After years of demands and complains of the Pakhtoons, Pakistan’s Northwest Frontier Province is officially renamed as Khyber Pakhtoonkhwa, when the Parliamentary Committee on Constitutional Reforms (PCCR) signed the draft of the 18th Amendment in the first week of April 2010.The British rulers named NWFP- North Western Frontier Province, commonly as Sarhad in Urdu, for convenience after they had brought certain areas in the north-western part of their empire together as a single administrative unit.
However, the name NWFP has not been acceptable to the Pushto-speaking Pakhtoons — who compose a substantial majority (about 58 per cent) of its population. People of NWFP are demanding to change the name of their province because NWFP is not a name, it is a location.
Pakhtoons demand that, “Punjabis have Punjab, Sindhis have Sindh, Balochis have Balochistan, then why Pakhtoons do not have their province name belonging to them alone!”
Pakhtoons are in the majority in this province so they demand ethnic names such as Pakhtoonkhwa, Pashtoonistan or Afghania, whereas other ethnic factions like Hazarwals and others strongly reject these names. According to statistics by NWFP government, 68% of people in the province speak Pashto. Other languages spoken are Hindko(18%), Seraiki(8%), Urdu & Punjabi(2%). It is clear from the statistics that majority of the people speak Pashto. Hence the argument is not valid that since there are different ethnic groups in the region who speak Hindko, Seraiki, Chitrali, Urdu and Punjabi, the name of the province should not be changed to Pakhtoonkhwa.
ANP stance on the issue:
Awami National Party (ANP) have long campaigned for the change to Pakhtoonkhwa and put forward the demand that since all other provinces in Pakistan have ethnolinguistic names, Sindh, Punjab and Balochistan; so it is very fair for NWFP to change its name to Pakhtoonkhwa.
The issue was raised by ANP leader, late Bacha Khan with former President General Ziaul Haq, who had offered to give a name to the nameless province, but later on Zia did not accept any of the names proposed because the names were being politicized by Afghanistan. Hence the issue became controversial which compelled ANP to abandon negotiations with then martial law administrator.ANP which currently rules the NWFP province is supporting government of PPP in center on all issues on the condition that PPP would support them to change the name of NWFP to Pakhtoonkhwa.
The present government raised this issue in the parliament and opposition was faced by one of the major political party in the country, PML (N) who claimed that the new title could marginalize other ethnic groups in the province and they could lose their identity.
However, renaming a province is not an easy procedure as it might seem to be since the renaming is not acceptable to the non-pashtoon population. Ever since the province has been renamed, a number of protests have been witnessed across the Hazara region, where Hindko speakers are dominant as compared to the Pashto speakers. The protests have led to death and casualties in the region which has added fuel to the fire.
Local population has condemned the renaming of the province as Khyber-Pakhtoonkhwa as it wiped out the identity of the people of Hazara and demanded of the government to declare Hazara as a province.
Backdrop of Hazara region:
NWFP now known as Khyber Pakhtooonkhwa province has total 7 districts and Hazara is one of its seven divisions. Five districts make up Hazara; these are Abbottabad, Battagram, Haripur, Kohistan and Mansehra.
Hazara Division is located along the famous Karakoram Highway and is bordered by the Indus River in the West, and Azad Jammu Kashmir in the East. Until the year 2000, the region was an administrative subdivision of the province known as Hazara Division, headquartered at the city of Abbottabad and Hazara Division was the biggest division of N.W.F.P. until the divisions were abolished in 2000 as part of an administrative shake up.
Hazara has the major industry of NWFP, including Telephone Industries of Pakistan, Hattar Industrial state. This region is famous for Tarbela Dam Haripur, Kakul military academy Abbottabad, tea plantation and best grade tobacco of Pakistan, in Mansehra. Karakoram highway also passes through Hazara, while not through rest of Khyber Pakhtoonkhwa.
It is evident that this division is definitely an asset of the Khyber-Pakhtoonkhwa region and both the pakhtoon and non-pakhtoon realize this fact. This is the main reason that Hazara people are struggling for their rights and demanding a separate province so that they can prove their worth.
Hazara people believe that the way ANP has persuade it way to the name Khyber-Pakhtoonkhwa has triggered massive protests throughout the Hazara division and even the majority Pashtun population is acknowledging that Hazara should also get the identification.
Some people are of the view that since the past of Awami National Party was anti-Pakistan, this is the reason they are planning to divide the country and people.
Some locals argue that he name of Sindh province is because river Sindh flows through it and its civilization generated from it. Punjab is named because of five rivers flowing through the province. Hence Punabi or Sindhi is not a nation as ANP is lying to the nation.
The local leaders believe that Khyber-Pakhtoonkhwa is not a fair name and it should be changed immediately and the new name should be above the ethnic differences.
Two simple solutions to this serious issue could be to change back the name of Khyber-Pakhtoonkhwa to NWFP or to accept the demands of non-pakhtoons and claim Hazara division as a separate province. However the creation of a new province can trigger new debates in the country as the other divisions of the country can also initiate demands of new provinces. Therefore, our attention should be focused on real issues such as water, power and gas crisis rather than getting into the controversy of claiming new provinces.
This issue calls for an immediate discussion by the politicians. A referendum most probably would be the best option in this regard so that the local people would feel their importance under a democratic government and would calm down slowly.
– by Sana Jamal. (Written on 14th April 2010)