and terrorists attacks.

Party of Badshah Khan Baba, Wali Baba and Ajmal Baba was known for their strong bond with the people. Badshah Khan himself had a habit of visiting single village and town of Pakhtunkhwa to meet his old comrades of Khudai Khidmatgars and participate in their family events and commiserate deaths of their family members. The party of Asfandyar Wali has all the rhetoric of Pashto and Pashtunwali, but except a few people, they hardly visit us” said an old ANP comrade.

The present ANP has inherited that old party structure and support base from the party of great Wali Khan. The whole strategy of approaching elders of the tribes, mostly Khans and Malaks in rural areas, getting their support, issuing party tickets to them and relying on their own ways of influencing the people for getting votes is as old as the party itself.

Many towns and cities of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa are going through demographic changes, urbanization and emergence of educated youth from colleges and universities have posed a serious challenge to traditional power centers. The new generation of voters cannot be influenced to proxies of elders and tribal heads as these aspects have lost their importance in changing scenario. ANP provincial government too had responded to those changes with building eight universities in five years and giving away laptops to the students. But, the party old and obsolete styles were quite unimpressive to the urban and peri-urban youth who had hardly any appeal in the party program and absence of young faces.

Another aspect pf changing dynamics is the state backed radicalization process during these decades which has hardly been provided any counter narrative by the party with claims on secular and progressive ideas, the result today is, and an ANP ground worker can hardly be any different than an IJT activist on many issues. The student wing of the party was led by the members of traditional ANP families, while at colleges’ level; its activists are hardly encouraging healthy activities except strong-arming and manipulations at the campuses.

The old guards of the party have led the party through all the turbulent times, but presently it needs a new makeover, a structural change to cope with the changing demographics, re-organising at Tehsil and district levels, giving away the strategy to harmonise with traditional power centers and tribal hierarchies and a counter-radicalisation program for youth at colleges and university levels.

P.S The list of martyred party workers and officials on the official party website needs a serious look. It has not been updated since 2009, which cannot help those writing and doing research on the crucial part played by the party in war against terrorism.

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