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Asia-Pacific

Awami National Party - Pashtun party seeks national role

media Asfandyar Wali Khan, one of the leaders of the ANP Facebook Screen Grab

As an ethnic-based party, the Awami National Party (ANP) can’t hope to lead the federal government. But it was a junior partner in the outgoing government and no doubt hopes to have cabinet seats in the next one. It’s also fighting to keep control of Pashtun-majority Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province.

The ANP is a left-wing, secular, Pashtun-nationalist party – awami meaning “people” – born of a fusion between the pro-Soviet National Awami Party and other smaller groups.

  • Leaders: Asfandyar Wali Khan, Bushra Gohar, Afrasiab Khattak
  • Founder: Abdul Wali Khan
  • Founded: 1986
  • In power: North-West Frontier Province/Khyber Pakthunkhwa 2008-2013, junior partner federal government: 2008-2013

Its predecessor opposed the formation of Pakistan and, basing itself on Lenin’s writings on the right of nations to self-determination, argued for a homeland for the Pashtun ethnic group, known as Pashtunistan, which would be comprised of much of Afghanistan and north-west Pakistan.

Dossier: Pakistan General Election 2013

Both the Marxism and the nationalism have been toned down since then and the ANP is now a habitual ally of the PPP - apart from a brief dalliance with the PML-N in 1989 - an alliance that led to it joining Asif Ali Zardari’s government.

In the 2002 parliamentary and provincial elections the party suffered badly for its association with parties that supported the US-led ousting of the Taliban government in Afghanistan and the MMA right-wing, religious alliance won control of the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP).

But in 2008, riding on a tide of disillusion with the politicised mullahs, it took control of the province and became a coalition partner of the PPP in the federal government.

In 2010 the provincial assembly renamed the NWFP Khyber Pakthunkhwa, introducing a reference to Pashtun identity that sparked protests by the Hazara minority.

The ANP also has support in Balochistan and Sindh, including the commercial capital, Karachi, due to the substantial Pashtun populations in those provinces.

Although the ANP advocates dialogue with “moderate” tribal leaders in the tribal agencies, which are largely Pashtun, over 100 of its members have been killed by the Taliban since 2008 and it is a principal target of the Islamist attacks that aim to disrupt the 2013 election campaign.

The ANP is not formally allied with the PPP in the 2013 election.

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