May 1, 2010

ANP resisted US pressure on Swat peace deal: Asfandyar

LAHORE: Awami National Party President Asfandyar Wali Khan says his party has ignored tremendous US pressure to not enter into peace agreement with militants in Swat.

The ANP chief was responding to a question in a wide-ranging interview with the state radio as part of coverage of the upcoming elections. The interview would be broadcast simultaneously by Radio Pakistan and Business Plus TV at 07.05pm on Friday.

Asked that he was known for anti-Americanism and how he became pro-US, Asfandyar Wali said before the Swat peace agreement, US Assistant Secretary of State Richard Boucher and the then ambassador Anne Patterson pressed him not to go for peace deal at a 50-minute meeting at the Frontier House in Islamabad.

Asfandyar said he never had a meeting with anyone more bitter than the one he had with Richard Boucher. He said he categorically told the American side that we know our traditions and customs very well and we have to go for the peace deal.

The ANP leader said they went ahead with peace agreement with militants in Swat, but it was violated by the other side and the writ of the government was challenged.

In this backdrop, there was no other choice than to go for an operation.

Asfandyar said the operation against extremists and terrorists in Swat and Malakand succeeded as it had political ownership.

The ANP chief, however, made it clear that the army was called in Swat not by the ANP but by the then MMA government in the province.

Asked why the ANP has deviated from traditional anti-establishment and anti-Punjab politics, Asfandyar Wali Khan said they never opposed the state but were critical of the policies of the establishment.

Now, after thirty years down the history, the establishment has reached the same conclusion that we were espousing thirty years back on the issue of terrorism and extremism.

Similarly, he said, they were not against people of Punjab or the province itself but against the policies. He said now that Punjab is fighting for rights of the provinces along with other provinces, there was no cause for difference or criticism.