Last week, the Awami National Party (ANP) terminated the membership of its founding member and seasoned lawyer Abdul Latif Afridi for “going against party discipline.”
On August 23, following the general elections on the KP Assembly seats from the merged tribal districts, the ANP Khyber Pakhtunkhwa chapter president Aimal Wali Khan sent him with a show-cause notice asking him to present his stance within seven days regarding the steps he had taken which were against the party discipline.
According to the notice, Afridi’s son contested as independent candidate on PK-107 of district Khyber against ANP’s candidate. Latif Afridi supported and organised a campaign for his son. The party provincial president received a complaint about this from the local chapter of the party. Afridi did not respond to the provincial president’s notice on this issue and directly appealed to the party’s central president Asfandyar Wali Khan against the show-cause notice. On Friday, September 6, the party central president rejected Afridi’s appeal and maintained the decision of the provincial president regarding termination of his membership.
In response to the appeal, the central president said that Afridi did not respond to the show-cause notice served to him by the provincial president who was supervising the general elections in the merged districts.
Afridi was the third senior leader of the party whose membership has been suspended by the party. Earlier, memberships of Afrasiab Khattak and Bushra Gohar were also suspended. Similarly, MNA Mohsin Dawar was also serving as the chairman of National Youth Organization (NYO) of the ANP when he was removed for his association with the PTM. The same was the case with Sana Ijaz.
The party’s decision received criticism on social media where people lashed out at Aimal Wali and his family for capturing the party. Many also linked the decision with Afridi’s association and support for the Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement (PTM).
Insiders of the party said that just like Bushra Gohar and Afrasiab Khattak, Afridi was criticized in party meetings for supporting the PTM but he would respond like a lawyer and would take up cases of anyone, regardless of their political affiliation.
“There is no doubt that the PTM has affected ANP’s politics by emerging as a parallel political group in the Pashtun belt,” said an insider, adding that PTM’s rallies were more attractive for people with nationalist tendencies and remained a challenge for the party’s future.
“If senior leaders like Afrasiab Khattak and Latif Afridi support the PTM, party activists will certainly follow them,” the insider said, adding that his association with the PTM was the reason why his relations with the party had got sour.
Sources in Bacha Khan Markaz (ANP’s headquarters in KP), however, maintained that despite being frequently discussed in internal meetings, Afridi’s association with the PTM was not the reason for the termination of his membership. “The reason for his termination has been clearly mentioned in the notice and in the termination letter; that he violated party discipline and did not respond to the show cause notice,” said a party worker at the Bacha Khan Markaz requesting anonymity.
“Latif Lala enjoys the respect of many party workers. Activists are divided over the decision to terminate his membership. Some activists are supporting young Aimal Wali Khan for his strict decision to maintain party discipline,” said a party activist from Swabi. He added that he personally supported Aimal Wali for his decisions. He said such decisiveness was missing when Haider Khan Hoti was serving as provincial president.
“Aimal Wali is going good right now and taking blunt decisions. They will give a message to party workers that no one is above the party’s constitution and anyone who goes against party discipline will have to answer for it,” the activist said.
Senior journalist Shamim Shahid believes that the decision of Latif Afridi’s termination was not good for both the ANP and Afridi himself. “No doubt Latif Lala is a good political activist, a respectable man, a senior lawyer and competent lawyer. He never takes fee from anyone who has nationalist ideologies regardless of their party affiliation,” he said, adding that sometimes his political decisions became problems and that this was not the first time.
He said Latif was a founding member of the ANP and had been active in politics since he was a student. “It is a setback for the ANP and for him. ANP lost a senior leader. And where will he go now at this stage, as he can’t live without politics?” he said.
Latif Afridi remained in the National Awami Party (NAP) led by Maulana Bhashani. When the NAP split in two factions in late 1970s, he joined the NAP faction led by Khan Abdul Wali Khan. He then joined the Pakistan National Party led by Ghaus Bux Bizenjo in 1979 after he along and Bizenjo developed differences with Abdul Wali Khan in prison during the Hyderabad Conspiracy case.
In 1986, when the ANP was established, the progressive people from PNP joined ANP and Latif Afridi became its provincial president. He then established Qaumi Iquilabi Party with Afrasiab Khattak which was then merged with ANP-Haqiqi of Afzal Khan Lala to establish Pakhtunkhwa Qaumi Party. Pakhtunkhwa Qaumi Party then split in three groups. Latif Afridi merged his group with NAP Pakistan re-established by Ajmal Khattak. After losing the 2002 elections, Latif Afridi, Afrasiab Khattak and Ajmal Khattak again joined the ANP.
Latif became the head of ANP’s lawyers wing Malgari Wakilan and also remained the president of Peshawar High Court Bar Association. Afridi declined to comment on this report when contacted by the scribe. ANP’s General Secretary Mian Iftikhar Hussain was also unavailable for comments.
The writer is a journalist based in Peshawar