Wali Khan dead, India loses ally

Published on Jan 28, 2006 07:45 PM IST

India has lost a friend. Wali Khan, a close ally of India and son of "Frontier Gandhi" Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan, died in the capital of Pakistan's North Western Frontier Province, Peshawar, on Thursday after a prolonged illness, family sources said. He was 89.

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None | ByPTI, Islamabad

India has lost a friend. Wali Khan, a close ally of India and son of "Frontier Gandhi" Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan, died in the capital of Pakistan's North Western Frontier Province, Peshawar, on Thursday after a prolonged illness, family sources said. He was 89. The veteran Pashtun leader suffered a stroke two days ago and passed away at 7.45 a.m., his son Afsandiyar Wali Khan said.

His body would be kept at the Jinnah stadium till Friday afternoon for people to pay homage and would then be taken to his hometown Charasadha -  for burial after the funeral. As soon as the news broke out, hundreds of local people thronged his daughter's house to pay their last respects. Indian High Commissioner, Shivshankar Menon and deputy high commissioner T.C.A. Raghavan conveyed their condolence to Asfandiyar and plan to attend his funeral on Friday. Wali Khan, son of Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan, was held in high esteem by several Congress stalwarts and oldtimers, cutting across partylines.

Regarded by Pakistanis as a frontline leader, who fought for the establishment of democratic rights in Pakistan as well as the rights of Pushtoons, Wali Khan took to active politics in 1942 and emerged as one of the top Opposition leaders. He founded the Awami National Party and was first elected to Parliament in 1970. Born in 1917, he spent 16 years in jail over different periods while fighting for democracy in Pakistan. He was incarcerated when the first military regime headed by Ayub Khan came to power in 1958 and later by Yahya Khan.

He was imprisoned during former Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto's regime on charges of murdering a rival politician. Khan also served as leader of the joint Opposition in the National Assembly, besides heading the National Awami Party and later ANP, which is now headed by Asfhandiyar. He retired from active politics after losing election to an Islamic cleric in 1993.

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