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Paying the price

Thursday, December 03, 2009
The News International Editorial

The ANP has lost another legislator to terrorism. Dr Shamsher Ali, who represented the party from one of the seats it had won from Swat, was killed when a suicide bomber walked unchallenged into his home in Kabal tehsil and detonated himself besides the MPA. Two of his brothers were among the 13 injured. The fact that the bomber was so easily able to enter the house is a reflection of the dangers inherent in relaxing security cover. It appears that with the defeat of the militants in Swat there has been a dropping of some precautions. This is understandable. Living in a state of siege is, after all, not easy. But the latest, tragic incident should act also as a reminder of the need to keep security high. Shamsher Ali becomes the second ANP legislator to fall to militants. A provincial minister died in a bomb blast in Peshawar in February this year. Attempts have been made on at least two other ministers and the party chief at his home in Charsadda.

The ANP has faced a great deal of flak recently. It has been accused of corruption and mismanagement. But we should also keep in mind that its MPAs and activists have, almost alone, spoken out across NWFP against extremism. In parliament its members have stood behind bills seeking rights for women. There have been mutterings, even from within parliament, against them. There is certainly a great deal to criticize the NWFP government for. But it should also be given credit for taking a stand on at least some issues, and for pledging after the latest loss to continue the battle against extremist violence. It is, quite possibly, no coincidence that the assassination of Dr Shamsher Ali took place in the Kabal area. This had long been a stronghold of Fazlullah, the TTP leader in Swat. Now one of the country's most wanted men, he is thought to have fled Swat, possibly for Afghanistan. But there are now new fears that his henchmen may be attempting to continue operations on his behalf. Fazlullah had declared ANP legislators and councillors affiliated with the party to be sworn enemies. In some of his more virulent speeches he had labelled them as enemies of Islam. The possibility of a militant resurgence of any kind still needs to be guarded against in Swat. In this respect General Kayani's assurance on his last visit to Mingora, that there would be no troop pull-out until the final defeat of the militants, is reassuring. But dangers continue to lurk and it is essential that a full plan for the valley be put in place so that militants do not find the niches and crevices they need to regain their hold on society.

Courtesy: The News International