ISLAMABAD - As head of every political party hardly misses any chance to grab media attention in wake of changing political developments in the country, Awami National Party chief Asfandyar Wali Khan has become almost invisible for media and public.
With Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) at the helms of affairs in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa after inflicting crushing defeat on the secular nationalist party, Asfandyar was expected to give tough time to the Tsunami trumpeting KP government but he could not do so as yet.
As the nationalist party goes through a restructuring phase by holding intra-party elections from May 20, sources in ANP said Asfandyar being an inspirational figure in the party is not active in politics for reasons not yet known.
While ANP workers and leaders had expected their leader to expose the PTI-led government in KP, the JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman instead has emerged as one of the vocal critics of Imran Khan and it, according to political observers, was due to the inaction of Asfandyar.
As ANP’s Information Secretary Senator Zahid Khan has been on foreign tour for the last two weeks, the only leader projecting the message of the nationalist party on social media is Bushra Gohar but she declined to comment when asked about the reasons behind the mysterious silence of Asfandyar.
Senator Afrasiab Khattak told this reporter he had met his leader a week back in Wali Bagh Charsadda, arguing that the voice of every ANP leader and worker was the voice of Asfandyar.
“Let the party complete its organisational structure and you will see Asfandyar among people and on television screens,” Khattak said, adding his leader was still the target of militants.
However, some party leaders argue that the security threats to Asfandyar should not keep him away from workers, as terrorist attacks on Aftab Sherpao, Maulana Fazlur Rehman and other party leaders have proved futile when it comes to their contacts with general public.
On the other side, Farid Toofan, general secretary of the newly-launched ANP Wali, told The Nation on Saturday that his leader Begum Nasim Wali would address a large gathering on Sunday at Charsadda, as hundreds of workers from Mardan district would give oath of allegiance to Nasim Wali.
And on May 21, Toofan would be chief guest at a musical night in Islamabad on the invitation of Pashtun students, a move, he said, would be haunting for those leaders of ANP who had abandoned the people of KP at a time when they were needed.
In 2009 when Asfandyar narrowly escaped a suicide attack in Wali Bagh, which claimed four lives including the bodyguard of the ANP chief, he took refuge in Islamabad for a long time. This led to criticism that the Pashtun leader got scared and abandoned his people.
Soon after the attack on his life, then President Asif Ali Zardari sent a helicopter to fly Asfandyar and his family members to the federal capital where they were provided temporary safe shelter at the presidency. He remained in Islamabad till December 2011 when he appeared in his hometown to address to party workers during a public gathering when ANP was ruling the province.
“There are still threats to ANP leaders. Recently our colleague was killed in Peshawar. No other party except ANP faces such grave threats. We are concerned about this,” Senator Afrasiab Khattak said.
Bashir Matta, President ANP KP chapter, told this reporter he had been tasked to reorganise the party. “He (Asfandyar) is inspiration for the workers and we cannot afford to lose him keeping in view the security threats to his life. But he is in contact with us on national issues and workers can approach him anytime,” Matta said.
But some diehard leaders of the nationalist party told The Nation, seeking not be named, that the active role of their party chief was much needed in order to match the political engagements of religious parties including JUI-F and JUI-Sami in the province. “It is matter of concern that for the first time the secular ANP got defeated by a liberal party like PTI. In the past we had always problem with religious parties but this time we were humbled by clean shaven class,” Umar Hayat, an old ANP activist, remarked.