Taliban threat keeps politicians on guard during Eid in KP
13 August, 2013
PESHAWAR: For residents of NBP Colony on Warsak Road these were unusual security measures – the closed main gate and a parked police van to guard a Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) MPA Yasin Khalil, who is also adviser to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Chief Minister Pervez Khattak – during Eid days.
"It has never been seen before that main gate of the colony is closed and a police van is parked parallel," a resident of the NBP Colony told our sources, adding that these security measures were aimed at guarding Yasin Khalil against likely Taliban attacks.
Threat level was up during the Eid holidays all over the country, including KP, following intercepts of militants having been heard of plotting attacks during the festivity.
"We have celebrated Eid in the shadows of fears," said the resident.
A policeman guarding the colony's main gate said, "We have received orders to guard the main gate of the colony and keep a close eye on every visitor."
The Eid festivity provides politicians with opportunity to mingle with voters and it more became a tradition to find people thronging politicians' sprawling lawns to exchange Eid greetings and find what progress was made on his or her request for government job or any other favour the politician could do him or her.
Security of high profile leaders was even a bigger challenge for security agencies and law enforcement personnel, said a police official pointing to Asfandyar Wali Khan, central president of Awami National Party, and Aftab Ahmed Khan Sherpao, central chairman of Qaumi Watan Party (QWP).
Reports said that due to the security threats, Asfandyar Wali stayed away from his hometown in Charsadda district to celebrate Eid with own constituency's people while Aftab Sherpao Khan "defied" all warnings to spend the first day of Eid in Sherpao village in the same district.
Asfandyar had a close call when a suicide bomber blew himself up metres away from the ANP leader in 2008 while Aftab Sherpao experienced a similar situation more than once. "Intelligence agencies have been requesting Aftab Sherpao to celebrate Eid in Peshawar instead of his hometown in Charsadda district,' a close aide of the QWP leader confided to our sources. "He (Sherpao) refused to grant the request and spent the day in Sherpao village."
However, the next day he was back in Peshawar for more than one reason. "You know, so many cops are on duty to guard me and their Eid is spoiled by duty on Eid. And, secondly, people from other districts and regions also come to extend Eid greetings and Peshawar for these people is centre point to come and that is why I shift to Peshawar," Aftab Sherpao said while receiving party workers, well-wishers and others at his Hayatabad's residence.
Even his detractors are taken aback by Aftab Sherpao's "big heart" visiting hometown despite clear security threats from the Taliban, who use old bases in Mohmand tribal region to target those politicians who speak against them in public.
This gesture of the QWP leader is being used by his followers to point finger at Asfandyar Wali. "Our leader (Aftab Sherpao) is difficult to defeat because he lives with his people," said a QWP activist after exchanging Eid greetings with his leader. "He is unlike others," he went on to add.
However, KP CM Pervez Khattak was in his hometown in Nowshera district to celebrate Eid. The CM does not believe he may be on the Taliban's hit list. However, his security team is avoiding taking risk and ensuring the province chief executive's security with digital devices.
As the ANP is under attack from the Taliban, Ghulam Ahmed Bilour was the only party leader who offered Eid prayers in central Eidgah on main Charsadda Road, brushing aside all security concerns. He continued with the old tradition of celebrating Eid with his own people despite losing his brother Bashir Bilour in a bombing in 2012.
It does not sound good when a visitor is body searched for security in Pushtoon culture when he is visiting someone.
"Sorry, for asking you to remove the chaddar," a paramilitary soldier excused the visibly angry visitors at Sherpao's residence.
"Guests are not treated like this in Pushtoon society," one of the visitors was heard whispering while getting back his chaddar.