A national loss

Latif Afridi was a man apart

At the end of the day, it was a personal vendetta that did it. Not one of the several dictatorial regimes (four military, one civil) that he had consistently stood against, not a religious militant outfit that he had remained outspoken against, not one of the many exploitative special interest groups that he had spent his life campaigning against. At the end of the day, it was a family feud that silenced this liberal lion of the Republic.

With ‘Lala’ Latif Afridi’s demise, Pakistan has lost a liberal, secular, pro-democracy individual who had some qualities that the rest of his ideological cohort unfortunately lacks these days: he wasn’t feeble-voiced, and pulled no punches as far as espousing his ideals were concerned. Loud liberal voices, though rare, can still be found; what separated Afridi from the former was that his activism and sphere of influence wasn’t sequestered away in some pristine hotel conference hall or newspaper op-eds. He was a feet-on-the-ground activist, whether in the ANP, or the party’s legal wing, the Malgari Wakeelan, or bar politics, through which he became president of the Supreme Court Bar Association, or most recently, in the National Democratic Movement, a PTM-adjacent political party.

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Though he was a national figure, Afridi’s demise is going to be felt more strongly in the nation’s Pashtun belt, specially Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Liberal voices in that region in particular have been stifled, either directly by the state, or by non-state actors that have now and then been given the run of the place, in between half-baked military operations. Now that the grand old man of liberal Pashtun activism is no more, the young and even not-so-young voices of reason from the legal fraternity in that region are without a worthy mentor.

Lastly, one thing needs to be mentioned here. Prima facie, yes, the violent incident is a personal vendetta and not retribution for his outspoken views against the military establishment or religious zealotry. But even if so, the onus is on the provincial government. This is not the first time a premeditated murder has been carried out on court premises during the current tenure of the incumbent government. Social media graphics abound of police reforms in the province, but apparently not enough to prevent firearms to be smuggled into the premises of even the Peshawar High Court. Shamefully lax.

The Editorial Department of Pakistan Today can be contacted at: [email protected]


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